|Temperature||Warm, between 50 - 100 F (10 - 38 C)|
|Light||Intermediate to Bright light|
|Ventilation||Need very good air movement|
|Watering||High in growth period, low in rest period. Cattleya orchids like to dry out between waterings.|
|Fertilization||Once a week. Balanced formula (20-20-20). Dont fertilize in rest period|
Native to Central America and tropical South America up to 33º south latitude. They are epiphytic orchids and have a spathe that protects the flowers until they open, in an apical position (except in Cattleya walkeriana, which is basal). More than 60 species of orchids belong to the genus Cattleya, although they differ notably in the vegetative form. In the rainforest, Cattleya occupy the upper zone of the trees, as they constantly seek light. They are resistant to cold and drought. In some species the flowers last only a few days, in others they last many weeks. The flowering period varies from one species to another, but in general terms we can say that most of them bloom between autumn and spring.
Within the genus Cattleya there are two large groups that are distinguished by their morphology: Cattleya unifoliate and Cattleya bifoliate.
Unifoliate Cattleya orchids are plants with pseudobulbs of medium length, more or less thick and spaced apart. At the apex they have a single leathery leaf, more or less erect, of variable shape depending on the species. The inflorescence rarely has more than four large flowers, which can measure 20 cm in diameter as in Cattleya warscewiczii, often very fragrant, which open simultaneously and last 2-3 weeks. In this group there are two exceptions: Cattleya araguaiensis and Cattleya luteola; these hardly exceed 15 cm in height and have flowers about 6 cm in diameter. Other examples of this genus are: Cattleya labiata, Cattleya mossiae, Cattleya trianaei, Cattleya warnerii, Cattleya maxima, Cattlleya dowiana, Cattleya gaskeliana. Colors can be purple, lilac, white, yellow, yellow, greenish, and combined, or with spots and stripes in countless hybrids.
The bifoliate group includes species with pseudobulbs generally slender and of variable length, from a few centimeters, such as Cattleya aclandiae, to almost a meter, such as Cattleya amethystoglossa and Cattleya leopoldii, which have 2 or 3 leathery leaves of variable shape at the apex. The flowers are usually smaller than those of the first group and generally do not exceed 10 cm: Cattleya aurantiaca is the species with the smallest flower of the whole genus: only 3-4 cm. In some species the inflorescence is made up of numerous flowers, even twenty as in Cattleya bowringiana, of various colors and shades, and with greater consistency. Within this group are the Cattleya of southern Brazil. Examples are: Cattleya intermedia, Cattleya leopoldii, Cattleya loddigesti, Cattleya guttata, Cattleya nobilior, Cattleya schileriana, Cattleya guatemalensis, Cattleya bicolor, Cattleya granulosa, Cattleya amesthytoglossa, Cattleya harrisoniana and Cattleya forbesi.
The orchid species of the genus Cattleya are epiphytic plants that come from very different environments. They are distributed over a very wide area and therefore have different cultivation requirements that must be met if abundant flowering is to be obtained. On the other hand, the enormous development of the practice of hybridization has introduced on the market, and continues to do so, many thousands of clones, the result of countless crosses, which have standardized and therefore simpler cultivation requirements; they also produce a greater number of flowers and these are more beautiful, have more vivid colors and are more durable.
The major advantage that this practice has brought to the cultivation of Cattleya orchids is to have eliminated the often strict resting period that many botanical species need. In this way, watering and fertilizing can be carried out regularly and continuously throughout the year, always taking into account a series of factors that determine such action: type of substrate used, type of pot, humidity, temperature, light, ventilation.
Cattleya orchids, although they are temperate plants, can withstand temperatures of more than 100 ºF (35 ºC) without problems as long as the ambient humidity is higher than 60%. It is advisable that the ambient humidity fluctuates, during the 24 hours of the day, between 50% and 99% (saturation point). We must not forget to water on the hottest days, it is also very important not to water if the temperature is close to the minimum temperatures, 50 ºF (10-12 ºC). It is advisable to give them a good and constant ventilation: this avoids accumulations of water in the substrate and on the leaves, and an excess of humidity that can damage the flowers.
They need direct light, but no more than eight hours and shaded in the middle of the day. The optimum color of its leaves should be between light green to greenish yellow. This will determine whether the plant will develop flowers. As for fertilization, use a balanced mix during the whole growth period. Before flowering we should use a formula rich in phosphorus.
A Cattleya orchid that is given a balanced growing regime in terms of light, humidity, temperature, watering and fertilization will have turgid pseudobulbs, erect and consistent leaves of not too intense green color and will produce in each new bud a group of magnificent flowers.
If our orchid has pseudobulbs that are too thin, unable to support the leaf, too dark green or with too much tendency to yellow and lack of flowers are indicative of a culture in which the above factors have not been kept in a fair balance.
Orchids of the genus Cattleya should be transplanted periodically and in some cases divided every three years; this does not pose any problem to the plants if it is done at the right time: when they begin to give new roots and shoots, after flowering.
Plants flowering in autumn and winter should therefore be transplanted and divided in early spring, those flowering in spring in early summer and those flowering in summer in early spring or immediately after flowering, never in late autumn because in this season the vegetative activity decreases and the new roots will not be sufficiently developed from the winter. To ensure flowering it is desirable that the divided plants have at least three or four mature pseudobulbs with one or more new shoots developing.
Something that is very useful with Cattleya orchids is the use of a stake, such as a bamboo stick, to which the pseudobulbs are tied by passing the raffia around the narrowing that exists between the leaf and the pseudobulb. The best growing medium is bark.
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