Requesting help with basic care

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Jul 4, 2016
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Hello there

I’ve recently become very interested in Paphs. I bought a white one at Trader Joes a few months ago, became fascinated, and immediately added 4 more to the household. Unfortunately, I’ve not got much of a green thumb, so this is well outside my skill level.

My concern is that none of them seem to be growing at all. The two that bloomed (possibly a niveum??? from TJs and a maudiae from an online seller) did nicely. I expected there to be another fan or growth or something by now, but nothing. The blooms dropped back in May, and it’s now July.

The other three (a vietnamense x delenatii at an orchid store. The 2 others are mysterious little guys I picked up at an orphan table at a local orchid show / demonstration) have done basically nothing. No dying, no growing. The leaves look fine. I don’t see any yellow or black spots or bugs. No brown at the tips. Just no change at all in 3 months.

I suspect that they don’t get enough light. My house is situated so the plants face north and north-east windows. I have deep eaves, so they don’t get much direct light. I’d like to add some kind of grow lights to the situation, but I really don’t know what to do next. The plants live in the common living / entertaining areas of the house so styling is an issue. Ideally, I’d like to find a couple task or table lights that work with the décor and use a serious growing bulb – is that even allowed? I don't know where to get started in picking a bulb.

I’d really appreciate some guidance. I am super fond of these little guys and want them to do well.

Here’s what I have so far…..
Media: bark, I think. Except for the maybe-niveum which is packing peanuts and moss.

Watering: Hard, municipal water
Monday – run water through
Thursday – run water through
Saturday – run water through, soak for 10 minutes, feed

Feeding: ¼ tsp per gallon every week. – the instructions say 1 tsp / gallon every week – 10 days. I run about ¼ gallon of the feeding solution through the media of each plant.
GrowMore Premium Orchid food 20-10-20
N – 20%
Phosphate – 10%
Potash – 20%
Copper - .05%
Iron - .10%
Manganese - .05%
Molybdenum - .0005%
Zinc - .05%

Air: About 30%. No humidity trays


Well-Known Member
Dec 19, 2015
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First of all welcome Annie.

I am guessing from your handle you live in Arizona?
So a few things...
You are correct in that you need a bit more light. Assuming the Paph's you got from TJ's are indeed labeled correctly, you will need a basic T-5 light set up. Nothing too powerful.
If you are indeed in AZ then you certainly need a humidity tray configuration of some sort. When I first saw how often you watered I thought for sure you are overwatering, but if you are in AZ then the arid air is going to make moisture disappear quickly.
In general I would suggest repotting all of them, both to inspect the roots and to get everyone in the same medium (makes watering easier).
Also I would suggest joining a local orchid society. They can often be a little stand offish, but getting culture tips from people who live in your same area is invaluable.

Hope that helps.


Feb 11, 2008
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Madison, Wisconsin USA
Where to begin...

You will probably end up getting what seems like conflicting recommendations. Take that as reassurance that there isn't just one right way.

Pictures will help us assess your plants, conditions, etc.

Primary concerns to start - water and light.

With that frequency I'm concerned you may be watering too much. You want to maintain even moisture, never dry, but more importantly never soggy. Over-watering and root rot is the most likely cause of Paph death for a beginner. Don't water on a rigid schedule, water when they need it.

Your plants do need supplemental light. You can use just about any fixture that you find appropriate for the location. You don't necessarily need special plant lights. Almost any typical fluorescent or LED lighting for residential use, broad spectrum white light, can give your plants the light they need, but you will probably need to get it within a foot or so of the plants. I would find it difficult to make specific recommendations without knowing what appearance you want.

You may get some very specific recommendations about fertilizer. Ignore them. What you are doing is fine. That is not the limiting factor for your plants, and probably never will be. I would probably cut back on frequency somewhat, give the plants a year once you have light figured out, and then maybe reassess.

You will want to begin planning to repot your Paphs, looking at pots and media that work for you, but you don't need to be ready until they show signs of new growth. The possible exception to that is if perhaps your plants already have root problems from over-watering.

If your plants haven't been growing it may take several months of improved conditions to get them started, and perhaps not until next spring gives them a natural boost. Patience. Make some changes and give them those months. Constantly making changes without giving plants time to adapt won't help.


Aug 14, 2014
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New York City
I concur with what Kirk has said, and I would also like to emphasize about watering. Observe how quickly your pots dry out and learn to water when the plants need, not on set schedule as doing so can bring a disaster.

Pot size and composition of potting mix can affect how fast pots dry and you will be surprised!

A few other things, the niveum lookalike you picked up from TJ would most likely be Mystic Isle, which is 75% niveum. I don't think niveum is likely at TJ, but Mystic Isle has been circulating the market heavily and very cheap, so I see that as a high possibility. :)

This one may benefit from more light than other paphs you own.

Also, since I have had quite a few of these, do not worry too much about no activity for an extended time. I have paphs that grow all the time and others that stays inactive for a long time. My Mystic Isle are all on the slow side.
Especially, the best one I have, took a long time to just initiate a new growth after first blooming, and it took over two years to flower for the second time. Great news is that after the second flowering, it started three new growths!
So your plant might do the same.
Give time and you will get to "know" your plants. Some will always be slow, and others might behave differently as they get older.

Good luck! :)


Jul 4, 2016
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Thanks for the advice! I am indeed in Arizona, where the houses are designed to limit heat and light coming in, and where the air conditioners suck humidity out of the air. I'm determined to come up with a workable solution, though. ;)

My new plan:
I will get some clear plastic pots with horizontal slits (so I can see inside), some medium coarse fir bark and repot everybody. I understand that's the classic paph repotting approach, right? And cut the watering back to when I can determine that it's actually dry rather than all the time. (I read somewhere never to let the media dry out, so I got aggressive about water.)

My husband has agreed to build a display shelf integrating some light - which needs to be within a foot of the leaves to be effective. Also, I'll get a humidity tray.

This is what the collection looks like, and there might be an issue close to the roots of the maudiea.


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Jun 9, 2006
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Michigan, USA
Welcome, Annie!

Watering indeed can be tricky. As has been said, you will get a lot of different advice, so much of what will work for you will be gained by you watching the plants and accessing their needs and reactions. Generally, Paphs do not like to dry out really dry like some other orchid genera. But they generally don't like to have wet roots, either. Slightly moist for the next watering works well for me,
Good luck, and keep us informed.


In Remembrance 2023
Supporting Member
Jul 8, 2011
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Kentucky zone 6B
Welcome Anne. One good way to monitor the moisture
level down in the pot is using bamboo skewers. Put one
skewer in each pot all the way to the middle/bottom of the
pot. Pull the skewer out and feel the tip to see how moist the medium actually is down in there. Perhaps a bit unsightly for decorative purposes, but you'll get a feel for
watering frequency and then you can take the skewers
out when you feel confident.

Bob in Albany N.Y.

Well-Known Member
Jun 8, 2006
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Albany, N.Y. USA
Hi Anne

I do it a little differently then Angela but along the same lines. I place the skewers into the pot when I want to check the moisture. I push it in deep and then using my fingers twist the skewer in a circle. Pull it out and check the moisture. I mostly touch the skewer to my lips to see if it is moist or not. Then either turn that wooden skewer around and put the other side into another pot that I wish to check or take a different one to check that pot. Let the skewers dry in a draw or anywhere dry and you can use them again in a day or so. I never use the same skewer in more than one pot unless I flip it end for end, unless I gave it a drying off period. Just my thoughts.