Slipper flowers

Slipper flowers

Slipper flowers

Some species of orchids have very particular flowers, with the curved labellum, closed to form a kind of shoe; cupped lip orchids belong to three main genera, the genus paphiopedilum, widespread in tropical areas of central and southern Asia, the genus epipactis, whose flowers are present in Asia and Europe, and the genus cypripedium, whose species they are widespread in much of the northern hemisphere, including Europe.

They are terrestrial orchids, therefore they are grown in a slightly different soil from that in which orchids are usually buried, and cultivation is certainly not easy; on the market in nurseries you can find species and hybrids of orchids belonging to these two genera, often quite easy to grow, even if they are usually chosen by collectors and orchid enthusiasts.

The paphiopedilum

As we said, the paphiopedilum come from Asia; some species are native to the cool climate areas of central Asia; other species are tropical. In general, all paphiopedilum species are cultivated by collectors in a mild climate, with maximums not exceeding 30 * C, and minimums not below 5-8 ° C. Although in fact the non-tropical species could find a place in the garden, or in a cold greenhouse, especially in areas of Italy where winters are mild and temperate.

Paphiopedilum are devoid of pseudobulbs, and develop in tufts, in which each mature shoot bears only one flower, carried by a long erect, dark-colored stem. The foliage is bright green, rigid and fleshy, and develops like a fan, directly from the collar of the plant, which is therefore devoid of stem.

The flowers are large, green or white, with purple or brown spots.

Cultivation is quite simple: paphiopedilum need diffused light, not excessive, and must be kept away from direct sunlight, especially during hot summer days; humidity must be constant, but not excessive, it is generally sufficient to slightly moisten the substrate, avoiding keeping it soaked, but also avoiding leaving it dry for prolonged periods of time; sporadically it is supplied with fertilizer for flowering plants, strongly diluted, given that the roots fear the excessive presence of mineral salts in the soil.

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The epipactis are terricolous orchids of European origin; they prefer humid, cool and very bright locations, and can also bear direct sunlight, but only if they can enjoy a good level of humidity. They produce green, brown or white slipper flowers on long stems.


Also the cypripedium are mainly terricolous species, they are lively orchids, therefore they develop from spring to late summer, when the aerial part dries up and the plant enters vegetative rest; there are many species of cypripedium, most of them develop as alpine perennials, that is, they prefer bright locations, with moist soil, and other environmental humidity; they fear direct sunlight and excessive heat, therefore in summer it is advisable to grow them in a cool place, away from heat and sun.

Scarpetta flowers: Soil and exposure

As we said, these three kinds of orchids develop in the ground, in any case it is good to consider their place of origin; even if they develop in the earth, this usually occurs in the undergrowth, where the soil is mainly made up of dried leaves, peat, pieces of wood or bark; then we can plant our orchids in a substrate consisting of the common soil for orchids, made with pieces of bark, sphagnum fiber and other vegetable fibers, to which we will add an equal quantity of universal peaty soil; in this way we will obtain a soft and very porous soil, suitable for the development of the thin roots of our orchids. Remember to water these plants regularly, this does not mean flooding the pots every day, but providing small quantities of water every 2-3 days; reducing waterings when the weather is cold and intensifying them when the weather is hot. In the case of cypripedium, when the plant is in vegetative rest, the watering will be suspended completely. Even when we are not watering we must remember to keep the climate quite humid, by vaporizing the foliage with demineralized water; when we carry out this operation we avoid in every way to wet the scarpetta flowers, which could get stained or wither prematurely. If we want to cultivate a paphiopedilum but do not know its place of origin, we must keep in mind that plants with green foliage generally come from areas with a cool climate, similar to that of southern Italy; on the other hand, the species with spotted or streaked foliage are generally the tropical ones, which therefore fear the cold.

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