Cattleya (KAT-lee-ah) orchids have been popular plants for home growers for a long time. The Cattleya is a genus that has over 100 species and numerous hybrids which range in bloom size, color, and smell. Cattleyas are sometimes referred to as “Queen of Flowers” because of their big showy blooms and are often used to make corsages. Cattleyas are epiphytes (air dwellers) and each flower stalk grows from a pseudobulb which they use for water storage. Their large roots are covered with a spongy velamen which retains nutrients and water. Cattleyas generally bloom once a year and the blooms last for anywhere from one to three weeks. The blooming season varies by species.
A Cattleya orchid should be watered in the morning using tepid water. This will give the orchid adequate time to dry before the temperature drops at night. A Cattleya’s roots should fully dry out between each time you water. For this reason when deciding on a potting medium you should choose one that is able to fully drain. On the other hand, it is important to never let seedlings go completely dry because this could stunt growth and cause other problems. The watering schedule for a Cattleya can greatly depend on the type of pot the orchid is planted in, the temperature, and also the time of year. As a rule of thumb, you will want to water more frequently during the warmer months and less frequently in the cooler months.
Cattleyas thrive with medium light conditions. A great inside location to place your Cattleya is on an eastern facing windowsill. If you have a shaded southern facing windowsill this will also work. A way to determine if your orchid is getting enough light will be if the leaves are a medium green color and the pseudobulbs are upright. If your orchid is receiving too much light the leaves will have a reddish-purple coloring.
The temperature requirements for Cattleyas are daytime temperatures somewhere between 70°F to 80°F (21.1°C to 26.6°C) and night temperatures between 55°F to 60°F (12.8°C to 15.6°C). Cattleyas will do best when there is a 15°F to 20°F (8.3°C to 11.1°C) difference between day and night temperatures. Higher daytime temperatures encourage faster growth, although if you plan to keep your orchid in higher temperatures you will have to remember to maintain higher humidity conditions, more air movement, as well as more frequent waterings.
Cattleyas thrive in humid conditions, however, if a Cattleya orchid is kept in excess moist conditions then disease and rot can set in which will cause damage to the plant. If you need to increase the humidity for your orchid, you have several different options such as a greenhouse, humidity tray, or humidifier. It is also important to remember that the more humid you keep the orchids environment, the more air movement your orchid will need to help prevent any disease.
When Cattleya orchids are in full growth they should be fertilized every two weeks, or if you prefer to dilute the fertilizer solution you can fertilize more often. If the Cattelya is not in active growth then fertilizing once a month will be plenty. It is important to never fertilize an orchid that is completely dry. This can cause major damage to the roots. An orchid fertilizer mix of (20-20-20) is recommended unless your medium consists of bark. If you are growing your Cattelya in bark medium you should choose an orchid fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen (30-10-10) because when the bark breaks down, the process uses up a lot of the nitrogen.
Cattleyas should be repotted in a course mix every two to three years or once the potting medium remains soggy and no longer drains properly. Before repotting in a new pot, you should always trim away the damaged roots with a sterile cutting tool. The best type of pot to use for a Cattleya is a clay pot. This is because water evaporates from clay pots faster and this is better for the dryer conditions that Cattleyas require. Cattleyas can be divided once the orchid has bloomed and new growth is starting to show. Each division needs at least four growths in order to do well on its own. After dividing the orchid it is imperative to keep the plants in a humid area while to roots begin to grow.
And that just about covers the basics of Cattleya Orchid Care! :-)
Don’t forget to watch our Cattleya Orchid Care video!
Next Steps: Where do you go from here?
A couple options:
#1 – More Free Cattleya Tips!
At a minimum, I strongly recommending signing up for our orchid tips newsletter (it’s free!). That’ll give you some additional (more detailed) step-by-step tips you can start using with your Cattleyas right away…
#2 – Get Access to ALL My Articles on Cattleyas…
If you’d like to learn everything you need to know about cattleya orchid care (and caring for ALL types of orchids) we also have something called the Orchids Made Easy Green Thumb Club.
The Green Thumb Club includes a number of different benefits – including weekly lessons on all different orchid care topics delivered to you in a special, password-protected members area. You also get the opportunity to get YOUR actual questions answered in my weekly “Ask The Orchid Guy” column, which you can check out here.
The Green Thumb Club costs less than a meal at McDonald’s – and ALSO includes all sorts of ADDITIONAL benefits, including exclusive discounts at orchid suppliers from 20-40% off as well access to our “orchid diagnosis tool” which helps you identify what problem might be plaguing your plant.
Because the club is backed by a full 100% money-back guarantee for a full 30 days, if after checking it out you decide that it’s not for you or that you didn’t get value you out of what you learned – no problem! Simply send us an email to let me know, and you’ll receive a fast and courteous refund. Put it this way: If you’re not happy, I’m not happy!
(By the way, this link here will give you access to 50% off the cost of membership. A little “gift” for reading this article all the way to the end :-))
All my best,
Ryan “The Orchid Guy” :-)
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