Paph. Culture

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There are many growers who specialise in species and many become very skilled in producing well grown plants which flower every year whilst others battle to keep many species alive.

There are many problems associated with the growing of specie paphs and these are;

  1. diversity of location
  2. lowland and highland plants
  3. light requirements
  4. varying growth periods and flowering times with rest periods in growth
  5. numerous subtribes
  1. The idigenous area is bounded by India to the West, Southern China to the North, the Philippines to the East and Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to the South.
  2. Some plants grow near sea level whilst others even though in the tropics grow at higher elevations in the same country. This will dictate different cultural methods.
  3. Some plants are semi-terrestrial growing on the forest floor or on cliffs in crevices, whilst other are epiphytical growing on trees. The majority grow in filtered indirect light whilst others require brighter light.
  4. Growing periods and rest periods must be understood, so that correct watering/fertilising is carried out. Many plants require a cooler period to induce flowers. Flowering times vary due to the above.
  5. These subtribes require different culture as to watering/fertilising/more open composts.


As with the hybrids it is considered the majority of the species should be grown under glasshouse/fibre glasshouse conditions where humidity and watering can be controlled. There are several species that can capably handle bushhouse conditions, such as Insigne, Fairieanum, Hirsutissimum, Spicerianum and Villosum.


To cater for the diverse heat and light the house should be shaded to give 80%-90% shade for some plants and 70% for others with a cooler area such as under the benches for some plants.


Here comes the problem which most paph specie growers face, should I have one of each specie I can get or concentrate on the majority that will grow under normal conditions.

The plants can be broken into two types – plain green leaf and mottled/tessellated leaf. The old cultural requirements of plain green leaf – cool growing and mottled/tessellated – warm growing are no longer applicable due to availability of many species not attainable years ago.

These species can be broken down to single flowered, multiflowered and continuous flowering. The majority have only one flower per growth, whilst multiflowered have up to 10 flowers per stem which are open at the one time. The continuous flowerers, flower one at a time and as a flower fades and dies it is replace by another flower. Some of these plants can be in flower continuously for years.

The list below sets out the more commonly grown species and identifies leaf type, flowering and growing conditions.

Species Leaf Flowering Temperature Light
Acmondontum ML   W HS
Appletonianum ML
faintly mottled
  W HS
Argus ML   W HS
Barbatum ML   I HS
Bellatulum ML   I HS
Callosum ML   W LS
Chamberlianum ML
faintly mottled
Charlesworthii GL   C LS
Concolor ML   I HS
Esquirolei GL   I LS
Exul GL   I LS
Fairieanum GL   C LS
Fowliei ML   W HS
Glaucophyllum GL CF W LS
Godefroyae ML   I HS
Haynaldianum GL MF I LS
Hennisianum ML   W HS
Hirsutissimum GL   C LS
Insigne GL   C LS
Javanicum ML   W HS
Moquettianum GL CF W HS
Niveum ML   W HS
Parishii GL MF W LS
Philippinense GL MF W LS
Primulinum GL CF W LS
Randsii GL MF W HS
Rothschildianum GL MF W LS
Spicerianum GL   C LS
Sukhakulii ML   I HS
Superviens ML   W HS
Tonsuri ML   W HS
Venustum ML   C HS
Villosum GL   C LS



GL Green leaf
ML Mottled/tessellated leaf

MF Multiflowered
CF Continuous flowered

C Cool growing
I Intermediate growing
W warm growing

LS Light Shade 70%
HS Heavy shade 80%-90%

As can be seen by the above – green leaves do not dictate cool culture. In respect to identifying cool, intermediate and warm conditions. These can be explained as follows:

Temperature Min (deg.C) Max (deg.C)
Cool 10 30
Intermediate 12 30
Warm 15 30

These temperatures are not mandatory but good plant growth will be achieved. By increasing the minimum to 12deg.C-15deg.C respectively the plants will give better results.

The majority of species listed above can be purchased from orchid nurseries, however many have been imported as jungle collected plants. The shock of being torn from their habitat, carried for days with minimal attention, separation into single growth plants, importation from overseas, quarantine treatment have in many cases left nothing but poor, weak dehydrated plants which can take up to 3 years to re-establish. Most losses occur in this period and therefore close attention is required to protect your investment.

Most overseas countries are now banning the export of these species and our only way of growing these species is by seedlings (selfing or siblings). Local orchid nurserymen have stocks of some of these species and many more are in flask to assist in future requirements. These plants are already established and may take several years to flower. Given the correct culture they will establish quicker and in the most cases the plants are seed propogations of better colour and form jungle plants.

Prices are dependant upon rarity,high quarantine costs, losses in transit and re-establishment, however the majority of the readily available species can be purchased from $12 upwards to $20 whilst the rarer and alba forms may reach into the $100’s.


Polythene pots are used by the majority of growers, being cleaner and more importantly warmer. Overpotting should be avoided. Many of the green leaf cool growers such as Insigne produce many roots whilst some such as Bellatulum produce small root systems. Species will not tolerate stale composts and therefore require repotting every two years.


Never divide into single growth plants. Most species do not like being broken into small plants, let them fall apart at repotting time. The majority of species make several growths each year once they become fully established. Most species do not conform to the ‘round’ shape of the hybrids and it is better to allow the plants to grow into specimen plants with multiple flowers.


Fir bark, pine bark and charcoal are a satisfactory compost. When potting up the multiflowering and continuous flowering plants utilise the larger bark.


The use of bark necessitates fertilising, however many species do not readily accept the quantity of fertilising carried out on the hybrids. Watch plants that show stress and do not exhibit good growth and reduce fertilising until the plants revcover.


Once again, regular watering is not on, more so when many species are being grown. One must learn to understand the growth/resting/flowering patterns of the individual species and water accordingly. There are several species that require heavy watering during the growing period,followed by a rest period where water is reduced drastically. A close watch should be kept for the appearance of flower buds in the leaf axils. Such plants should not be watered overhead, however this is not as critical as for the hybrids.

Many of the species are located growing in areas where limestone is a common occurrence, such plants benefit from lime treatments during the year. Such species are Bellatulum, Concolor, Delantil, Godefroyae and Niveum. The majority of the species also benefit from yearly lime treatments more so Charlesworthii, Fairieanum and Spicerianum.


He main problem is mealy bug which relish the thinner foliage of some of the species. These must be dealt with as soon as they appear, it is preferable to regularly spray with Metasystox or Malathion. Jungle plants are susceptible to rot and should be regularly treated. Rot is a problem with the following species, so keep a close watch on these, Bellatulum, Concolor, Godefroyae and Niveum.


Cleanliness is important. Flower stems should be staked as they elongate, more so with multiple flowered plants so the flowers are spaced correctly and do not impede each other. Try not to turn the plant around whilst the stem is elongating as the flowers could face different directions and not complement each other.


Cleanpots, staked flowers and clean foliage will help in gaining the final decision. Remember species are judged on the ‘appreciation’ method which requires the entire plant to be considered.

Noel Donelly of Donellys Park Ridge Orchids


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