Browning Leaves

I have several lady slippers whose leaves have recently turned brown on the tips. How do I correct this leaf problem - just cut off the ends? Corinne D
Paphiopedilums are one of the most intriguing of the orchid family because each plant is grown from seed and is, therefore, genetically different from the rest. A grouping of these orchids reveals color, shape, and size variations in the flowers yet they all require the same growing conditions - low light, normal household temperatures, and frequent watering.
Paphs are very sensitive plants and any stress can show itself as browning of the leaf tips (Yes, your orchids are "stressed out"). The most likely cause of stress for lady slippers is allowing the roots to dry out between waterings. Since these plants do not have the water storing pseudobulbs with which to draw upon during periods of drought, they must have a constant source of moisture at their roots.
Paphiopedilum roots are also very sensitive to impurities in the water such as high salt or extreme pH levels. Some growers go so far as to collect rain water for use on their lady slippers (Assuming no acid rain). A surprising impurity could be too much fertilizer which is certainly easy to correct - dilute the nutrient concentration to ½ or even ¼ the recommended label rates.

I've heard that Vanilla is an orchid. Would this be a good plant to grow at home? Bob W
Vanilla is the world's most popular flavor but few people realize the incredible journey that this orchid takes to get from the fields to the dinner table. The alluring extract that we know and love is actually ground up seed pods from Vanilla planifolia - an orchid whose large Cattleya-like flowers hang from vines.
There are over 100 native Vanilla species growing in countries that surround the equator and small bees traditionally pollinated the flowers. Today, farmers use hand pollination to set the seed pods which take 9 months to fully ripen. The pods look like string beans and are allowed to dry in the sun for the next 3 months until completely shriveled. Finally, the 'beans' are ground into fine specs for 'real' Vanilla ice cream or distilled into liquid extract.
Unfortunately, the Vanilla orchid does not lend itself well to home growing since it is, essentially, a vine. To compound the problem, the flowers last 1 day (compare to Phalaenopsis which last 3 months). On the bright side, the plant is propagated from cuttings which are readily available and inexpensive. The final frontier would be to make your own flavoring.

I just bought my first orchid - a Phalaenopsis. One flower was open and the rest were buds. Within a few days, the flower died and the buds got all wrinkled and never open. What did I do wrong? Lisa W
It is always sad to hear about an orchid that was so close to blooming but just couldn't quite do it. In this case, the buds dried up or 'blasted' - a condition that occurs most frequently in the winter when the indoor humidity plummets as household heating systems are activated. In addition, Phalaenopsis (like Paphiopedilums) are especially prone to bud blast when their roots dry out since they do not have pseudobulbs to store water and will abandon their buds under first signs of stress.
The fact that the lone flower folded immediately, however, suggests something more serious than the typical lack of humidity or water. This orchid received a major shock of some kind - possibly exposure to very cold temperatures (such as being left in a cold car for a few hours) or exposure to high concentrations of contaminated air (such as being placed in a room with cigarette smoke). There is also the outside chance that the orchid was neglected before you bought it, in which case, you are due a replacement. Just tell them Art sent you...

Monday, December 1, 2003 - 19:00