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.
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!! 😀