Pamper Your Cattleya Orchids

Pamper Your Cattleya Orchids

Cattleya Orchids are native to the Americas, particularly to the tropical regions, where they thrive in high humidity and abundant light. The colour range is vast and exotic. Blooms can be 13 – 18 cm (5 – 7″) across in white, yellow, orange, purple, pink, lavender, blue, green, and red. Some are even multi-coloured. The flower has three narrow sepals, two broader side petals, and a large, tubular lip at the bottom. Cattleyas bloom in spring, fall, or winter depending on the variety. Overall the plant grows 30 – 45 cm (12 – 18″) tall. Cattleyas are epiphytic orchids. In the wild they attach themselves to trees and rocks. They have well-developed water storage organs (called pseudobulbs) and large, fleshy roots. Unifoliate Cattleyas have a single leaf growing from each pseudobulb. The flower stem bears 2-6 large flowers with showy lips. Bifoliate Cattleyas have 2 or 3 leaves that emerge from each pseudobulb. Flowers are smaller but more abundant with smallish lips and a thick, waxy texture.

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• Cattleyas like bright light and some direct sun, especially during the winter months. In the home, an east, west, or south window is suitable. Sparse blooming indicates insufficient lighting.

• Plants should be naturally erect, without much need of staking; colour should be a medium olive-green.

• Like many other orchids, Cattleyas can be successfully grown under four 40 watt fluorescent tubes.


• Aim for day temperatures of 21 – 29°C (70 – 85°F) and night temperatures of 13 – 15°C (55 – 60°F).

• Cattleyas can tolerate 35 – 38°C (95 – 100°F) if shading, humidity, and air circulation are increased accordingly.

Cattleya Orchid


• Keep plants evenly moist when in bud or bloom.

• When not in bloom, dry out thoroughly between watering.

• In summer months copious watering is needed as the transpiration rate is high.

• In winter, keep plants barely moist, but not so dry that the pseudobulbs shrivel.

• Flood pots with water until excess runs out the bottom. Empty the surplus from the saucer so the orchid is never standing in water.


• Provide 50-60% humidity for Cattleyas.

• Place pots on trays of moistened pebbles. A hygrometer is a good investment when growing orchids so you can regularly monitor humidity levels in your home. This is especially important with each changing season.


• Cattleyas can be grown in a pure bark mixture or an orchid potting mix.

• In pure bark use a water-soluble 30-10-10 formula twice a month during the spring and summer and once a month in the fall.

• For other potting mixes use All-Purpose 20-20-20. If in doubt simply dilute the 20-20-20 by half so it becomes 10-10-10 and fertilize every week.

Cattleya Orchid

• Do not fertilize in winter when light intensity and plant growth is naturally slow.


• Cattleyas should be repotted every 2-3 years in spring when the potting medium begins to break down and/or when the plant has outgrown its pot.

• Choose an Orchid mixture that’s airy and drains well.

• When dividing the rhizomes for propagation, ensure each division contains 3-6 pseudobulbs.

What to Watch for

• Mealybug, thrips, aphids, and scale are possible intruders.

• Safer’s Insecticidal Soap or Trounce are gentle but effective controls. Spray 3-4 times at weekly intervals to be sure control is complete.

• Be sure to keep plants out of cold, dry air while they’re in bloom as the delicate flowers are easily damaged.

• If light intensity is too high, the normally yellow-green foliage will turn more yellow and burn. If the foliage is dark green and limp the orchid is not getting enough light.