Sometimes sold as Cypripedium, these terrestrial orchids are native to tropical regions of Asia. Although usually grown in a greenhouse, they grow well as houseplants and will bloom annually with proper care. The group also includes large- flowered hybrids grown com- mercially for cut flowers. The perky blooms often shine as if lacquered. They are usually carried one to a stem but may appear in clusters of two or more, and each has a distinctive pouch. Colors include white, yellow, green with white stripes, pure green, or a combination of back- ground colors and markings in tan, mahogany, brown, maroon, green, and white.
Leaves are graceful and arching. Green-leafed types usually flower in winter, mottled-leafed kinds in summer. Most of the plants obtained from orchid dealers are hybrids.
A noteworthy species is Paphiopedilum insigne. Among the hardiest of the green-leafed types, it withstands brief exposure to 28F and can remain outdoors year-round in south Florida and South Texas. Lacquered-looking flowers on stiff, brown, hairy stems appear at any time from October to March. Sepals and petals are a combination of green and white, with brown spots and stripes; pouch is reddish brown.
In general, mottled-leafed forms do best with temperatures of 5560F at night, 6580F during the day. Plain-leafed forms require temperatures of 5055F at night, 6075F during the day. Lady's slipper lacks pseudobulbs in which to store moisture, so the roots must never be allowed to go completely dry (water freely in spring and summer, less in fall and winter). For a good potting medium, choose one that drains well and retains moisture; many good orchid mixes are available. Don't plant in oversize pots, as these orchids thrive when crowded. The hardiest kinds can be grown in pots indoors in indirect, fairly bright light (they flourish in less light than most orchids require). Tropical lady's slippers never go dormant; keep them at their preferred temperatures in steadily moist soil year-round.