Paphiopedilum fairrieanum belongs to Paphiopedilum subgroup, either known as Insigne Alliance, of the genus Paphiopedilum. The other prominent species of this subgroup include Paphiopedilum exul and Paphiopedilum insigne.
Paph. Fairrieanum, a threatened species, occurs at an elevation of 1400-2200 meters in the belt of subtropical and occasionally temperate broadleaf forests in the eastern Himalayas. This Lady slipper orchid is not large, only up to 30 centimeters high, and usually has green dark leaves. The flowers are striped with visible indumentum and may be of various coloring in different varieties; there is an alba form – Paph. fairrieanum f.album – with green-white flowers. It is believed, that an alba form is more fastidious than other forms. In natural habitats, Paphiopedilum fairrieanum grows as a lithophyte, or humus-detritus epiphyte and prefers calcareous substrates. The orchids bloom in winter or fall, and the duration of blooming lasts about a month.
Paphiopedilum fairrieanum is the orchid species with strict seasonal differences in growing. It actively grows during spring and summer when requires ample watering, and slows down its growth during autumn and winter when requires reduced watering and lower temperatures. The plants generally need to be grown in conditions with ideal winter temperatures about 16-18°C in day time and 12-15°C at night, the summer temperatures should be about 20°C. However, in nature this species grows in different conditions. That is way there are different ecological forms that require different care. There are forms requiring even lower temperatures to grow best; certain forms may require winter temperatures around 5-10°C and can even often cope with a slight frost for several hours. If the temperature in summer is above the optimal levels, it is a good idea to apply organic fertilizers and give the orchid more sun light to increase photosynthesis; otherwise the plant might significantly reduce its growth through increased rates of catabolism.
For better growing, the substrate has to be well draining and should include some amounts of calcareous substances; it may be crushed shells, limestone, or dolomite, for example. The general light levels should be slightly more intensive than moderate throughout a year.
Paphiopedilum fairrieanum has been widely used in hybridization, and many of modern Paphiopedilum hybrids contain some part of this species. Also, there are different varieties of Paph. fairrieanum with different coloration of flowers.