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Pafinia Is A Miniature Orchid With Huge Flowers

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A lover of humid air and one of the most compact and rare orchids, the paphinia is a real star for most orchidists. Its blooms rarely last longer than a week, but it can be an unforgettable sight. The unusual striped patterns on the huge flowers of the humble orchid one wants to look at endlessly. In room culture, paphinia is rightly enlisted in the ranks of difficult species to grow. It became fashionable only with the spread of original interior terrariums and florariums, looks splendid on snags and in imitations and can become the pride of collections.

Pafinia is a miniature orchid with huge flowers
Phinema is a miniature orchid with huge flowers. © Tomek Fox

Paphinia is a Latin American crumb with unique flowers

One of the most beautiful and rare orchids, paphinia captures the beauty of the striped colors on its huge flowers and always gives the impression of an unprecedented original. In fact, this orchid is far from as unique as its reputation. Its capriciousness is limited to certain peculiarities of care and keeping conditions.

The representative of the orchid family (Orchidaceae) is named after one of the names of Aphrodite, in Cyprus this ancient Greek goddess was also called Paphia.

Paphinia (Paphinia, the conventional designation in catalogs is Pna) are not exactly typical Latin American orchids. Most of the plants were not described until the late 20th century. The range of their distribution is astonishingly vast, but the plants themselves are considered rare in nature.

Paphinia come to us from the vastness of Latin America - Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Costa Rica. This is an amazing orchid that chooses conditions by humidity, but not by temperature: paphiniums settle in very humid forests and near reservoirs, where humidity values do not fall below 80%. Both in hot climates and in the fertile coolness of the highlands they feel equally well.

Paphiniae are classified as medium-sized orchids, although in room culture they should still be classified closer to miniature. In this beauty, everything is neat - both pseudobulbs and leaves. Over time, paphinia create neat bushes that seem crumbs against the background of ordinary room orchids. Paphinia bulbs do not exceed 2.5 cm in height and are easily recognized by their egg-cylindrical shape, flattened sides and elongated tip in addition to their rich green color.

The roots are white, with proper hydration they do not turn green, which makes watering somewhat difficult. Pafinia plants are never grown alone: they are not always planted in groups at once, but over time they necessarily build up large families themselves.

Unlike many other orchids, pafinia plants sit in groups rather densely, producing offspring and filling all the free space. Plants flower not only on mature bulbs and not only in large families - even small groups of young shoots can please with flowers.

Phainia leaves seem not large, but only if compared with phalaenopsis and other large orchids. The maximum length of the leaves is about 15-18 cm, more often they are even smaller. Leaves are oval-lanceolate, folded (especially strong when the air is dry, when the leaves literally fold into an accordion), up to 4 cm wide, shiny and smooth. One pseudobulb produces only a couple of leaves, but as a group the foliage looks impressive and ornate. Leaves fall off as new ones begin to grow, on average they last 2 or 3 years.

Pafinia is a miniature orchid with huge flowers
Pafinia's favorite feature is stripes and strokes on a wine-dark red or rose-pale background. © Stefano

Paphinia flowering

Paphinia flower stalks are curved and fanciful. They develop almost at the base of the pseudobulbs, most often arching and rarely pleasing in straight lines. Because of the low position of the flower stalk during flowering, the flowers seem to be only slightly raised or hanging under the bush.

Flowers about 9 cm in diameter look huge for this neat orchid, but in some species they can even grow up to 15-20 cm in diameter. Despite its exoticism, the structure of the flowers is not at all outlandish. The ovate, strongly pointed petals and sepals produce a beautiful, inverted and quite symmetrical flower.

The central sepal is below the lateral ones, the two upper petals and the central sepal are similarly (identically) colored, with bright white stripes. The two lateral sepals are only slightly smaller and less brightly patterned. The lip is densely pubescent, yellow. Pafinia's favorite feature is the stripes and strokes on the wine-dark red or rose-pale background, which create the effect of bright white stripes.

The main drawback of pafinia is the short flowering period. On average, the huge flowers last only three days on the flower stalk, at best 5-7 days. But it is very difficult to tear yourself away from the contemplation of the orchid. Pafinias are very unpredictable orchids. From the flower stalks to the blossoming can take several weeks or 3 - 4 months, and the flowering time varies from place to place.

How to help an orchid to blossom, read the article How to make an orchid bloom? 6 useful tips.

Although the natural development cycle of paphiniums assumes fall and winter blooming, here it sometimes blooms only in the calendar Latin American winter - from May until the end of summer. If the plant is in optimal conditions, paphinia can produce flowers at atypical times and please more than once a year. But to do so, you will have to take care of its key maintenance parameter - high air humidity.

Species of room paphinia

Despite its rather large representation in nature (today the classification of 18 paphinia species is revised), in greenhouse and room culture paphinia is represented only by several species, in most cases - by varieties of one single species.

Paphinia comb (Paphinia cristata) is a compact epiphytic sympodial orchid that has long been a symbol of the entire genus. The ovate, densely arranged pseudobulbs are up to 2.5 cm long with just a pair of oval-lanceolate leaves that have a pointed tip, creating remarkably neat clumps. And the short stalked peduncles growing from underneath the bulbs (only up to 15 cm long) with huge flowers up to 10 cm in diameter seem rather neat.

The legendary dark cherry color with white stripes, more intense along the edge, is characteristic of this paphinia. Each pseudobulb is capable of producing several flower stalks. And one flower stalk can produce 1, 2 or 3 flowers.

Besides the basic plant, there are several forms and varieties, particularly white-flowered which produces a larger number of leaves and has magnolia-like flowers.

Paphinia herrerae (Paphinia herrerae) is a beautiful epiphytic species with slightly lighter, lettuce-yellowish leaves and pink-cream flowers with strongly elongated petal tips. The huge flowers appear to be fanciful pastel stars, drooping, growing usually in multiples on a single pedicel.

Paphinia majestic (Paphinia x majestic) is a hybrid of previous species with pale red flowers on which much larger area is occupied by white bands and spots. The plant is similar in appearance to Paphinia Herrera, more tolerant of medium humidity, but also more light-loving.

Pafinia is a miniature orchid with huge flowers
Paphinia cristata (Paphinia cristata). © Lorena Paola Galarza Pasquel
Pafinia is a miniature orchid with huge flowers
Paphinia herrerae. © fedorchids
Pafinia is a miniature orchid with huge flowers
Paphinia majestic (Paphinia x majestic). © David McCoy

Growing conditions for paphinia in rooms

Paphinia is counted among the most capricious orchids also because it has rather special requirements to temperatures. Even if light can be moderate for it, the temperature difference between day and night is enormous, and not always reproducible in living rooms. It is a heat-loving, specific orchid that requires careful analysis of keeping conditions.

Lighting and placement

This orchid grows equally well in both natural and artificial light. Pafinia can be grown completely on artificial supplemental light or with partial supplemental light.

For pafinia, it is comfortable not in diffused bright light, which most room orchids prefer, but in semi-shady locations and even light shade. Southern locations and direct rays it does not like, it develops best in light penumbra. The orchid itself signals the comfort of illumination: if too intensive, the leaves become lighter, if too scarce, problems with growth and absence of flower stalks are observed.

Windows of eastern and northern orientation or similar window sills in the interior are best suited for paphinias.

Temperature regime and airing

These orchids belong to heat loving ones, not requiring a cool maintenance period even to stimulate flowering. In room and greenhouse conditions it is undesirable to allow temperatures below 12 degrees.

Paphinia love the differences between night and daytime temperatures. The optimal mode is to lower the temperature from 5-6 to 10-12 degrees at night. During the daytime the orchid is comfortable in a stable warm environment. Standard room temperatures of 20 to 25 degrees by day are quite suitable for it, but it's better to keep the paphinia within the limits of the daytime temperature from 25 to 29 degrees. Thus to hot temperatures, under the condition of comfortable humidity, and even to fluctuations in temperature paphinia are little sensitive.

Paphinia do not tolerate drafts, but are not afraid of temperature differences. Plants suffer greatly in the absence of airing, their greenery loves fresh air. In summer they can be taken out into the open air, choosing sheltered places.

Pafinia is a miniature orchid with huge flowers
Paphinia ranks among the most capricious orchids. © Lourens Grobler

Paphinia care at home

Paphinia is not accidentally considered one of the most difficult orchids. It is suitable only for experienced flower growers. Fortunately, to any deviations in care, the orchid reacts brightly and quite obviously, which allows you to correct the watering and humidity in time. It is the maintenance of optimum humidity that is the most difficult aspect of growing this orchid.

Watering and Humidity

Paphiniums do not like either overwatering or prolonged drought. These orchids are watered by the usual immersion method or by careful classical watering, choosing the method depending on the method of cultivation.

Loves this orchid the hot shower method using water with a temperature of 30 to 35 degrees. Pafiniums need active watering during vegetation, leaf and peduncle growth. During blossoming period the watering is reduced (overwatering at the bud stage is especially dangerous).

The resting period (it's very short for this orchid, begins only when the new shoots are fully formed and ends with the appearance of the first new shoots) is minimal, allowing the substrate to dry out not completely. On average, during active vegetative growth, paphiniums are watered up to 2 times a week. Any stagnant water for paphinia is categorically unacceptable.

In room conditions, it is quite difficult to maintain the necessary high air humidity for paphinia. Optimal conditions (80%) can only be achieved in florariums, florariums, orchidariums, terrariums and humidifiers.

How to create the optimum conditions for keeping orchids in the house you can read in our article

In summertime you can increase the humidity to 90%, in wintertime - lower it to 75%. Paphiniums themselves signal about the insufficient air humidity by wrinkling their leaves. When introducing spraying into care, they are carried out so that the water does not fall on the orchid itself in the form of even the tiniest drops (spraying "fog"). The bases of the flower stalks should also be protected against getting wet when watering.

For paphinia it is desirable to include regular wiping of the leaves from dust. Pollution is not acceptable for this orchid. The flower stems should be handled very gently in all treatments.

Fertilizers and Fertilizer Composition

Fertilize the plant only during the active growing season. When the orchid is growing new pseudobulbs, leaves and peduncles, half the amount of fertilizer (compared to the recommended amount for fertilizer) is added to the water. The optimal frequency of feeding is once every 3 weeks. It's better to alternate root and foliar feeding or to supplement foliar feeding with regular foliar feeding.

Not only special fertilizers for orchids can be used for paphinia. During flowering and the dormancy period, no fertilizing is done, but during the rest of the time the orchid can be fed more specifically: with nitrogen fertilizers from spring until July, and with phosphorus or regular orchid fertilizers from August until November.

Paphinia pruning and shaping

In this orchid, pruning is limited to the careful removal of flower stalks after flowering and dried leaves. With any pruning, it is advisable to dry the cuts somewhat with substrate to heal the wounds.

Potting, containers and substrate

Potting these orchids should be done only when absolutely necessary. They prefer a stable environment and do not like contact. Therefore it's better to move to new places and divide paphiniums when they really have no place to develop on the previous place.

But since paphiniums are afraid of spacious containers, the compact size of containers and baskets usually requires more frequent transplanting than for other room orchids - once every 2-3 years.

Paphiniums prefer planting on blocks - bark, snags, artificial bases, with sphagnum fixing according to standard method. These are small orchids, they are quite stable and it is in the epiphytic state show the full beauty of both fancy flower stalks and leaves. But you can also grow paphinia in pots.

When planting in containers, choose special "breathing" and transparent containers or special baskets for orchids. Their diameter has to correspond completely to the size of the orchids root system, too big containers with excessive substratum are not liked by the Pafinia.

Pafinia plants in clean bark or special substratum for epiphytic orchids, but the upper layer has to be made of sphagnum, which (like mulch) overlap the soil. Orchids cannot be buried: the pseudobulbs should practically lie on a substrate of moss.

When transplanting paphiniums you need to be very careful. It is one of the most fragile orchids, sensitive to root contact and poorly tolerant of root injury. When removing an orchid from its previous support and installing it on a new one, just like when you change the container, you have to be very careful and take care of the plant from any trauma. The old substrate is removed very carefully. After transplanting, the orchids are not watered, only lightly sprayed for a few days.

When planting paphiniums, you should pay attention to the position and protection of the flower stems. In normal growing on blocks, the developing shoots should be watched and an insulating material (Styrofoam or similar) should be put under the flower stalk in time to prevent contact with the constantly damp moss at the base.

When planting orchids, it is better to place them on an elevated, sloping position so that the flower stalks can hang down from the support and the risk of contact with the damp substrate is minimized. It is best to plant these plants on "slides" of moss.

Pafinia is a miniature orchid with huge flowers
Papheniums are propagated by dividing large shrubs and seedlings into small groups of 3-4 pseudobulbs each. © TD Moore

Diseases, pests and problems in growing paphiniums

Paphiniums are extremely prone to rotting, which is why these orchids rarely decide to grow not on blocks or in baskets, but even in special containers. Contact of water and stems leads to rapid tissue damage, and constant dampness - to rapid death. But no more rapid than complete overdrying of the substrate. Pests are almost uncommon on this orchid.

Paphinia tend to signal problems themselves. Harmonic leaf wrinkling is a signal to increase humidity, leaf shedding and lightening of the whole plant hints at too bright light, growth of roots and bulbs without flowering - excessive nitrogen and bad light, bud dropping - a combination of low humidity and heat.

Paphinia multiplication

This orchid is multiplied in only one way - by dividing large bushes and seedlings into small groups of 3-4 pseudobulbs in each. The larger the divisions, the easier and faster the paphiniums adapt.