Growing Cattleya Orchids as House Plants
Are you planning on growing orchids in your backyard or in a green house? Why not choose the Cattleya ? They are very easy to grow. However, if you decide on planting them in your window sill, you may find that very challenging.
What are cattleyas?
Cattleyas are beautiful orchids with large, attractive flowers which sometimes carry a fragrance. Their flowers vary in color and pattern and the size can measure as much as 8 inches across. There are numerous species. In wildlife, cattleyas grow high on trees in the forests. They have thick roots which attach the plants firmly to the tree. Being exposed to the elements, the roots are able to tolerate the long periods when there is no rain. Because they vary in size from small (suitable for window sills) to large; growing more than 4 ft. tall, you might want to choose carefully if you plan on growing them inside. They love light, so you wouldn’t want a plant that takes up all your window space, would you?
Cattleya orchids flourish in bright light. The condition of the leaves is an indication of whether or not your cattleya plants are getting the right amount of water. Leaves that are firm and have an apple green colors mean that the plants are getting the right amount of light. Hard, yellow or brown colored leaves suggest too much light, while limp, dark green leaves is an indication of inadequate amount of light, which can also cause the plant not to flower.
If you keep your Cattleya on your patio in summer, they will thrive. If indoors, place them in an area near to windows on the eastern or western side. If they are outside, it is important that you shield them from the hot, noonday sun.
Cattleyas grow from underground rhizome. During spring new bulbs appear. Cattleyas need lots of water during the growing season, but the bulbs should not be allowed to stay in the water. As soon as the flowers begin to appear in the sheaths, reduce the water. Too much water in the sheaths will cause the young flowers to rot.
Most Cattleyas normally bloom once each year, some twice. Flowers will stay between 1-3 weeks. Once the first flower appears, the plants must be removed from the direct sun so that the bloom will last longer. The flower buds will not develop unless the plant gets direct sunlight and cool temperatures in the evening.
Cattleyas don’t need specific temperatures to grow. They thrive best in temperatures ranging from 55 degrees in the nights to 90 degrees throughout the day. During winter, the bloom cycle will start when evening temperatures are at 55 degrees or lower. They also need ample humidity and proper air circulation throughout the months of winter too.
Fertilize your Cattleyas each week with weak fertilizer made for orchids.
Potting and Repotting
Repotting of cattleyas can be stressful for the plant, so they will take a season to improve. Therefore, repotting should only be done when necessary. Cattleyas flourish best in most orchid mixes including clay pellets, pink bark, charcoal, perlite and any medium which drains well. If you are repotting a Cattleya, ensure there is adequate space for the rhizome to produce a minimum of two bulbs. The ideal repotting period is spring; that’s when the growing season begins.
Lucas Barnes writes for Plantdex, learn more about growing cattleya orchids.