Cattleya and crosses

Cattleya orchids are the orchids you see in corsages. Some are scented, some are not. They come in an endless selection of colors.

Cattleya orchids need lots of light so after blooming put them in a south facing window. They like it to be fairly warm aim for a day temperature of 75-85’F and a night temperature of 55′-60’F. They need a temperature difference of about 15’F to put them into a blooming cycle. So put them outside in the spring or fall or put them near a door or drafty window. If you put them outside put them in the shade. Bright sun inside your home is like shade outside your home.

Pot them in sphagnum moss not dirt or bark if you are keeping them as houseplants. Your home is too dry for them to grow on bark as they do in the wild. If they are planted in moss water when the top of the moss is totally dry. I find I need to water once a week if it’s been a sunny week and about once every ten days if it’s been cloudy.

If you do plant them in bark check them daily they will need to be watered several times a week. If you are not sure when to water them and they are planted in bark, place a wooden skewer deep in the middle of the pot. Leave just a little showing. Pull out the skewer to see if it is wet or dry in the pot.

If the orchid is getting enough water leaves will not flop or be wrinkled, roots will be green. Wrinkles on leaves, white roots mean the plant is getting too little water. Do not let it sit in water, but water more frequently being sure to let excess water drain out. If the plant is getting too much water, the roots will turn black and rot.

I fertilize them when I re-pot them and don’t bother much otherwise. Orchids love root fertilizer and hormones as well. Several companies sell these fertilizers.

These may be divided when they out grow the pot. Separate the pseudo bulbs with a sharp knife, be sure to have several in each section.

I belong to an ‘orchid of the month club’. Which means that before too long I have orchids coming out of my ears and no place to put them. Last winter I decided the cattleya orchids were on their own. ‘Live or die’, I declared, the choice is yours.

Surprisingly they did survive the mild winter later in a colder winter with several real freezes they died.

To grow cattleya orchids outside in Houston year round you need a wet spot in the garden. They love to be damp and it just can’t be too humid for them.

Despite being sun loving plants, full sun in Houston was too much. I find 2-3 hours of sun is enough to keep the leaves kelly green and give them enough food for blooming.

If the weather gets cold protect them when you cover your other tender plants.

Cattleya plants first arrived in the new world from South and Central American unexpectedly. They arrived in England with a shipment of ferns and were used as packaging for the ferns. William Cattley potted some up out of curiosity. In 1818 they bloomed and have been the love of flower lovers ever since.

Despite attempts to grow and local more they were lost to the new world until they were re-found in 1889.

Their popularity decreased their numbers in the wild and continues to do so today.

No bloom – plant needs more light
Root rot – they love water but be sure they are not sitting in water. Move them to a new better draining location.
Virus – their is no hope, destroy plants before virus can spread ( leaves get yellow blotches and streaks that turn brown. Leaves may have rings of yellow dots. )
Scale – physically remove scale, treat with insecticide oil.
Mealy bugs – wash off with soap and water.

Propagation is easiest by division.