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I got this bulb some 10 years ago - and sorry for the rather nondescript picture, but it's all I have. It was growing by the pool side in a leisure centre in Swindon, UK, and seemed to thrive. It was growing in what was probably whatever was the standard compost at the time, something with sphagnum peat and perlite, I guess. The bulbs were of a similar size as a medium sized onion, perhaps 5cm across, the flowers were white, large and strongly vanilla scented. I was given 3 of the 'baby' bulbs, but they have slowly deteriorated, and I now have just the one, which is now about 1.5 cm across. It grows for a few weeks, looking healthy, but then the top dries up and it goes dormant until next May.

I'd like to get it back in health. But first, any idea what it is?

enter image description here

  • Does it still flower? When does it flower (time of year)? – Bamboo May 29 at 11:03
  • No, unfortunately I have never had it flowering. – j4nd3r53n May 29 at 11:04
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I can't come up with a name for what your bulb might be from the description you've given, but the fact it dies down after a few weeks is normal behaviour for bulbs. If you don't usually fertilise it when it has leaves, do so now, preferably with a liquid feed. Something like Miracle Gro general purpose will do, and do it weekly (depending on the instructions on the bottle) all the time it has leaves. If the bulb is big enough to produce a flower, fertilising it now might mean it actually does flower next year, unless the leaves are shortly about to die back, when it may be too late. If it does flower, post a photo for ID... If it doesn't, fertilise next year as soon as the leaves appear.

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  • Makes sense - I'll definitely try that. I suspect it may come from a dryish climate, it certainly doesn't like being wet while dormant. – j4nd3r53n May 29 at 11:17
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This is a type of lady's slipper orchid. It is not uncommon for orchids to be highly scented with vanilla, the true vanilla is an orchid but is a little different from this plant. It is hard to pin down exactly which orchid, but no doubt now you are on track your process of elimination can continue. Make use of online image searches.

Orchid soil requirements are different from regular plants. Orchids rely on environment more than soil for water and nutrient, so examine carefully the environment yours lives in and pay close attention to temperature and humidity.

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  • Sorry, I should have taken the picture in another place. The Paphiopedilum is a different plant. The one I ask about is just the small 'onion' in the pinkish pot :-) – j4nd3r53n May 29 at 11:33

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