Growing Cattleya Orchids

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Growing Cattleya Orchids

Cattleyas and closely related Laelias - pron. cat lee ya and lay lee ya
Intermediate 12 - 28 C (53 - 82F) 

Cattleyas and Laelias are amongst the most flamboyant orchids around and are often referred to chocolate box orchids due the fact that they are often depicted on such packaging. These orchids are endemic to the central American rainforest growing along side the Poison Arrow Frogs, Bromeliads, luscious Passion Fruit and Papaya right through Brazil the Andean region. Mostly the plants are epiphytic (grow on trees) or Lithophytes (grow on rocks). Since they come from a very wide range of growing environments ranging from tropical jungle through almost freezing night time conditions you should be able to house one or two in your collection regardless of your conditions. Both types have stout bulbs usually with a single leaf at the top of the bulb which, when ripe is capable of producing from 1 to 4 very showy flowers in a variety of bright colours.

Light requirements

These plants like good light but not direct sun and will tolerate light shade during the summer months but none during the winter.

Cattleya Angel Bells 'Susie'

Watering requirements

Both Cattleyas and Laelias like plenty of water and humidity during the growing season with a rest from watering of between 6 - 10 weeks after the plant has finished it's current years bulb, this rest period will encourage the bulb to harden and help with flower bud formation. Often these plants are often over watered and the best rule of thumb is if in doubt, wait a couple of days. They are quite tough plants and will not be harmed by missing a watering but will be harmed if over watered. Water once  a week during the summer and once every two to three weeks at other times (other than their rest period) mist with fresh water once a day and damp down the benches to help elevate the humidity levels.

One of the all time great white Cattleya, Angel Bells 'Susie' large and fragrant!

Feeding requirements

Feed once every two weeks from March to September with a half strength high nitrogen feed to boost growth and from September to mid October use a half strength high potash feed to ripen the bulbs, the plants should not be watered during mid October through to the following March.

Re-potting schedule

Repotting should be undertaken during the spring months if they have out grown their pot or basket. Since they are epiphytic or lithophytic they can be grown in baskets or on rafts of wood or cork bark, If using pots use a large grade bark compost as this will allow the roots to penetrate the compost and prevent them from being waterlogged.

Right: Laeliocattleya Angel Love Pinkie - sweet smelling very pink cattleya intergeneric (multiple species cross)

Laeliocattleya Angel Love Pinkie

Here's some useful equipment you may need with summer on the horizon
Thermometers | Thermostats | Humidity Gauges

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