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CATTLEYA

Image of Cattleya

James Burghardt

Family

Orchidaceae

Botanical Name

CATTLEYA

Plant Common Name

Cattleya, Corsage Orchid

General Description

These are some of the most familiar of all orchids because Cattleya blooms are popular corsage and cut flowers. Their large, often frilly flowers come in lots of bright colors. The genus is made up of around 50 species, all native to the American tropics. There are thousands more cultivated hybrids, or grexes. Their large, exceptionally beautiful blooms have made them some of the most grown and collected of all orchids.

Typically Cattleya are epiphytic (tree growers) but a few are lithophytic (rock growers). They are long-lived, evergreen tender perennials with thickened basal stems, called as psuedobulbs, which store water and nutrients. Thick leathery leaves arise from the psuedobulbs. Over time, the bulbous bases divide to form a cluster.

Most cattleyas flower annually. Each flower stem originates from a pseudobulb. One to ten flowers may exist on each stem, depending on the species. Each showy flower has three large, colorful petals flanked by three smaller, yet equally colorful sepals. The most basal, central petal tends to be the showiest because it lures pollinators, so it is often frilly, more colorful and marked with blotches or streaks (some only visible to pollinators). Most Cattleya are insect-pollinated, and the fruits are capsules filled with thousands (sometimes millions) of tiny, dust-like seeds.

Overall, these orchids grow best areas with bright indirect light, good air circulation and high humidity. They can be grown attached to trees, wodden slabs or in orchid boxes or hanging baskets filled with orchid bark. To bloom, they need warmth, regular water and fertilization in the spring and summer, and drier, cooler weather in winter, however exact cultural needs are species specific.

In tropical, frost-free regions, Cattleya can be grown outdoors in trees or shade houses in all but the driest regions. They also make great houseplants.

Characteristics

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

Growing Conditions

  • Growth Rate

    Slow

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Container, Cutflower, Hanging Basket, Houseplant, Tropical