Cattleya Orchid Culture

Cattleya Enid

Cattleya Enid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This information is for those people who are curious about growing the lovely Cattleya orchids, also known as the “Corsage orchid”. While not often being used for corsages nowadays, this genus has some of the most variety in their blooms and blooms that can range from absolutely tiny to 8 inches or more in diameter!

Let me first start off by saying that the genus of Cattleya in the orchid world is very extensive and there are new hybrids being created everyday! This being said, there is a wide variety of cultural requirements for this genus, but this guide should serve as a good “General caregiving” source to get started with cattleyas.

Temperature: Cattleyas have 3 distinct ranges of temperatures. There are “Cool growers”, “Intermediate”, and “Warm” growers. Some of these classifications are more pertinent to the individual growing species cattleyas but for many hybrids, it is suggsted that they be roughly 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and get down to around 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. Many of the “Standard” cattleyas require at least a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference between day and night temperatures to help promote healthy growth and blooming.

Potinara Burana Beauty

Potinara Burana Beauty ‘Burana’

Light & Shade: Proper light is an important factor in growing Cattleyas. To attain good growth and flower production, Cattleyas should receive 2000-3000 foot candles. When Cattleyas receive the correct amount of light, the leaves will display a light green color. If the plants are grown at your window (especially south exposure) they may need protection from direct sunrays through the months of March to August. It is important that a Cattleya receives no additional light past normal day length (16 hours or so) because many of them are photoperiod sensitive- which means that if they get too much light, their cycle is thrown off and it may delay their blooming season.

Watering: Basically Cattleyas should be watered as they approach dryness. This may vary from 5-6 days during sunny warm weather to 7-10 days during dark and humid weather. It is important to thoroughly drench the plant when watering. DO NOT at anytime let the plant stand in water. The Cattleya generally puts on most of its growth during the spring & summer months. At this time, watering should be increased. During winter months only enough water should be given to the pseudobulbs filled- if the pseudobulbs are starting to wrinkle, increase your watering; small wrinkles should disappear over time, but large wrinkles may never go away fully…Also make sure that the center of the plant is not soaking wet all the time- you want to try and have it dry out fully with the rest of the pot.

**Tip: If you are unsure about when you water your potted Cattleya, you can take a bamboo skewer and insert it in the middle of the pot and leave it there immediately after you water. A few days later, or every day if you want to, check the skewer to see if it is still really wet or just slightly damp. You want the skewer to be just about dry, if not totally dry before you water again. This will help you monitor the middle of the pot and reduce the risk of root rot.

Feeding: Since most Cattleyas are grown in fir bark mixtures, fertilizing is a must. We recommend a high nitrogen fertilizer (3-1-1 ratio) for best results. During the growth period a full strength solution can be used every other watering or half strength at every watering. During Winter months when the plant is not in active growth, fertilizing should be curtailed to once a month. Humidity: 65% to 85% humidity is ideal for the Cattleya. However, a Cattleya in nature has dry periods, therefore they can be grown where humidity is lower. Potting: We recommend re-potting mature Cattleyas once every two years. The best time is in the Spring when roots and growth develop.

Outdoor Growing: When Cattleyas are grown in the home under artificial lights or by a window sill, it is recommended that they are summered outdoors. Care must be taken to protect the plants from direct sun during midday hours. A loosely leaved tree usually provides the correct amount of light. In the Midwest area, Cattleyas usually can be kept outdoors until Mid-September.

**The information has been compiled from a number of sources, including Orchids by Hausermann, Inc., Carter and Holmes Orchids, and personal experience.

Thanks for looking and happy growing!! 😀

;Scientific name: Sophronitis coccinea Place:O...

;Scientific name: Sophronitis coccinea Place:Osaka Prefectural Flower Garden,Osaka,Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Quick and easy Cattleya sizes

Sizing: There are different ways of classifying cattleyas, but there are 3 main size categories that the orchid world follows to describe them.

  • Standard- These are the large size of cattleyas, where the plant’s pseudobulbs (the strange cane-looking things that the leaves grow from) and plant height (not including the pot) will exceed 12-15 inches tall. There are some of the larger growers that will become 20+ inches tall after they are potted. Also, this term can be used for cattleyas that have their new growths that can be described as “sprawling”- they don’t tend to grow straight up and they will spread out from each other, but can create a really impressive display. This size is usually the producer of the largest blooms of the cattleya genus, but with new hybrids, more and more of the smaller sizes are being bred to have larger blooms as well
  • Compact- These are the “mid-size” group of cattleyas. Usually compact cattleyas are in the size range of somewhere just under 12″ up to about 15″ tall at their tallest pseudobulb leaf. Now, this term of “compact” has also been used by growers to describe cattleyas that do not have a spread-out rhizome, which means that the new leads that will be coming up from the rhizome will stay close to the current growths. This compact rhizome feature can be really nice for indoor growers because that means that you can get a lot more flower/growths in a smaller pot size than the standard sized cattleyas- more “bloom for the buck”.
  • Miniature- This is the smallest size of cattleyas and they will normally only get a maximum of 6 inches tall or so. Many of the miniatures are likely to bloom more than once a year. This type tends to have very tight rhizomes (lots of pseudobulbs crammed into a small space) and will tend to bloom in less light than what is required for the “Standard” cattleyas. Some vendors describe the mini-catts as some of the best candidates for indoor windowsill culture or under artificial grow lights.

**all of these sizes can also be used to describe the size of the flowers as well- the compacts can still produce blooms in the area of 2-4″ wide (as a general rule) and mini-catts tend to have smaller flowers that are less than or up to 2″ wide.

When looking at cattleyas and the vendor describes a size, I suggest that you clarify what they are referencing- total height at maturity, rhizome sprawling, or flower size (or some combination of those).

Happy Growing!