Paph Supreme Lady
Care Group: Paphiopedilum Orchids
Overview: If you like large plants, this is a hybrid for your collection. It’s literally the BIGGEST and the MOST Paphiopedilum you’ll find. A full-sized plant (which may take 15+ years to achieve), will likely top out over 4 feet across (leaf to leaf), with individual leaves possibly exceeding 2′ long and 4″ wide—a real behemoth compared to most slipper orchids. If you cannot find Paph Supreme Lady, then settling for either of the parent species will likely still satisfy your desire for a BIG paphiopedilum.
I created this caresheet/overview because I want to track and show the progress of my plant, more than anything. I feel it has the most potential out of any paph in my collection, so I was inspired to research, write about, and share photos (even if my plant hasn’t bloomed yet). If you have a Paph Supreme Lady you can compare notes, but also, if you’re thinking about getting Paph kolopakingii or Paph gigantifolium, this post should still give you some good foundational information about those species.
For size context, here’s a photo of a beautiful and enormous kolopakingii grown by @mr_orchidaceae:
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About My Plant: The complete lineage of my Paphiopedilum Supreme Lady is: Paph kolopakingii var. topperi ‘Jamboree’ HCC/AOS x gigantifolium ‘Dark Warrior’—I believe it was distributed by Orchid Inn over 16 years ago, released under the batch ID PAM0055 (from the 2007 winter catalog) or listed online as OID0210.
What makes Paph Supreme Lady special: it’s a cross with the two largest species in the Paphiopedilum genus. Paph gigantifolum (as the name suggests) has gigantic foliage (about 60cm/2′ long), with the widest leaves of all paphs (about 8–12cm / 3–4.75” wide; some reports up to 20cm / 7.75” wide [O. Gruss, Südostasiatische Frauenschuhe]). P. gigantifolium can apparently produce up to 14 flowers per inflorescence, but it seems like 4-5 is more realistic. I’ve noticed that authors tend to brush over this species in literature because they feel the flowers are not interesting enough to use in breeding, so the detail about the plant are often limited. While gigantifolium has chunky leaves, it isn’t technically the largest paph in the genus. That title belongs to the giant variant of kolopakingii. Paph kolopakingii var topperi (sometimes listed as “var giganteum”) has both the longest leaves (over 70cm /2.25′ long) and produces the most flowers on an inflorescence (up to around 11-14 flowers per spike, with one site claiming up to 19—though, I could not confirm this number in any other literature).
Blending the two species together in a hybrid, in combination with good long-term care, likely makes Paph Supreme Lady a contender for the Guinness Book of World Records for largest Paphiopedilum (if that award even exist?). Unfortunately, both parent species and the hybrid are extremely rare in collections—likely because they’re too slow growing (making it uniquely hard to keep alive long enough to flower) and/or too large for the average indoor hobbyist (who isn’t willing to accommodate such a space-hog). If you want a Paph Supreme Lady for yourself, be prepared to dig deep and/or wait a while. It’s so rare, unless someone recreates it, there are likely only a handful of them floating around in private collections.
Photo of Zephyrus Orchids’ Paph Supreme Lady Flowers
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Selecting for smaller plants: I had read on at least one site that breeders were selecting for smaller plants of gigantifolium and kolopakingii, which (in my humble opinion) is a bit of a shame. What makes these two species particularly remarkable is their size (even if it prohibits them from being accessible to some home growers). There always seems to be a species or two per genus that is valued for its size—a good example is Phalaenopsis gigantea in the phal genus, so I hope someone continues to select for size. Big is good when you’re dealing with the largest species of a genus, but I get that the high flower count offered by both species is enticing for breeders who may be chasing awards and accolades.
Breeding Paph Supreme Lady in future crosses: Daydreaming out loud, I kind of want to self-pollinate my plant with the sole purpose of selecting bigger plants. Then, if I’m still around in the decade it takes to flower them after that, I’d take the largest progeny and back-cross it to the mother—selecting again for improved vigor and the most enormous plants. It’s probably a silly pursuit, but I like the idea of the most impractical and supreme version of Supreme Lady. Something collectable. Something rare. Something stupidly excessive.
While my dreams may be grandiose, at this point in 2023, the plant is relatively small, (especially considering it’s 16+ years old). The leaves are about 6″ long now, but I have worked hard to perfect the care I offer it, and within the first 6-months it doubled in size and put on a significant amount of root mass. I expect in another 5–7 years (when it finally flowers), it will be the largest Paph in my collection and I intend to accommodate it above all the other paphs.
Care & Culture of Paphiopedilum Supreme Lady (kolopakingii x gigantifolium)
If you do well with multifloral paphs, you’ll find kolopakingii, gigantifolium and Supreme Lady equally easy to grow. It just comes down to accommodating the plant’s size and providing consistent care to keep the plants alive for upwards of a decade. Easy…but slow.
Similar to many multifloral types, these come from limestone habitats that are near running water and consistently quite moist—that’s a good indicator not to let the roots go bone dry (more akin to phragmipediums). If you successfully grow paphiopedilums like lowii, philippinense and helenae, you’ll likely find this cluster of large paphs equally easy to grow. Both kolopakingii and gigantifolium are found on steep limestone ravines, one in SW Borneo, and the other just kitty-corner across the ocean in the upper NW section of Indonesia. Interestingly, Paph gigantifolium is also often found growing directly on tree ferns. Good drainage, ample water, and adequate calcium (while avoiding extreme acidity) is likely necessary for good robust plants that aren’t susceptible to leaf or root rot. Based on my early experience with Paph Supreme Lady, it’s very happy with my ambient home conditions, using tap water (which is slightly alkaline, 7.9pH, 250ppm CaCO3) to irrigate and a potting media that’s mostly composed of pumice and orchiata.
If your paphs struggle with fungal and bacterial infections like: crown rot, brown rot, or black rot, you could be growing them too acidic, too wet or in too dense of potting mix. Consider repotting into a chunkier, well-draining rock-based media or review your fertilizer nutrient ratios and check the pH coming out the bottom of your pot.
Light should be moderate compared to most multiflorals—about 800–1,700 footcandles or 8–17% sunlight. At the plant’s upper limit of light, the leaves will get tessellated marking and may become a pale chartreuse or pale-olive-green colour. If the leaves are more yellow than green (chlorotic), then the light is too bright. A dark rich green should be expected if plants are grown at the lower limit of light, but if your goal is for faster growth, try to target the middle-to-upper limit and fertilize effectively.
It is often said that humidity must be high for these types; however, I grow my paphs at a very low humidity (35–45% rh) and all of the strap-leaf, multifloras and sequential types do fine. You can read more on my general care and perspectives for paphs, here. This plant too has performed well under my average home conditions, as long as I keep it adequately hydrated and avoid drought, hard drying of the roots, or dehydration of the leaves.
Paphiopedilum Supreme Lady
(kolopakingii var topperi “Jamboree” x gigantifolium “Dark Warrior”)
1-year update (Aug 19, 2023)
At this point it’s about the size of a regular multifloral paph. The leaves are quite wide, but it doesn’t take up any more space than my philippinense or Angel Hair paphs. I expect that will change this year as this one continues to get larger.
8-month update (April, 2023)
I decreased the light intensity slighlty
6-month update (February 8, 2023)
The new growth is progressing nicely and new roots are starting to reach the edge of the pot at multiple points