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The Cattleya orchid from the Cattleya genus is the first thing you think of when orchids come to mind. The Cattleya orchids bloom showy, fragrant flowers.
The blooms you’ll find in different color combinations and shapes. The fantastic thing is most species sport a large bloom stretching several inches across, and others have a smaller flower.
So, if you plan to invest in the Cattleya orchid, you have made the right choice. It is a perfect beginner plant to care for.
What is Cattleya Orchid?
The Cattleya plant grows wild in Central and South America and Costa Rica at high altitudes and humidity. The epiphytic plant grows on trees in the wild as they use other plants for support.
Interestingly, Cattleya is named after William Cattley, a British horticulturist who received a shipment of these plants in 1818 from Brazil. Among these plants was this orchid, previously identified by William John Swainson.
The orchid looked a bit grim, and Cattley nurtured it, and as he had a passion for orchids, the genus was named after him. Still, within the genus, you find up to four subgenera:
Within the Cattleya subgenus, you find three sections: the Cattleya, Crispae, and Lawrenceanae, with five more series grouped in the Crispae. Currently, there are 45 known species of orchids, with some terrestrial ones known as corsage orchids.
Still, the Cattleya orchid differs from the others as they have larger, more intense, fragrant flowers. But the blooms last for a short while. Furthermore, you will find these orchids produce flowers in different shades.
Another unique thing is that the labellum or lip, which is the lowermost petal, is a different color and funnel-shaped and ruffled. Orchids have oblong yellow-green leaves, and two types exist, with one bifoliate and the other unifoliate.
The unifoliate has a single leaf found on each pseudobulb, while the bifoliate will have two or three leaves each. The pseudobulb is a small bulb that grows below the leaves and above the roots. These bulbs grow above the soil.
Cattleya Orchid Care
When growing Cattleya orchids, you care for an indigenous species from South America, mainly Brazil. The best part is caring for potted orchids is not too complicated, even for a beginner plant parent. They make for exceptional outdoor and indoor plants.
Caring for Cattleya species’ success is to provide them with early morning sun and partial shade in the afternoon with the correct potting media, watering, humidity, and temperature suitable for tropical plants.
By now, you have a general and quick idea about calathea orchid plant care. But wait, there’s more! We have gathered all the relevant information for you in this comprehensive guide.
Cattleya Orchid Potting Medium
The best potting media for most Cattleyas is fir bark and clay pellets in a commercial orchid growing medium. The potting medium includes:
coconut husk chips
tree fern fiber
horticultural charcoal, and more
For growing Cattleya orchids outdoors, you can slab mount them. The method is to attach an orchid to a host like a tree by wrapping the roots in some moss with wire.
Corsage Orchid Watering
Cattleyas require moderate watering and will only need watering when dried out. You can do this weekly but do not always leave your plant wet. Improper watering can lead to root rot.
Most orchids only need watering when the potting mix is completely dry, and you can spray distilled water over the foliage and ensure the pot has enough drainage holes.
You can also place the orchid in the sink under flowing water. This is best done in the mornings, leaving enough time to dry.
Your Cattleya orchids need bright light for optimal growth but not too much sun as it can scorch the leaf tips.
If you grow it as a houseplant, the best place is an east-facing window, or you can place them in west-facing windows. Still, it is best to diffuse the light using a sheer curtain for orchid pots to create indirect sunlight.
When growing orchids outdoors, please provide indirect light in the afternoon. Still, the Cattleya plant must not get too little light as it might not flower those beautiful blooms.
On the other hand, when in a growing environment with too much light, the dark green leaves will become black or brown.
Temperature and Humidity
Orchids prefer daytime temperatures ranging between 70 °F-85 °F (21 °C to 29 °C). During the evening, they enjoy temperatures between 55 °F-60 °F (12 °C to 15 °C). Temperatures below this can kill the orchid.
If the temperature is around 95 °F (35 °C), your plant needs ample air movement around them with high humidity. Your tropical plant thrives in humidity levels around 40-70%. The best way to provide moisture to your Cattleyas is to use a tray filled with water and pebbles when low humidity is present.
Alternatively, you can invest in cool mist humidifiers or mist the foliage in the morning with a spray bottle.
Orchids are known to bloom for years, even without feeding them. But if you want your plant to thrive, you can provide them with the nutrients needed.
When watering them weekly, many gardeners use a balanced orchid fertilizer at quarter strength. Too much feeding can lead to enormous foliage growth at the expense of flowers. It can also damage the roots.
You can also use foliar fertilizers that can induce the cattleyas to flower.
How to Propagate Cattleya Orchid
Propagating the Cattleya orchid, you can do it in different ways. Here, we describe the various methods so you can provide family and friends with some fantastic gifts. Take note always to use sterilized pruning sheers when cutting your Cattleya orchids.
Cattleya Plant Rhizome Division
This method is only successful when you have a mature or finished blooming. To learn how to care for your orchids after they bloom, read our complete guide on How to care for orchids after flowering completes.
To divide your Cattleya plant, the best time to do this is during the active growing season when repotting. Once the orchid is in your hand, look for the bulbs. The pseudobulbs grow above the ground, and you can then slice through the rhizomes.
Then, replant them in a small pot filled with the recommended growing medium. After planting, your Cattleyas require no watering for a week; please keep them in a spot with enough light but not direct sunlight.
Other Propagation Methods
This method has two different propagation techniques: stem cutting and Keiki cutting.
Start by preparing the growing trays, such as a seed tray lining it with sphagnum moss to retain water.
Next, select a tall yet thick and healthy stem.
Cut the stem above the leaf joint and node, as it allows for new growth.
Slice the cutting into smaller sections, each with at least three nodes attached.
Now, lay the cuttings on your moss a distance apart from one another to prevent overcrowding when it grows.
Cover the tray using a layer of clear plastic to hold the moisture inside.
Please place them in a damp yet shady spot.
The method uses small plantlets developing from mature plants. To do this, you must wait until the orchid roots are between two to four inches (five to ten centimeters) long with up to three leaves.
Then, you can detach the babies and place them in new pots with sphagnum moss with the roots close to the surface, placing them in more light but out of direct sunlight.
Areas located in the USDA zones 10 to 12 is the best place to grow your Cattleya orchids. These zones are best suited for the orchids growing needs.
Potting Cattleya Orchid
One thing the Cattleya orchids do not enjoy is getting their roots disturbed. So, only transplant them when needed. When you notice the roots growing over the edge of the clay pots, it is time to repot. You can expect this to happen every two years.
Choose a slightly larger potting medium with ample drainage. The best to do this with a clay pot is to break it. Yes, we know the poor pot, but it is easier. You can shake off the decomposed soil once your plant is out of the container.
Place your orchid in a new container at the same depth as the old one. Pack it up with a new potting medium around the roots.
There are many orchid hybrids and species within the Cattleya genus varying in appearance and more:
The crimson Cattleya or the ruby-lipped orchid has medium-sized producing show blooms of lilac, pink, or white.
The flower of this orchid is spectacular with a creamy white or pale yellow color. The blooms are very fragrant, and it makes for an extraordinary tropical plant to have in the home.
The Easter orchid blooms around Easter and is a beautiful flower with four or five blooms per spike. As it blooms around March, April, and May, you find it at spring dances or graduations worn as the corsage orchid. You can also find other orchids in the Cattleya variety with a blue color, but it is not a true blue.
Cattleya Orchids Diseases & Pests
While you try your best to keep your Cattleya orchids happy, there are some pests and diseases you need to keep an eye on.
- These night-time assassins known as slugs leave silvery trails over your plant. To remove them, you can use a suitable slug liquid sprinkled at regular intervals.
- You can find two types of scale the first one you see on the underside of leaves looking like hard brown limpets. If you find one or two, you can wipe them off using a cloth soaked in methylated spirits.
- The other type is nasty looking like flat round scales under the leaves. These can lead to a mealybug infestation if left. What you can use is Neem oil or Doff to remove the pests.
Thrips and Spider mites
- Thrips and spider mites are other pests to look out for. The best to remove them is to wipe down the leaves and stems with methylated spirits using a cloth.
Other concerns with Cattleyas are leaf rot, mildew, and botrytis, and prevented by providing your plant with enough air movement and making sure the leaves are dry by nightfall. Or you can use a fungal spray that works with orchids.
Another concern is to check for viruses caused by using sheers, not disinfected, or other plants in the growing area. Some viruses are:
Cymbidium mosaic virus
This causes the leaves to show a mosaic pattern of light to dark greenish areas. Or you may notice black/brown spots appearing on the petals.
Odontoglossum ringspot virus
This shows necrotic spots, line patterns, ring spots, chlorotic streaks, or hollow areas in the leaves or stems.
Frequently Asked Questions
Provide your orchids with sufficient light to get them to bloom. When your orchids do not get the right light, the foliage is darker, and they will not flower. When your Cattleya receive sufficient sunlight, they will have light green foliage.
Regarding Cattleya orchid care, the pseudobulb will show you what could be wrong with your plant. When your Cattleya orchids are happy, the bulb will be plump, while a wrinkled one shows your plant needs water. Also, investigate under the papery covering of the bulb for insects. You can use rubbing alcohol with a cotton swab to remove these pests or spray your plant with an insecticidal solution.
When the bulbs turn cream or black, your plants suffer from a mold problem or root rot. You must remove the discolored portions and treat the wounds with hydrogen peroxide. If you have a large plant, ensure enough air movement and allow the soil to dry between watering. If you find root rot, we recommend removing your plant, removing the rotted roots, and placing them in a new pot with fresh soil and enough drainage holes.
It is a bacterial issue; you can remove the damaged leaves to prevent it from spreading.
When you notice the tips of the leaf dead, your orchid might have a fungal disease called anthracnose. You must remove the damaged areas to prevent the fungus from spreading.
Your orchid might have a scale infestation, causing the spots on the upper leaf surface. You can use rubbing alcohol to remove the bug. But if the areas are more prominent in color, it can be from spider mites.