Growing Cattleya Orchids

Cattleya Orchid Care Sheet

While Cattleya orchid hybrids are usually the species thought of as “orchids” by most people, not many people know that there are 50 species that grow wild in Central and South America. Most species grow high up in the canopy of trees in moist tropical forests at low to medium elevations. Trees covered in Cattleya orchids in full-bloom are quite a sight to see.

Cattleyas are known for their large, showy lip that the plant uses to attract and guide pollinating insects to the pollen.

Cattleya orchids are divided into two classes based on the number of leaves that each growth has. Unifoliate Cattleya species have only one leaf while bifoliate species have two (or more) leaves per pseudobulb. Cattleyas are very closely related to Epidendrums and Laelias and readily hybridize with them to create beautiful new genetic combinations.

Temperature: Most Cattleya orchids are found growing between sea level and 6000 feet in elevation. Day temperatures between 75° F and 85° F degrees and night temperatures between 55° F and 65° F degrees are ideal. Plants in cultivation prefer a ten to 15 degree difference between day and night temperatures.

Air Circulation:
Cattleyas (along with most other tropical orchids) prefer a moderate amount of air circulation. Many growers use fans to generate a gentle breeze. Good air circulation reduces fungal disease problems, too.

Cattleyas prefer 50-60% humidity. Spray the plants with a spray bottle in the morning or place the plants on a try that is filled with gravel and covered with water. This method is useful growers who have a few plants sitting on a windowsill.

Cattleyas prefer strong, indirect light or dappled light. In the house, grow them in a south or west facing window with a sheer curtain to filter the light to avoid burning the leaves. Fifty to 60 percent shade cloth is adequate for greenhouses.

Cattleyas only need to be repotted when they outgrow their pots or the potting media begins to break down. Repot plants when new growths have grown between one and three inches tall. There are many suitable orchid mixes available, but most growers prefer a mix of fir bark, hardwood charcoal and perlite. Mature plants need coarse bark while seedlings need fine bark. Clay or plastic pots are suitable and clear plastic pots have become quite popular in recent years because they allow the grower to see how the roots are growing.

When fir bark growing mix dries out, it becomes lighter in color and it is time to water. Cattleyas prefer to be throughly watered and then let to dry out. Too much water causes root rot and other disease problems. When in doubt, wait another day to water.

Most growers fertilize their orchids every two weeks with commercial, water-soluable orchid fertilizer every two weeks. Water plants that are really dry prior to fertilizing to prevent root burn. Periodically leach the pots with copious amounts of clear water.

Cattleya rex from Curtis Botanical Magazine

No comments:

Post a Comment