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CATTLEYA mendelii

Image of Cattleya mendelii

Michael Charters, www.calflora.net

Family

Orchidaceae

Botanical Name

CATTLEYA mendelii

Plant Common Name

Cattleya, Corsage Orchid, Mendel's Corsage Orchid

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

As large as a plump grapefruit, the barely white ruffled flowers of Cattleya mendelii have fragrant, red-purple and yellow centers. This tender perennial orchid is from mountain forests of eastern Colombia and is often recommended as the easiest corsage orchid to grow for first-time orchid growers. It is epiphytic (growing on another plant) or lithophytic (growing on rocks) and will form a lush, dense cluster upon a tree branch, wood/wire basket or weighted pot in frost-free gardens. It was so heavily desired that it was over-collected in the late 19th century and is regarded as being extinct in the wild.

One oblong, stiff, leathery light green leaf grows from the tip of each slender pseudobulb; growth occurs from summer to fall. In late winter the flower buds form, breaking the plant's dormancy. Each pseudobulb can form a cluster of three to four large flowers in mid-spring. The bloom is nearly white (silvery with hints of lavender or pale pink) with a ruffled white and lavender to violet lip and yellow disc. This specialized flower is pollinated by a specifically sized insect that fits inside the lip.

Grow Mendel's corsage orchid in partial sun to very bright partial shade. No soil can be used; rather the plant can be supported in a coarse bark or charcoal media that allows water to freely drain. Average humidity, excellent air circulation, and frequent rainfall in the warmth of spring through late summer is ideal. Allow the plant to be slightly drier and receive more light in the fall and winter. Supply water drenches as the flower buds develop to prolong their longevity. Leaves can scorch in hot afternoon sun, especially with low ambient humidity. Leaves also become overly yellow-green when light is too intense. Lack of sunlight also can prevent flowering. This species is slower than others to succumb to root rot, also making it one of easier orchids to try for the inexperienced orchid enthusiast.

Use the cut flowers for leis, hair decals, table garnishes or floral arrangements. Consider repotting this orchid only if it is greatly rootbound, and then only after it finishes flowering and root tips begin new growth.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • Plant Type

    Epiphyte

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    12"-16" / 30.5cm - 40.6cm

  • Width

    15"-20" / 38.1cm - 50.8cm

  • Native To

    South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Feature Plant, Houseplant, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No