Orchid of the Week: Phragmipedium besseae var. flavum

Phragmipedium besseae var. flavum

This orchid may very well be my favorite of all I grow.  It is Phragmipedium besseae var. flavum; a species native to Peru, Columbia, and Ecuador.  It grows in montane forests on the slopes of the Andes Mountains.  I fell in love with this orchid when I received my first orchid book, where they showed a picture of the red form of this flower.  It was discovered in 1984 and since then has caused quite a stir in the orchid world.  When first introduced it was being sold for thousands of dollars.  To this day an excellent clone of this species can demand a hefty price.  Several years after its discovery, the yellow variety; known as flavum form was found.  The two color forms are integral in modern Phragmipedium breeding due to their ability to impart red or yellow color, as well as a rounder shape and horizontal petal stance.  They are beautiful to see and a pleasure to grow.  I recommend them to anyone who loves slipper orchids!  To learn more about orchids and orchid growing contact the American Orchid Society or your local Orchid Society.

Phragmipedium besseae (red form)

Phragmipedium besseae (red form)

Required Light:  In the greenhouse I use 50% shade cloth and have it in a spot where it gets mostly morning and afternoon sun but not midday.  Under artificial lights like T5 fluorescents I recommend it be 16” underneath at least two 4 foot T5 bulbs.

Temperature: This orchid prefers night-time temperatures to be between 55° F – 70° F.  Daytime temperatures should be kept at or below 80°F to mimic its natural environment.

Humidity: Best kept at 60% RH or higher.

Required Watering: Depending on environmental factors, 2-3 times a week or more under normal conditions.  More waterings are generally necessary when it is hotter in the growing environment.  Clean water is a must for this orchid so rain water is a great choice or a Reverse Osmosis water filter may be necessary depending on your water quality.

Fertilizer: Should be applied at ¼ strength every other week.  I prefer to use the Grow More brand of fertilizers.

Potting: Should be done annually as you see new roots just starting to emerge from the newest pseudoblulb(s.)  I use a mixture of 4 parts coconut husk chips, 2 parts #4 Perlite, and 1 part Hydroton.  Also I prefer plastic pots as they will not dry out as fast allowing the roots to stay comfortably moist.

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