guide on how to grow and care cattleya orchids

The beautiful, tropical epiphytic orchids first grew and blossomed in captivity, and the first of these were cattleyas. The first was Cattleya labiata, which was brought to Europe in 1818 from the Brazilian mountains woods. The best-known of the natural genera of orchids that Cattleyas belong to are Laelia, Brassavola, Sophronitis, and Encyclia. Cattleyas are a part of a vast alliance with many other closely related orchids. In order to create the enormous variety of different sized flowers that are currently available, this and other plants have been extensively crossed for about 200 years.

The genus Cattleya contains roughly 50 species, all of which are native to Central and South America. The majority of these are uncommon in the wild and are only seen in cultivation in specialised collections where they have been grown from carefully chosen clones in nurseries. The number of hybrids in their thousands, and range from little plants with Sophronitis species—most of which have brightly coloured flowers in orange, yellow, and red—to the huge, frilled excesses of Brassavola hybrids. Among these artificial hybrids, Sophrolaeliocattleya, Brassolaeliocattleya, and Laeliocattleya are the most well-known. When more than three genera are involved, the name given to the resulting cross is personalised to one person, making the name less clear on the label. These names can easily be unravelled to identify the specific genera as Sophronitis, Brassavola, Laelia, and Cattleya. For instance, Potinara is produced when Brassavola, Cattleya, Laelia, and Sophronitis are crossed.With such a complicated union, it is impossible to define the usual “cattleya,” yet any similar hybrids, regardless of their genetic make-up, are loosely referred to as cattleyas. There are two separate groupings among the Cattleya species. The unifoliate are these.

With such a complicated union, it is impossible to define the usual “cattleya,” yet any similar hybrids, regardless of their genetic make-up, are loosely referred to as cattleyas. There are two separate groupings among the Cattleya species. The unifoliate are these.

and the bifoliate, both of which have two leaves. All of them are evergreen and only occasionally drop their back leaves. The blooms of these two groupings clearly distinguish them. The unifoliate species are renowned for the magnificent rose-lavender and mauve hues and huge, frilly-lipped blooms with dominating colours ranging from white to pink and yellow. The bifoliate species often have smaller blooms, some of which have waxy petals and sepals, and some of which have less frilly lips. Green and brown are also present, and the blossoms are frequently extensively dotted or speckled.

Cattleyas mostly generate pseudobulbs that are elongated or club-shaped, frequently encased when young, and with rigid, dark green leaves. The pseudobulb’s apex is where the flower buds are created.

Cattleyas prefer bright light.

The rigid foliage is deceiving, though, and if the leaves are not shielded from the sun in the early spring, they will swiftly burn. Although this varies from plant to plant, the majority of cattleyas have a period of dormancy. Some plants frequently begin their new growth in the fall and carry on through the winter. The rule is to keep an eye on your plant and let it stay on the dry side until new growth appears when it is not actively growing.

Cattleyas make riotous roots, which are a joy when they explode from the base of the recently formed pseudobulb. The thick, creeping, woody rhizome connecting the pseudobulbs frequently results in the development of new growths over the hem of the pot, and, when the new roots follow, this can be a problem for the farmer.

Even though the roots will flourish outside the pot, they may cause issues when the plant is repotted and must be trimmed back to prevent them from turning rotten. Repotting should be done as soon as the new growth has reached the point where the new roots are barely visible but have not yet grown sufficiently to cause damage. Timing is everything. Older roots can be cut back at this point with less shock to the plant.


Intermediate-growing. Cultivation: Grow in pots of 15-20cm (6-8in) or less in coarse bark compost (growing medium) or Rockwool. Water well in summer, and give little water in winter. Mist foliage in summer. Keep shaded in summer, and give full light in winter. Height: 15cm (6in) or less to 45cm (18in) and above.


For optimum growth, these orchids require direct light that is brilliant. An east or west facing window with lots of light is perfect for growing plants indoors. However, a sheer curtain should be utilised to soften any glaring noon sunlight that enters through the window. In a similar vein, orchids prefer morning sunlight outside but need to be shielded from the hot afternoon heat. Lack of light will cause cattleya orchids to have darker-than-normal foliage and frequently prevent them from flowering. When orchids receive too much light, their foliage frequently becomes yellowish or, in some cases, burned brown or black.


Cattleya orchids will flourish in a commercial orchid-specific growth mix. This typically consists of gravel, horticulture charcoal, coconut husk chips, tree fern fibre, fir or sequoia bark, maybe perlite, tree fern fibre, clay pellets, and more. Cattleya orchids can be slab-mounted, which is a process in which the orchid is manually fastened to a tree host, when they are grown outdoors. The orchid can be mounted by moss-wrapping the roots, wiring the plant onto a shelf made of organic materials like driftwood or cork bark, and securing it to a branch, tree trunk, or log.


The humidity level needed by these orchids should be moderate. Water when the growing medium is nearly dry; normally, once per week is adequate. Avoid letting the orchids grow in a persistently wet media because this can lead to root rot. Water deeply each time so that the water splashes the foliage and drains through the drainage holes in the container. Many orchid gardeners choose to do this by placing the orchid container in a sink. The foliage will have more time to dry in the light if you water in the morning.

Otherwise, prolonged wetness might lead to diseases like mildew.

Temperature and Humidity

The ideal temperature range for cattleya orchids is between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night and between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. A plant can die from colder temperatures and frost. Although the orchids can withstand temperatures as high as 95 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s critical that they have sufficient air circulation and high humidity levels during such sweltering weather. They prefer a humidity range of 40% to 70% generally. A common method used by growers to increase humidity around their plants is to set the orchid’s container on a tray that contains water and pebbles. In the mornings, the vegetation may also be misted. Some growers add a humidifier to the space where the orchids are kept. Additionally, these orchids do quite well in greenhouse settings.


Without fertiliser, some orchids have been known to thrive for years and even blossom. However, regular, minimum feeding will provide your plant with the nutrients it needs to thrive. Numerous gardeners advise applying a balanced orchid fertiliser at 1/4 strength once a week with each watering. If a plant receives too much fertiliser, it may begin to concentrate on developing its foliage rather than flower stalks. The roots of the orchid might potentially be harmed by too much fertiliser.

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