Cattleya Culture

By Cattleyas, I am referring to Cattleya species as well as hybrids which include hybrids between Cattleya and other Cattleyas, Laelias, Brassovola and several other genus

In general, these plants require an intermediate to warm environment (15C min) and fairly bright light (3000 foot-candles) for good growing and blooming. The ideal amount of light causes the leaves to be a light green but not yellow. Also, leaves should never be hot to the touch as burning is then likely.

As well as benches, I suspend selected plants from above where they enjoy even warmer conditions and moving air. I achieve this by suspending steel pipe from the aluminum rafters and hang the pots from the pipe.

Cattleya types need to dry out between waterings and they need air at the roots, so I use medium fir bark or crushed coconut husks, the latter being readily available at Orchid Shows. Cedar slat boxes are also suitable for larger Cattleyas, but they need watering or spraying more often.

While terracotta pots are the preferred containers because they are porous and dry out more quickly, they are also heavy and easily broken. I use plastic pots which are more convenient and much cheaper. However, good drainage is essential and the bottom of the pot should be lined with Styrofoam chips or gravel. More air circulation at the roots can also be achieved by boring holes in the sides of the plastic and for 8" pots or larger, an inverted 3" or 4" pot can be inserted to lessen the mass of medium at the centre which may rot.. Another advantage of plastic pots is that they become much lighter when dry, and small pots dry out more quickly than large ones. I use this weight method exclusively as a watering indicator and I also try to water and fertilize in the morning on sunny days, so that leaves soon dry out

When repotting becomes necessary, usually after 2 or 3 years, when the pot is full and new roots are likely to grow outside the pot, it is best to repot only when new roots are emerging from the base of a pseudo bulb. This can be at any time of the year depending on the type of orchid. New roots are quite fragile and care must be taken when cutting out dead roots which usually are to be found in the centre of the root ball.

I add a 20-20-20 fertilizer with micronutrients to the water in the ratio of 1/2tsp per gallon and water with this mixture when needed. After 3 such waterings, I use only plain water to flush out excess salts. When you do water, do so heavily until all the medium is soaked and excess water pours out of the drainage holes. Do not water again until the pot feels light. In winter, when the plants are growing more slowly, I halve the amount of fertilizer. Cattleyas are not insect prone but Mealy Bugs and Scale do attack some varieties, so be on the lookout. Also fungal problems can occur with poor ventilation. use a fungicide occasionally to deal with this.

In summertime, Cattleyas enjoy being outdoors where they get rainwater and fresh air. However, shading is required and this is achieved by building a simple lath house from which plants can be suspended and protected by latticework overhead.

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