First discovered during the mid 19th century in Brazil, Cattleyas quickly became known as the “queen of orchids.” No other group of orchids can compete with the wide range of colors, shapes, fantastic scents, and sizes that belongs to the Cattleyas alliance. Cattleyas are epiphytes, meaning they grow naturally on trees where they receive bright light that is protected by leaves from the sun. Traditionally, Cattleyas were the epitome of a “intermediate” orchid, but now most are hybridized for easy growing.
Cattleya Orchid Care
As with most orchids, light is a key factor in growing Cattleyas. Use bright light and some sun such as in an east or shaded south facing window. Keep temperatures between 55-65 degrees at night and 70-85 degrees during the day with 95 degrees being the absolute highest temperature. Watering depends on the potting medium and size, but in general water once to twice a week while making sure that the plant dries out in-between waterings. Water less often during its dormant period (in the winter), and more often while actively growing. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer such as a 30-10-10 every other week while in active growth, and once a month while not growing. Cattleyas require 50%-80% humidity so when growing in a home place the plant on a tray of gravel partially filled with water. Another option is to grow several orchids close together so that they produce their own humidity.
In general, cattleyas bloom once a year for about three weeks. As with most orchids, cattleyas like to be in well-drained, but small pots where their roots are snug. Therefore do not repot but every two to three years once there are more roots growing above the pot than in the pot or once the potting medium begins to break down. Do this after flowering and before new roots begin to sprout. Repot in a fir bark mixture or a coarse potting mixture that will allow for good drainage. You can divide your cattleyas after a plant has six pseudobulbs that way there is three to five pseudobulbs per division. Work the bark medium into the pot so that the roots are tight and keep slightly moist until new roots begin to grow.