The phragmipedium slipper orchid occurs widely throughout central south America and parts of Mexico. In their native habitat, the orchids grow on rocks, trees or in the ground. Flowering occurs at various times depending upon the variety, but in the wild, it is predominantly from October to March. A few of the phragmipedium slipper orchids flower continuously for up to six to 11 months. Flower colors appear in shades of pink, orange, mahogany and green.
Place phragmipedium slipper orchid varieties known as long-petaled caudatum and xerophyticum in full sunlight. Besseae, pearcei, ecuadorense and schlimii varieties grow best in medium to low light.
Maintain daytime temperatures from 70 to 80 degrees F. At night, the plant benefits from a temperature reduction to 55 to 65. Temperatures that are too high encourage the growth of brown bacterial rot at the base of the plant.
Place the orchids in a saucer filled with moist pebbles to raise the humidity level around the plant. Placing a humidifier in the room also helps raise the surrounding humidity. The orchid prefers a humidity level between 50 to 70 percent.
Water the phragmipedium slipper orchid using rainwater or distilled water. Keep the plant constantly moist. Water in the morning so any water droplets that get on the plants leaves have a chance to dry out before nighttime.
Fertilize every third watering using a water soluble 20-10-20 or a 15-5-15 mixture in the spring and summer. Apply according to the instructions on the label. Mix the fertilizer using rainwater or distilled water. In the fall and winter, fertilizer every fourth or fifth watering.
Repot every one to two years after flowering has occurred. Only use a pot that is one size larger then the pot the orchid is currently in. Use a sequoia bark and rockwool mixture for all varieties except xerophyticum, which benefits from sequoia bark, dolomitic lime and charcoal.