The cattleyas include the large, frilly flowers used in the expensive corsages that women have worn for decades at Easter, Mother's Day and other occasions. These are the flowers that most people think of when an orchid is mentioned. But the cattleya alliance includes an incredible array of sizes, colors, and shapes. In addition to the genus Cattleya, other genera included in the cattleya alliance include Laelia, Sophronitis, Broughtonia, Brassavola, and many other genera and their numerous hybrids.
As a general rule, the cattleyas are easy to grow plants, although they require somewhat higher light levels than some other orchids (like the phalaenopsis and paphiopedilums). They are usually quite happy at a window where they can get about three or so hours of early morning or late evening light striking the plant, although they need protection from the hot, mid-day sun. They have water storage organs (called pseudobulbs), so they like a good wet-dry cycle, in other words water them thoroughly and then let them go towards dryness before watering again. The frequency of watering will vary with many different variables like humidity, temperature, brightness, air movement, and potting medium, but in a surprisingly great number of circumstances weekly waterings seem to be about right for larger pots and perhaps twice a week for smaller pots.
Like most orchids, cattleyas are not heavy feeders. We recommend using 1 teaspoon per gallon of a complete, acid-type water soluble fertilizer about every other watering. A balanced or high nitrogen fertilizer is good for the growing season (usually summer), whereas a high phosphorus formula used going into the blooming season will encourage blooming and increase the number of flowers produced.
Maintaining adequate humidity for growing orchids sometimes can be a problem in the home environment. Cattleyas and most other orchids do not need excessively high humidities. In fact, in the greenhouse we have more problems (such as leaf and flower spotting and root rot) caused from excessive humidity than from inadequate humidity. A range of relative humidity from about 40% to 70% is desirable for growing most orchids. Many houses do have levels that drop below 40% and some form of augmentation is needed if this is the case in your growing area. Some tricks to raise humidity include misting, a pebble tray filled with water, placing the orchid near foliage plants which transpire out water into the air, and a small humidifier. Misting should be done early in the day so the plant will be dry by night. Plants may be placed over a tray filled with pebbles and water added up to the top of the pebbles; do not allow the bottom of the pot to contact the water as this may keep the medium continually moist and disrupt the desirable wet-dry cycle. The small humidifier is the best solution to the low humidity problem with benefits for the plants and humans as well.
Check out our catalog for our listing of cattleya alliance and other orchids available for purchase. Plants ready to bloom are usually available in a variety of colors for about $30.00 plus $8.00 shipping and packing. Smaller and larger plants may be available for $20.00 through $45.00. Color range includes white, white with red lip, lavender, yellow, splash petals (color flares on the end of petals), red, and orange.
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