These orchids are the most sumptuous and exotic of all and are chosen for corsages. In nature
there are about 50 species each of Cattleya and of Laelia growing from Central America,
through the Amazon region to the south of Brazil. Their showy flowers and the tendency of
these plants to grow in large colonies has meant that they have been vigorously over collected
and the status of many is endangered. The plants produce strong 'pseudobulbs' topped with one
or more leathery leaves. Each year a dormant bud at the base grows into a new shoot. This
thickens to produce the current year's pseudobulb. The flowers arise from the tip of the current
year's growth and come in a range of colours from white and pink to green and purple. Some
flower twice yearly.
Multitudes of hybrids have been bred over the years many of which are easy to grow and easy
to flower. Over 40 other genera have been bred into Cattleyas and Laelias, and notably among
them Sophronitis has been used to introduce scarlet and Brassavola for the frilly lip.
Temperature and Humidity
Minimum night temperatures of 10° - 15°C, depending on the plants origin, are needed but
growth in summer is rapid at temperatures up to 26°C. A humid atmosphere, propelled by a fan
In greenhouses, the normal maximum is 50% of full daylight or 2000-3000 foot candles. In hot
weather shade sufficiently to ensure that the leaves are cool to the touch. If you are growing in
the home give a bright situation but not direct sunlight, behind a net curtain, from April to
September. These also make good conservatory plants as long as summer shade and good air
movement can be provided.
Watering and Fertilizing
From March to September the compost should never be allowed to dry out completely. Water
twice weekly and fertilize fortnightly with a recommended orchid fertilizer. From October to
February, no fertilizer is needed, but water the plants when the compost appears dried out. It is
better to underwater as the plants can stand neglect more than over watering!
Compost and potting
A medium bark mix will do well with added polystyrene spheres or perlite to keep it open.
Chopped sphagnum helps retain humidity and some charcoal keeps it 'sweet'. New compost will
keep the plant growing for two to three years before it turns acid and the plant needs repotting.
Don't repot until the plants are crawling over the sides of the current pot and the best time to
repot is when the new roots are just beginning to appear at the new shoot's base. If the plant
has over eight pseudobulbs, the thick rhizome can be cut to give two equal sized plants which
can be potted separately.
- You Can Grow Cattleya Orchids, by Mary Noble
- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchids, by Alec Pridgeon
- Orchids for Everyone, by Williams et al (Beginners)
- The Cattleyas and their Relatives, Volume 1, The Cattleyas, by Carl Withner
- The Cattleyas and their Relatives, Volume 2, The Laelias, by Carl Withner
- The Cattleyas and their Relatives, Volume 3, Schomburgkia, Sophronitis & Other South American Genera, by Carl Withner
- The Cattleyas and their Relatives, Volume 4, The Bahamian & Caribbean Species, by Carl Withner
The North Hampshire Orchid Society is affiliated to The Royal Horticultural Society & The Orchid Society of Great Britain
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