The genus Paphiopedilum is typically divided into two groups: the multi-florals and the unifloral. As the names describe, the multifloral paphs produce multiple blooms on a single spike that may be open at the same time. These can range from 2 or 3 per spike, up to 13 or more blooms at a time. The rest of the paphs carry only one bloom per spike, but the blooms are usually very long lasting.

Perhaps a third division should be named, though. Some paphs are sequential blooming. These plants produce only one bloom at a time per spike, but as that bloom begins to wilt, another bloom grows to replace it. Typically, then, these paphs will have one flower open at a time, but may bloom for a year or two on a single spike. In some instances, the second bloom may begin to open before the first is completely finished, but that should be considered the exception rather than the rule.

Each of these categories will be dealt with separately below.

The multi-floral paphs are probably the most sought after of the genus, but are also the most difficult to raise and bloom. These include species such as Paph rothschildianum, Paph sanderianum, Paph stonei, Paph parishii, Paph kolopakingii, Paph haynaldianum, and many others. The leaves on these plants are generally referred to as "strap leaves". The leaves are long and narrow, and plain, uniform green.

LIGHT

In general, these species have the highest light requirements of the paphs. In order to bloom them successfully, they require 2000-3000 candle-feet of light. Do not be mistaken, though; these are not full-sun plants. Direct sun will quickly burn their leaves, although strong air movement and cool temperatures will mitigate the burns. Some growers, such as Bob Wellenstein of Antec Labs, suggest growing your orchid in the highest light possible without burning it. Others remain skeptical, maintainig that too much light will create improper growth and will hinder blooming.

Paphs may be grown under fluorescent lights, but ONLY if they have their own, dedicated lights about 6-12 inches above the leaves. Attempting to grow paphs by the light of a fluorescent-lit room will most likely result in soft growth, stunted (or dead) plants, and no blooms.

As a general rule, leaves are healthy if they are light, grass green. If leaves are a darker green (especially with a blue tint), it usually means that they are not getting enough light and are over-producing cholophyll. If leaves are turning yellow (and especially if they are getting brown spots or a reddish tint) they are getting too much light.

TEMPERATURE

Most paphs (multi-floral or not) enjoy intermediate temperatures, between 70 and 80 F daytime temperatures. Some of the species, especially the multiflorals, grow best with a significant drop in night-time temperatures. In fact, many require a cool period of 3-8 weeks, in which the nights are between 50-60 degrees, in order to produce flower spikes.

AIR MOVEMENT

Good air movement is a VERY important factor in raising healthy multi-floral paphs (and other paphs as well). Fans for air circulation are important, and should blow above the plants rather than directly on them.

Good air movement allows fresh air to penetrate the growing medium and reach the roots of the plants, and also reduces the risk of bacterial and fungal infections from stagnant, humid air. Strong air movement also allows for more requent watering, which will increase the growth rate of your paphs.

GROWING MEDIUM

Most of the multi-florals grow as lithophytes (on rocks) or as epiphytes (on trees). In both cases, their roots grow in light, well-draining mediums, such as mosses, bark and twigs, and other forest debris. There are dozens of choices for potting mediums to reproduce these conditions, and to a great degree, the best one for you will depend on your growing conditions and need of your species. Popular potting-mix ingredients include fir bark, coconut husk chips, charcoal, diatomite, perilite, sphagnum moss, and a host of other addatives. Your mix should retain moisture but not get soggy and block air to the roots. This is true for ALL Paphs.

It is important to find out whether your species is a lithophyte. Most lithophytes grow on limestone or serpentine cliffs, and thus, the plants are accustomed to a very pH basic (as opposed to acidic) growing medium. This can be acheived with the addition of gardening lime (in small amounts!) or more gentle addatives such as crushed oyster shell. Many lithophytic species will survive without such addatives, but few will thrive.

The 19th Century botanical drawing of Paph philippenense shown above displays the orchid's multi-floral habit and the "strap-leaf" shape of its foliage.
These two photos (above and below) show the result of over-watering or having a growing medium that was not sufficiently well draining. When orchids are over watered, their roots don't get enough air, remain too wet, and then rot. Root rot is probably the foremost killer of orchids!

If you live in an area with normal humidity, you should expect to water your Paph once or twice per week. In humid areas, once a week will be enough, or too much. Water so that the medium stays moist, but begins to dry between waterings. If you're not sure whether its watering time, wait another day. Plants that don't get enough water can easily be saved by soaking. Plants with rotten roots are very hard to save.

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This Paph haynaldianum didn't even have enough roots left to hold it upright in its pot when I received it in the mail from a reputable grower. They were kind enough to replace it with a better plant when I showed them these pictures.
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