Cattleyas are some of the most commonly grown orchids. The Cattleya group consists of plants from several genera. These include Cattleya, Laelia, Brassavola, Sophronitis, and epidendrum, as well as several others. When these inter-generic crosses are made, we end up with a plant such as Laeliacattleya (LC). Like most other orchids, they grow in trees in nature and their roots are accustomed to being dry between waterings. For this reason, they are potted in very porous, free-draining media, the most popular being fir bark.
LIGHT – It is one of the most important factors in growing and blooming cattleyas. Bright light with some sun should be provided but no direct sun in the middle of the day. As east, shaded south (as with a sheer curtain) or west window is best. Leaves should be a medium green color. Excellent results have been obtained under fluorescent lights, too.
TEMPERATURE – Cattleyas are most comfortable at ranges of 55-60 degrees at night and 70-85 degrees during the day. Higher daytime temps up to 95 degrees can be tolerated if humidity, air circulation, and shading are increased. All orchids benefit from good air circulation at all times as they grow in trees in nature.
WATER – There are two ways to provide water: in the pot by watering and in the air by humidity. A mature cattleya should be allowed to dry out between waterings. The weight of the pot is a good indicator of the plant’s need for water. Plants in active growth need more water than plants that are resting. Water temperature should feel tepid to the touch. Humidity levels should be between 50-70%. This can be provided by placing plants together or on trays of gravel partially filled with water so the plants stand above the water. Misting may be helpful in the morning.
FERTILIZER – If grown in a bark, a 30-10-10 formulation is best with occasional use of a bloom booster such as 10-30-20. In other media, a balanced fertilizer is best. Orchids are not generally heavy feeders and need very little fertilizer during the winter months.
POTTING – It is necessary before the plant begins to grow over the edge of the pot. It is best to repot in the spring just before new growth starts. Bark usually breaks down in 2-3 years and should be replaced during repotting. Select a pot that will allow 2 years of growth before crowing happens.