Guest post from judywhite, author of Bloom-Again Orchids.
One of my favorite indoor orchids is also one of the easiest to grow. Even in the middle of summer, when most of the gardening attention is outside, and the majority of houseplant orchids are flower-less, gearing themselves up for fall and winter blooming, one very cute plant is still shining away on the windowsill.
Paphiopedilum primulinum (above, click to enlarge) is a tropical ladyslipper orchid species from Sumatra, only discovered as recently as 1972. It’s so named because of the classic primrose yellow color on the pouch and in its wavy petals, often also with green in the top (dorsal) sepal. There’s another version of it that adds pink to the color palette (var. purpurascens), which is equally adorable. (The yellow version is var. flavum, also known as var. album.) Whichever the colors, everyone who sees Paph. primulinum is instantly smitten.
Besides its obvious flower charm, this species keeps blooming sequentially, one bloom at a time, over many months, and, in fact, can be in dainty flower almost constantly over years. Each flower lasts about a month. The only time you will have two flowers at once (as pictured here) is when the oldest one is just about to fall off, which it will do abruptly, generally without shriveling up first. The plant is small and compact (except for the ever-elongating flower spike) with a total leaves span of about 6 inches (15cm) wide. The flowers are about 2.5 inches (6.4cm) long.
Paph. primulinum makes a good parent in hybridizing, and one of its best offspring is the primary hybrid Pinocchio (glaucophyllum x primulinum) (right, click to enlarge), which keeps the sequential blooming but adds clearer pink coloring, bigger blooms, and often two or more flowers at a time.
Grow the species and its hybrids on a windowsill that gets any exposure except north – it doesn’t need too much intensity, and it even does fine under four fluorescent light tubes. It likes average room temperatures where night temperatures don’t get much below 60°F (16°C) in winter. Water thoroughly about twice a week, so that it just stays damp, and use a fine orchid mix in a small but deep pot. Weekly orchid fertilizer is appreciated but I find that it blooms well even when you forget for a while.
I got my yellow Paph. primulinum at the very splendid Parkside Orchid Nursery (2503 Mountainview Drive, Ottsville, PA 18942; 610-847-8039; firstname.lastname@example.org). British orchid fans can find it at the Yorkshire mail order nursery, Orchid Species.
judywhite is the author of Bloom-Again Orchids - 50 Easy Care Orchids That Flower Again & Again & Again
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