Species Name: Phragmipedium kovachii
Subgenus: Phragmipedium | Section: Schluckebieria
Related Species: besseae, fischeri, schlimii, manzurii
Care Group: See Phragmipedium Care
Origin: Peru, South America
Elevation: 1,600-1,950m; up to 2,100m (Highland / Cool Grower)
Temperature Averages: 18C (winter) | 26C (summer)
Annual Temp Range: 10C (lowest) | 34C (highest)
“Found on the Northern side of the sub-Andean basin, in the Peruvian regions of Amazonas and San Martin, at elevations of 1,600–1,950m in [cool-to-intermediate temperature] cloud forests. Found growing in valleys running east-west on cliffs facing south, the plants receive cloud-filtered sunlight from noon until sunset.” —Glenn Decker, AOS Phrag kovachii species culture sheet.
Phragmipedium kovachii Care & Quick Tips
- Potting Mix: course, water-retentive, but well-oxygenated. I use 50% pumice to bark, sphagnum & charcoal.
- Water: keep roots moist – they don’t like drying out. I let the plant sit in 1/4-1/2″ of water most of the year (but especially after repotting). Weekly watering still happens and I will flush at least a full pot of water through the pot and roots.
- Nutrients & pH: they come from alkaline areas of Peru, so Calcium is a must. You can supplement this by adding limestone, granite, or eggshells in the potting media—in acidic conditions, those materials will release calcium. I acidify my water to 5.8-6.5 when feeding w/ fertilizer and flush my pots with tap water (7.9pH). I supplement calcium by dissolving a small amount of eggshell into vinegar and then dilute that solution into water about once a month.
- Nutrients Part 2: these plants grow fast and are large/robust with lots of leaves and roots – to support this growth, they need good fertilizer, but that doesn’t mean lots of synthetic fertilizer. I use organic fertilizer at about 1/4 tsp per pot two times per year – this includes a mix of bloodmeal, bat guano, greensand and rock dust. The plants also get 1/4 strength MSU fert once a week.
- Light: They need moderately-bright light but are stressed by high temps over 24c/75f. LEDs work well to deliver consistent amounts of light without causing heat-related burn.
- Temperature: The general rage is noted at the top of this post, the only thing I will add is that during heat waves in the summer (when our temperatures indoors reach 30c), the plant suffers often getting chlorotic yellowing in tessellated patterns on the leaves. I would avoid growing them too warm if you want to succeed with this plant, but if you’ve had success growing them over 30C, please let me know so I can provide that info to others.
- Flowering: happens in the winter, though there are reports it can flower year-round. Watching Facebook groups and forums online, there is a large influx of kovachii flowers posted from mid December to mid January. This may mean that a reduction in temperature is required to initiate the flowering cycle. This year that my plant flowered, I had turn my thermostat to 16C in the fall through winter; this creates a warming period during the day (up to ~22C) and cooling at night (down to 16C at the lowest). Friends who grow this plant, have also told me that their plants are prone to bud blast (especially if flowering in the summer) and I suspect that is related to high temperatures (similar to what happens with many cool-spiking phalaenopsis which can bud-blast when temperatures exceed 30C).
Why Won’t my Phrag kovachii Flower?
Upon further learning about cool-growing plants, I’ve come to believe that cool evening temps are likely required to get Phrag kovachii to flower. This isn’t a fact I’ve read somewhere; however I’m basing this assumption on observations of my own plant, along with others I’ve seen posted online, in combination of the literature regarding cool-growing plant species. There seems to be a direct case as to why cool night temps are important for bud and flower formation. For kovachii specifically (which is adapted to cool climate conditions) the low night time temperatures would slow the plant’s metabolism; this may allow it to build surplus energy day after day (and night after night) so it can fuel the production of the exceptionally large flowers.
The info I was referring to was regarding a cool-growing Anthurium (not an orchid, but comes from the same general habitat) and I found an interesting note regarding why cool-growing species do poorly at warm temps, “Experienced Anthurium grower Denis Rotolante explains why tropical plants that are used to cool nights on the side of a mountain in a cloud forest don’t do well at sea level [which has a climate which is consistently warmer both day and night], ‘These plants may respire and burn more sugars on a warm night than they produce in photosynthesizing in the day light. This causes a shortage of stored carbohydrates needed for growth and flowering. This contributes to a lack of vigor and produces weak, disease prone plants which do not flower, fruit or thrive.’” – From ExoticRainforest.com regarding Anthurium rugulosum
I think this can be extrapolated to Phrag kovachii, which similarly grows in cool-to-intermediate temps and specifically seems to flower during the winter—at which time the evening temps are lower and the cloud coverage is less, allowing for brighter days and surplus energy via photosynthesis. I was able to flower my kovachii by lowering my home temps to 16C during the nights in winter.
Phrag kovachii Care – Video
General Phragmipedium Care & Culture – Video
Photos of my Phrag kovachii
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Phrag kovachii – the largest flower within the phragmipedium alliance. Purchased this plant as “Phrag Fritz Schomburg” and I’ve been exploding with excitement seeing the flower open up – realizing I had the species kovachii and not a hybrid (Happy Xmas to me). The flowers will continue to expand/enlarge over the next few days—they’re currently 12cm petal to petal but can achieve over 20cm edge to edge…it’ll take a few more years to get a plant that’s big enough to produce flowers like that. Yayyyyyy!!! • • • • • #phragmipedium #phragmipediumkovachii #phragkovachii #slipperorchid #yycplants #foothillsorchidsociety #plantgang #indoorplants #green #houseplantclub #plantlover #ihavethisthingwithplants #plantnerd #plantlife #houseplantsofinstagram #houseofplants #urbanjungle #southamerican #orchidsofinstagram