Esprit de Isle

Lucky Bamboo, Feng Shui, Bonsai & Gardening | The Spirit Of Whidbey Island

You are here: Exotic Plants About Orchids - Cattleya

About Orchids - Cattleya

Cattleya Ochids are an interesting species and one of the most deliciously fragrant houseplants you'll ever enjoy! They require more exacting care than some of the other varieties but, by paying attention to what they need and when they need it, you should have satisfactory results in encouraging them to bloom and bloom again for you.

It's fun to watch Cattleyas preparing to bloom. The smaller green thick stem connected to the leaf is called a pseudobulb, meaning it has the appearance of a bulb but it's not really a bulb; it's like the camel's hump! The pseudobulb stores nutrients and water to nourish the plant through through dry spells.

It also serves as a womb where the flower bud is formed. You can see the stems of the buds through the bud casing. It reminds me of an ultrasound image of an embryo. If all goes well, these buds will transform into the most beautiful flowers of all!

Although it took several months for this Cattleya to get to this stage, from now on, the development and growth of the flowers is magical and fascinating! What looks like a puckered lips on the very tip of the bud is called the"lip" of the blossom.

Bright light is an essential need for successfully growing Cattleya Orchids. But never put them in direct sunlight. I've found the best place for my Cattleyas is in front of a window that almost never receives direct sunlight. Consistent warmth is also an essential need for Cattleyas. They are comfortable in temperatures that range from 70 degrees F to 60 degrees F. When temperatures range above 70, the plants should be spray-misted daily or at least place small containers of water next to the pots to provide some hydration when the water evaporates.

As the buds mature, you'll be rewarded with at least two of the most gorgeous flowers that will have you gaping in awe! The flowers last about 3 weeks and the whole room will be filled with fragrance. This is definitely worth an investment in the plant and the down-time (which may be several months) when the orchid goes into a dormant period and prepares for its next growth surge.

Do not place the plants in areas where they will experience drafts or sudden changes in temperature. When temperatures begin to drop, relocate the plants where they will still receive the maximum daylight but calm air currents. Sometimes this can be achieved by protecting plants from drafts using squares of plexiglass or clear vinyl between the window and the plant to deflect the cooler air away from the orchid.

Potting and Watering

There are some excellent varieties of potting mixes formulated especially for the specific type of orchid you have. As rule of thumb, transplant into pots that are at least 2 inches larger when the plant starts to look crowded. If the plant has old and dried out pseudobulbs, I remove at least one when transplanting. Be careful not to destroy any healthy air roots when transplanting and do not plant the air roots below the soil. Those roots need good air circulation and should be allowed to grow freely. I try to place the main healthy part of the plant more to the center of the pot, which benefits additional growth for a couple of years. Orchids are quite slow growing and take a while to become crowded in the pot.

Be sure the pot has adequate drainage; ideally, the orchid pot is pottery with a glaze on the outside and comes with a drainage dish.You'll note, when purchasing an orchid plant, they often come with a vinyl or plastic lining inside a ceramic/pottery pot. When transplanting to a larger pot, I snip the liner carefully avoiding damaging the "air roots" any more than possible.

Watering: When re-potting, give it a good soaking and then allow it to drain well. After that, water when the soil is dry on the top for an inch. You may give the pot occasional soakings but they do not like soggy, wet soil. I've seen some recommendations to water orchids with 3 ice cubes per week. I do not put ice on any of my plants. Room temperature or "lukewarm" or tepid water is best.