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How to Care for Cattleya Orchids?

Cattleya Orchids are the most beautiful and exotic orchids of all. There are about 50 species of Cattleya and these are native in Central America through the Amazon region to the south of Brazil.

Because these orchids are so fascinating and are growing in large colonies, they have been over-collected. Therefore, some of the Cattleya orchids are endangered.

If you have Cattleya orchids in your home and you are not sure how to care for them, this article helps you out.

Cattleya Orchid Care

Cattleya orchid has pseudobulbs and these have one or more leaves. Each year there is a new shoot from the base of the orchid, which thickens and produces a new, current year’s pseudobulb.

Cattleya orchids are not that difficult to grow if you ensure the needed environment. Depending on the orchid plant, the place where you live and the place where your orchids are kept, the requirements of your orchids’ environment will differ.

So, you should observe your Cattleya orchids and see how happy they are in a given environment. But how do you know what should you look for? Here are the factors that are important to be considered.

– Light

The light required for Cattleya depends on the weather, the season, the time of the day and geographical location.

In other words, Cattleya orchids love to get a good amount of light (50% of full daylight or 2000 – 3000 foot candles). If direct sunlight occurs, you should shade enough to ensure that the leaves are not over-heating.

So, if your Cattleya is kept on a windowsill and the sun is shining directly on the plants, then shading is necessary from midday through late afternoon. Otherwise, your Cattleya might get damaged from the sun.

– Temperature

Cattleya orchids live in hot and humid rainforests, however, these are growing in high altitudes, where the air is cool and moist. Especially the morning and night airflow is cooling them, so during the day, the hot sun is not burning them.

So, the idea is to keep the light in a high range without too high temperatures. During the day a maximum of 26°C/80F is enough for the plant, and during the night a minimum of 12°C /55F must be provided.

– Humidity

Like other orchids, Cattleya orchids love humidity. Between 40% and 70% is the best humidity level and this should be provided through watering or using humidity trays.

If the humidity is high, good airflow is vital. Too high humidity can cause rotting or disease development.

A low level of humidity will cause the orchid’s death by dehydration.

– Watering

When we are talking about watering, we should always ask when and how.

Cattleya orchids should be watered when the potting mix is dry. Usually, once a week is enough, but this will vary depending on the environment.

If the temperatures are high, the potting medium will dry out quicker, so, watering once a week might not be enough.

When the temperatures are low and the weather is dark, less watering is needed, because the potting medium will not dry out fast.

Remember, whenever in doubt, do not water. It is easier to recover an orchid from dryness, than from rotting caused by over-watering.

Also, you should check all your plants individually, because one might need more water, but the other one might be still ok, and doesn’t need watering yet.

– Potting & Repotting

Cattleya orchids love to grow in a bark mix, tree fern fiber, coconut husk, lava rock or sphagnum moss. With these potting mediums, even the mix of them, you cannot go wrong, because these retain the water, offers enough humidity and airflow for the roots.

Repotting should be done every two to three years after the potting medium is decomposing or the Cattleya orchids’ roots are growing over the pot. The best time to repot a Cattleya orchid is when new roots or new shoots are beginning to appear.

– Fertilizing

If you are not fertilizing your Cattleya orchids, it is ok, because they can grow and bloom several years without any fertilizing. However, it is obvious that fertilizing can help your orchid to grow bigger and nicer.

It is recommended that you fertilize Cattleyas fortnightly during the hot season, but from October until February, when the weather is cooler, you shouldn’t fertilize them.

To prevent the salt to build up in the potting medium, you should flush the pot regularly with clean water between feedings.

Remember, never overfeed your orchids, as this can lead to root rotting. Is better for your Cattleyas to be under-fertilized than overfertilized.

– Blooming

It takes a few years for a Cattleya orchid to grow big enough to produce flowers.

The flowers come in a wide range of colors and patterns, from white and pink to green and purple. Usually, Cattleya orchids develop flowers once a year, but some of them can flower even twice a year. These flowers arise from the axil of the current year’s leaf.

Some of the Cattleya flowers have fragrances as well.

Different Types of Cattleya Orchids

You can find several types of Cattleya orchids because they are one of the most popular orchids genera. There are small-flowered Cattleyas, fragrant, large-flowered cattleyas, in every color and pattern you can ever imagine, but not true blue.

At this moment there are 46 acknowledged cattleya species and 35 natural hybrids. I am not going to talk about all of them, but let me introduce you to the most popular species of Cattleya orchids.

– Cattleya labiata

Its other names are Crimson Cattleya Orchids or Ruby-lipped Cattleya Orchids.

This type is one of the most popular ones and one of the most reliable and easiest cattleya orchid to grow. It is a medium-sized orchid and usually has two to five fragrant flowers. These flowers grow up to 7 inches on a single spike.

– Cattleya intermedia

This has another name as well: Intermediate cattleya Orchid.

Cattleya intermedia is a small to medium-sized orchid. Its flowers are fragrant and usually, the colors vary between white and pale lavender-pink with magenta-hued lip.

This type of cattleya usually blooms during spring or summer on a terminal flower spike, and its flowers can be up to 5 inches across.

– Cattleya bicolor

Cattleya bicolor also known as Bicolored Cattleya Orchid are medium to large sizes orchids. This will bloom, in spring or summer, two to five flowers which can measure 4 inches across.

– Cattleya aurea

Also known as Golden Yellow Cattleya Orchid. It produces five to six large flowers that can measure 7 inches across.

These yellow flowers are short-lived and they are fragrant and are famous for their marked broad lip.

Are Cattleya Orchids Hard to Grow?

Some people say that growing Cattleya orchids is one of the most difficult tasks in terms of orchids. This is said with good reasons. Because Cattleya orchids have several specific requirements and if these are not fulfilled, then they will not thrive and they could die.

If you do things properly, you can have the most special and beautiful orchid.

Usually with Cattleya orchids is not enough to fulfil the required sunlight-water-fertilizer trio, but you should know your orchids one by one because each of them is different.

How to Prune Cattleya Orchids?

Pruning Cattleya orchids is not difficult, but you have to follow a few steps. First, you should wait until the flower died and the flower spike started to turn yellow.

The second step is the most important and maybe the most difficult. Locate the old bud sheath, as this will not produce any flower anymore.

Make sure it is an old bud sheath and not a new one, which is full of young buds. You can check by gently squeezing the sheath so you can feel if there are buds inside of it or not.

The color of the sheath will not change after the flowers die, they will stay green. So, their color won’t be an indicator of which is an old one and which one is young.

The third step is to find the place where the bud sheath meets the stem and then cut it as close as possible to the base of the leaf. Then you can search for other old sheaths.

That’s it. Pruning is done! Removing old sheath can prevent bacterial infection, as these can fill up with water and then become bags of sticky goo.

Wrap Up

Cattleya orchids are one of the most popular and most beautiful orchids. You can grow them everywhere if you give them enough sunlight and keep the temperature at the needed level.

But each of them is different, like us, people. So, if you want your Cattleya orchids to be happy, then you should know them personally and satisfy their needs.

If your orchids are feeling good in their environment you will be gifted with special and beautiful flowers.

Now that you know how to care for the Cattleya orchids I am sure you will not hesitate when there will be an opportunity to buy another one to complete your collection.

Updated: March 1, 2021

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