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!! πŸ˜€

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

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


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!

Rose of Sharon culture

This is one of the easiest perennial shrubs to grow! This plant is perfect for the beginner gardener or the experienced gardener- makes no difference! It thrives in both neglect and extreme care!

As a general rule, Rose of Sharon bushes can get 8′-10′ tall and have a spread of 4′-6′. I’m sure that you’re thinking “HOLY COW! THAT’S TOO TALL FOR WHAT I’M LOOKING FOR IN A SHRUB!” But there is a solution! First, there are some varieties that are naturally shorter-growers, e.g., Hibiscus syriacus ‘Minerva’ reaches only 5′-8′. Secondly, this is when you can get pretty aggressive with your pruning shears. If you are looking for a shorter plant, there is nothing that stopsΒ you from trimming it down to the size that you are looking for. It is better if you don’t let the shrub’s general height get too far from the general range you are looking for because then after you prune, it will look very “sticky” in terms of being lots of stick and few leaves.

Blooms: Blossoms can be white, red, lavender or light blue (some have mixtures of these colors and/or double-blooms). Blooms will normally form in the middle of summer and can continue into the fall- they are blooming machines!

Location: US Zones 5-9. Partial to full sun is best. In full sun, you are more likely to get a nice well-rounded plant that is more likely to bloom. If you are looking for the full growth- remember to allow room for it to grow and expand. (Because it will! It is like they have a mind of their own!!)

Watering: These plants are extremely tolerant of dry conditions. It can handle higher-levels of heat/drought after it’s been established for a few months.

Other fun tidbits:

  • These are able to be grown from seed or even able to propagate your own seeds! Just need to make sure that a flower is pollinated, and then a seed pod will form (birds like these by the way) and inside will be your seed crop for the following year!
  • Speaking of seeds, Rose of Sharon seeds can often be blown about and cause new little seedlings to sprout up EVERYWHERE! If you aren’t looking for extra plants to arrive out of nowhere, I suggest that you cut off the seed pods before they ripen and dry to help control the spreading action.
  • Rose of Sharon are great for a flowering hedge along houses or property lines! Keep them as tall or as short as you would like and they will come back year after year!
  • Sometimes the color of the blooms can change with different soil chemistry. For example, I received a purple-colored Rose of Sharon, and after planting it in my yard, it will now only produce white blossoms with a red throat! Weird, huh?

White and Red Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)


Sedum (aka- “stone crop”)

First of all, let me say that there are many different types of Sedum that are able to grow just about anywhere.

Most of the varieties of Sedum are succulents (which make them pretty drought hardy) and will have thick, fleshy leaves that many times will have a “waxy” feel to them. There are a few summer blooming varieties, but many people know Sedum by the flowers that appear in late summer into fall.

Some of the major perks:

  • hardy in lots of climates
  • able to be divided
  • color late in the season

A potential drawback is that Sedum can often spread to take over an area, so I would recommend that if you plant them- put them in an enclosed area so they are somewhat controlled in their spreading, or pot them up. If they get too large or invasive, it is easy to divide them- just chop cleanly through the root ball to divide the plant- it’s a good idea to have at least 3 stalks per division. *it is not recommended to divide plants in the middle of summer heat- that can cause extreme stress during an already stressful time and result in 2 dead divisions.

Location: As stated earlier, a controlled area or area that is accessible to divide plants for directional growth control and plant vigor. Sedum can be growth in full sun to part shade- they will often do extremely well in this light setup. If planting into clay-based soil, it would be a good idea to amend it so it is able to be loose and loamy. Hardy in Zones 3-9.

Blooms: Blooms for many different types of Sedum will often appear in the late summer season into fall. The blooms can be cut and put into a vase for an interesting display during the cooler months, or they can be left on the plant to provide winter color in the garden until spring. In spring, one should cut the dead stalks from the plant (no longer green).

This is one great perennial- wonderful bouquet every year and good for inexperienced gardeners to practice growing things!


‘Autumn Joy’ Sedum in bloom

Very Brief Phalaenopsis Orchid Culture Guide

This is an extremely brief introduction to the growing patterns and culture that should be given to phalaenopsis orchids, or as some will see them advertised as in many stores, “moth orchids”. Many people who are first starting out in the realm of orchids will start with this type because they are readily available and are extremely pretty when in bloom (not to mention the blooms tend to last a long time, which is always a bonus!! πŸ˜€ ) * a general note- I am going to be using the abbreviation of “Phals” for phalaenopsis as it is shorter to type and “in the hobby” many growers will refer to them as such unless they are being quite formal.

Location– somewhere that it will get bright, indirect light (a good recommendation is between 1000-2000 footcandles in light intensity). Also make sure that the relative humidity of the area is at least 40% or so. Humidity can be raised by adding a humidifier (cool-mist humidifiers are always a good choice), or other ways are to set your phal on top of a tray with water that has some sort of pebble or decorative glass in it as well so the bottom of the pot is not touching the “humidity” water source.

Light– see above please for strengths. Light can be given from natural lighting or from artificial lighting to supplement what you need. * A note on lighting. Phalaenopsis are great candidates to grow under artificial lighting because they are relatively low-light plants.

Feeding– there are a bunch of different ways that you can do this, but a good recommendation is to buy a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20, 10-10-10, or a semi-unbalanced fertilizer of 30-10-10) and dissolve it in your water to feed every time that you water at approximately 50ppm Nitrogen (the first number. That would be approximately 0.25 teaspoons of a 30-10-10 to 1 gallon of water). Then another method is to use 0.5 teaspoons of 30-10-10 every other watering (because it is stronger, it’s not applied as often).

A HUGE help for fertilizing amounts (in addition to metric measures is

Watering– There is a slight trick to getting your watering schedule down depending upon your growing conditions. Everybody waters a little bit differently. If your phal is mostly in peat moss with a few bits of bark, I would say that you will probably end up watering somewhere in the region of 10-14 days (again, depending upon your conditions). A good way to test when you need to water is to take a bamboo skewer and put it into the pot near the center (try not to stab any roots or anything like that!) and check it periodically- when the skewer is still wet or damp, wait a day or two; when the skewer is dry, it’s time to water. *personal opinion- I personally try to keep all of my phals, or orchids in general, out of peat moss because in my conditions, I find that it will dry out too slowly and unevenly- the center will stay much more moist than the outsides or top of the pot. This being said, I prefer to put my orchids in a bark mix that allows them to dry out a little faster (just short of 1 week or so- longer when it is cooler). That is my personal preference because I have lost some orchids to root rot in the moss.

Repotting– For phals, repotting is usually done once a year or so with bark mixes and sometimes less than a year with mosses because it stays wet longer, which means it usually starts to break down a little faster. Phals are epiphytes (air plants), so when a potting medium is breaking down and becoming rather soil-like, it can actually smother it to death. Phals tend not to be too fussy about when they are repotted, but good times are often after it is done blooming. (If an emergency repot is needed while it is in bloom- I would repot and possibly sacrifice the bloom if the plant was in poor health.)

After-bloom Care– After bloom care is very easy. Once your flowers have started to wither or fall of your inflorescence (flower spike), then you have an option: 1) cut the spike as far down the the base as possible and dust the cut end with regular cinnamon to help it dry out and prevent infection OR 2) cut the flower spike between the first node that bloomed and then first un-bloomed node to try and make it flower again. Each option has its pros and cons. *Personal opinion- I have done both to various phals with success with both, however, I judge the plant to see what is best for overall health. If the phal looks a little sad or tired (somewhat limp leaves, etc), then I will without hesitation cut the flower spike all the way down and wait for it to put out another one. If the plant is going very strong and hasn’t had any issues in the last several months, then I may cut the spike and try to get it to re-bloom for me. In the end it is up to you, but there are some ways to extend the life of your plant by not overly-stressing it.

As I stated in the beginning, this is just a very brief overview of phal culture- it can get quite in depth if you are willing to put the time into it. A great reference for all orchids is That is a great resource for the new hobbyist or the most experienced veteran at orchid growing.

That is all for now! If you have a question orΒ  comment, please feel free to post it here or send me a message!

As always, HAPPY GROWING! πŸ˜€

~ Bill


Welcome everyone! This is my new gardening post where I will be posting various culture guides for indoor and outdoor plants! If there is a specific plant that you would like to see summarized for a quick-reference culture review, please let me know and I will make a post about it! While I may be knowledgeable about a large number of plants, I do not know everything about every single plant. Of course, this is reference material only! Every person’s growing space is a little bit different, in addition to the fact that every plant is different with a “plantsonality”- the personality of a given plant. I have had quite a few instances where two individual plants of the same type are growing right next to each other in the same culture conditions and one thrived while the other sulked. THAT is “plantsonality” at work.

Please check out my About Me page to find out more about, welll ME! πŸ˜€ I plan on having my first overview posted in the next couple of days!

PS- If you are an orchid grower and you have a question about the culture of your orchid, feel free to contact me and send me pictures and I will help you figure out what is going on as best I can! Pictures are always lovely!

Thank you and as always, Happy Growing! πŸ˜€



Phrag besseae full plant

Phrag. besseae 'Big Bob' x 'Colossal'. This is my first phragmipedium!

Phrag. besseae ‘Big Bob’ x ‘Colossal’. This is my first phragmipedium!