Paphiopedilum x leeanum is an attractive and easy to grow British-bred primary hybrid between Paphiopedilum spicerianum (pollen) and Paphiopedilum insigne (seed), first made in 1884. Flowers have some variability, but mostly fall between their parents, the pouch being reddish brown, the petals greenish with longitudinal brown stripes, and the dorsal sepal white with a green base and reddish speckling. Foliage is uniformly green and sits fairly upright. Each fan of foliage only blooms once and new fans may be produced either before, during or after flowering, each of which will bloom in its turn. As more than one new fan may be produced together, plants can become quite large over time, with several flowers being produced simultaneously, usually in winter. My plants bloom around Christmas, lasting several weeks.
Most modern Paphiopedilum hybrids are quite complex and originate from both warm- and cool- growing species, making them quite adaptable, and allowing them to be grown together. Paphiopedilum x leeanum, despite being an old and less complex hybrid, is no exception and enjoys coolish room temperatures, though I have found that it doesn’t object to my warm grow-room either, as this encourages nice large growths more likely to produce a bud during Autumn. I have found that blooming can be induced by cooler night temperatures in Autumn, much as Phalaenopsis hybrids can be induced to bloom by temperature manipulation. Flowers last longer when plants are kept on the cool side.
As with other Paphiopedilum species and hybrids, it should not be allowed to dry out, as it does not possess pseudobulbs as many other orchids do. Instead, it grows terrestrially under trees in leaf litter, and should therefore be kept evenly moist, but not wet, at all times. I have found most paphiopedilums to be fairly undemanding when it comes to growing medium, and I have taken to using a mix of medium bark chips and hanging-basket moss, though bark chips on their own will do equally well, provided plants are kept well watered. A very graceful and undemanding orchid to grow. For best results, grow in bright, indirect light for most of the year, then with a little more shade as buds form, as this is said to enhance flower colour.
I have read that this hybrid has calcium-loving parents and should be grown with a little limestone added to the growing medium, but I have found this not to be necessary under my conditions. Mostly, calcium can be supplemented by regular feeding. My plants get fed around once or twice a month with a weak orchid feed. Excess feed should not be allowed to build up in the growing medium, as this can lead to leaf burn and eventual root damage. Underfeeding is always better than overfeeding.
I have to admit, I have never been much of a slipper grower, but this one is worth making an exception for. This article is only meant to show readers what I do with my plants, and not what they should do with theirs. Hopefully it has been informative and will encourage others to grow this lovely hybrid for themselves.