Paphiopedilum Wössner Helene
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
Sometimes you choose your orchids; other times, they grow on you to become favorites. Paphiopedilum Wössner Helene, in my care, has been the latter case. I originally purchased it because it was compact, it was inexpensive compared to other paphiopedilums, and because its pouch was an attractive glossy brown.
I bought it as a dinky but blooming seedling, and the seller promised that its later fans and flowers would continue to grow in size. Its original bloom was small, and its lateral petals were so tiny as to look stumpy. But just as the seller said, its next two years of growth, and three sets of fans, got larger. Its dorsal sepal (top hood) and lateral petals grew to be more balanced, and it staminode (the highly sexy little button in the center of the flower above) became pronounced.
Paph. Wössner Helene blooms sometimes twice a year for me, and last year, it bloomed at Thanksgiving. (It must have sensed that its autumnal color palate fit perfectly on our Thanksgiving table.) It is also long-lived; the bloom above is approaching the two-month mark and shows no signs of fading. This orchid is a hybrid of Paph. charlesworthii x helenae. It clearly receives its brown pouch from charlesworthii (which is otherwise quite a purple orchid), and its yellow highlights from helenae. Otherwise, with the firey dorsal sepal, glossy features, and all-around sunny autumnal character, Wössner Helene is her own woman. I like an orchid offspring that isn't afraid to strut its own character!
Paph. Wössner Helene is now one of my favorite paphs, for several reasons. One, it's petite, but not miniature. (From leaves to the top of the flower is about 9 inches; in a 3.5 inch pot, its total height is 13 inches.) It's very happy in Repotme.com's Paph & Phrag Classic Orchid Mix. Like most paphs in my care, it prefers highs in the 70s and 80s F, with summer lows in the 60s. It's happy with winter lows in the 40s and 50s. But with winters that cold, be sure to offer it only very limited water from November to March. It thrives in low- to low-medium light year-round.
From leaf tip to leaf tip is less than 12" across. You'll notice a light green mottling to the leaves, and where they join at the stem there is a beautiful mahogany stippling. When I bought it as a babe, I did a double-take to ensure that it wasn't red spider mites crowded around the base. Indeed it wasn't, and now, the red stippling is one of its most satisfying and intricate features.
I'll be honest--I was a little bit unimpressed by Paph. Wössner Helene at first. She's not classically beautiful in an official orchid judging sense. But she's shown that she's an easy friend to return to, providing delights at just the right time. And she just keeps blooming! Here she is again, blooming for the third time this year, with two more spikes to come: