Paphiopedilum bellatulum cvs. (tropical lady’s slipper orchid), such as Joanne’s Wine (‘Siren’), Maudiae types
Description: From Asia; related and similar in appearance to our native lady’s slipper. Look for ones with mottled-green-and-silver-grey leaves, as they prefer warm growing conditions; avoid green-leaf types, which require cooler than average household temperatures.
Light and temperature: Low intensity and duration; 50 cm from an east- or west-facing window or 1 m away from a southern exposure. Nighttime low 15ºC, daytime high 30ºC.
Water: High requirements; these mostly terrestrial orchids store much of their water in their leaves; irrigate regularly (two or three times a week); do not allow roots to dry out completely, but avoid letting the plant sit in water; do not mist leaves.
Fertilizer: Orchid fertilizer (19-31-17), or plant food (20-20-20) at one-quarter strength, every second watering while plant is in active growth; reduce to once every four weeks in winter.
Phalaenopsis cvs. (moth orchid), such as ‘Allegria,’ ‘Doris,’ ‘Esme Hennessy,’ Golden Horizon (‘Sunrise’) and ‘Yukimai’
Description: Widely available and arguably the easiest to grow; long-lasting sprays of white, pink, purple or yellow flowers, often striped.
Light and temperature: Moderate intensity and duration; place in an east-facing window or 50 cm from a south- or west-facing window. Nighttime low 12ºC, daytime high 30ºC; can tolerate up to 35ºC for short periods. To initiate flowering, consistently expose plants to three to four weeks of 12ºC nighttime temperatures by placing them outdoors in early autumn.
Water: High requirements; water thoroughly one or two times a week, but allow plant to dry out between waterings; avoid getting the base of the leaves wet, as this can promote rot; mist plants lightly every morning to increase humidity.
Fertilizer: Orchid fertilizer (19-31-17), or plant food (20-20-20) applied at half-strength, every second watering when plant is in active growth. To further encourage flowering after a period of cool nights, use a high- phosphorus fertilizer (10-60-10) at half-strength for four to six weeks.