Botanical Name: Cattleya species and hybrids
Big, frilly petals in gorgeous colors make Cattleya orchids the hands-down favorite of many orchid growers. Members of the Orchidaceae family, Catts are among the best-known. This is the genus you'll find in Mother's Day corsages.
Beautiful cattleyas are native to the Amazon jungles, where they thrive in warm, misty breezes and dappled sunlight. So, how do you create a compatible environment in your home? Fortunately, this is easier than it seems.
Cattleya orchids may refuse to bloom if they don't get enough light. Put your orchids in a well-ventilated location where they'll get plenty of light, but out of direct sun. If you don't have a spot near a window, fluorescent grow lights work beautifully. Use 1 warm white tube and 1 cool white tube under a reflector. Put your orchids about 8 inches (20 cm) beneath the light and keep the lights on for 14-16 hours a day. It's important to give them darkness at night. Plants need a rest, too.
Without question, orchids love humidity. Raise the humidity if it drops below 50%. Use a humidity tray or room humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. Grouping plants also helps to maintain the humidity around them.
To repot...or not. Fir bark mix breaks down after a couple years and needs replaced. Catts can be finicky about being repotted at the wrong time. In fact, some even resent being in a pot. However, if you get the timing right, orchids will forgive the disturbance and will bloom on schedule. The best time to repot your orchid is when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over.
Got a reluctant bloomer? Give your orchid slightly cooler nighttime temperatures to spark blooming. A 15° difference will do. Cattleyas will tolerate varying temperatures from 60° nights up to 90° days. They usually flower once a year, and with good cattleya orchid care, you can expect blooms year after year.
Origin: Central and South America
Height: Species vary widely
Light: Bright indirect light year-round. Some direct morning sun is fine.
Water: Water thoroughly and allow top inch of soil to dry between waterings. Cattleyas store water in their thick leaves and pseudobulbs, making them more tolerant of dry soil than wet.
Humidity: Moderate to high, preferably 50-70% humidity.
Temperature: Average to warm 60-90°F/16-32°C
Soil: Orchid potting mix or half-half mix of fine-grade fir bark and perlite
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with orchid fertilizer while plant is growing.
Propagation: Divide pseudobulbs into clumps of 3 or more and pot in separate containers.
Light, yellow-green leaves are a sign of too much sunlight. Move your orchid to a shadier spot.
You'll find Cattleya orchids for sale most often in late winter or spring, when most are in bloom. However, their blooming time varies by species.
In the wild, Cattleya orchids are epiphytes, growing on tree branches where they anchor themselves with thick roots.
Epiphyte comes from the Greek words epi meaning upon and phyton meaning plant.
Cattleya (pronounced cat-lee-a) labiata was discovered in Brazil by William Cattley, who brought the plant to England in 1818.
This is the species upon which the genus is based and what sparked a passion for growing catts in the early 19th century.