Cultivating Cattleya Orchids
Cattleya Orchids are one of the most sought-after varieties; they are often seen adorning chocolate boxes and are the classic image of an orchid. They exist in their natural forms as well as hybrid varieties that have been inter-bred with other species that have desirable characteristics. These plants are also know as the Queen of Orchids and their majestic appearance makes them well worthy of this name.
It is fairly simple to look after your Cattleya if you try to house it in conditions that replicate its natural environment as closely as possible. Remember, these plants originate from rainforests and misty mountainous regions so will have high humidity requirements. In addition to this, they are biologically epiphytes, meaning that they live on trees and like to have air movement around their roots.
Consider the following factors when deciding how to care for a Cattleya orchid:
Use a specialist orchid medium and a pot with numerous holes in the base and the sides to enable air to flow freely around the roots.
This variety of orchid is very receptive to being mounted onto other porous, natural materials such as cut logs; this would be a good project for a more adventurous owner.
As with other varieties, re-potting will be necessary every two years or so, as the roots out-grow the container.
Cattleya’s like bright illumination but are prone to scorching so take care to shade them from intense light especially around high-noon. They prefer to have bright conditions throughout the winter months so you may need to provide this illumination by artificial means using fluorescent lamps if the climate does not allow for this naturally.
Depending on their geographical origins, cattleya’s can tolerate a broad range of temperatures. These can be as low as 55 degrees in winter and as high as 95 degrees in summer. In addition to this, an overnight temperature reduction of 15 to 17 degrees will be required.
Always consult specific instructions that come with your plant for exact temperature values.
For the reasons outlined earlier, this is probably the variable that this variety are most demanding about. The levels required don’t naturally exist indoors so you can replicate them by placing damp pebbles or bowls of water near to the plant. Using a humidifier or spraying a fine mist of water around the plant are other options, as is housing the plant in a steamy bathroom.
Don’t forget that the plant absorbs moisture from its misty environment so think twice before adding any extra. Check the dampness of the potting matter before hydrating; this should be as dry as possible without actually being desiccated. Cattleyas have supportive pseudo-bulbs which store water and nutrients so can go a surprisingly long time without moisture.
Do this regularly, especially when the plant is ready to blossom. Various compositions of feed may be used depending on the season and should be administered roughly on a monthly basis although you may double this frequency during the plant’s active period.
Cattleya orchids are great for beginners. When you become a bit more confident with your horticultural abilities, their pseudobulbs make them especially easy to propagate too, so if you want to expand your orchid collection, this may be the perfect plant to experiment with.
Carl Harrison is an orchid enthusiast. For more great tips and advice on cattleya orchids, visit http://www.theorchidresource.com
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