Care of cattleya orchids

Cattleya Orchid Care: The Basics

Cattleya (KAT-lee-ah) orchids have been popular plants for home growers for a long time. The Cattleya is a genus that has over 100 species and numerous hybrids which range in bloom size, color, and smell. Cattleyas are sometimes referred to as “Queen of Flowers” because of their big showy blooms and are often used to make corsages. Cattleyas are epiphytes (air dwellers) and each flower stalk grows from a pseudobulb which they use for water storage. Their large roots are covered with a spongy velamen which retains nutrients and water. Cattleyas generally bloom once a year and the blooms last for anywhere from one to three weeks. The blooming season varies by species.

Water Requirements

A Cattleya orchid should be watered in the morning using tepid water. This will give the orchid adequate time to dry before the temperature drops at night. A Cattleya’s roots should fully dry out between each time you water. For this reason when deciding on a potting medium you should choose one that is able to fully drain. On the other hand, it is important to never let seedlings go completely dry because this could stunt growth and cause other problems. The watering schedule for a Cattleya can greatly depend on the type of pot the orchid is planted in, the temperature, and also the time of year. As a rule of thumb, you will want to water more frequently during the warmer months and less frequently in the cooler months.

Light Requirements

Cattleyas thrive with medium light conditions. A great inside location to place your Cattleya is on an eastern facing windowsill. If you have a shaded southern facing windowsill this will also work. A way to determine if your orchid is getting enough light will be if the leaves are a medium green color and the pseudobulbs are upright. If your orchid is receiving too much light the leaves will have a reddish-purple coloring.

Temperature Requirements

The temperature requirements for Cattleyas are daytime temperatures somewhere between 70°F to 80°F (21.1°C to 26.6°C) and night temperatures between 55°F to 60°F (12.8°C to 15.6°C). Cattleyas will do best when there is a 15°F to 20°F (8.3°C to 11.1°C) difference between day and night temperatures. Higher daytime temperatures encourage faster growth, although if you plan to keep your orchid in higher temperatures you will have to remember to maintain higher humidity conditions, more air movement, as well as more frequent waterings.

Humidity Requirements

Cattleyas thrive in humid conditions, however, if a Cattleya orchid is kept in excess moist conditions then disease and rot can set in which will cause damage to the plant. If you need to increase the humidity for your orchid, you have several different options such as a greenhouse, humidity tray, or humidifier. It is also important to remember that the more humid you keep the orchids environment, the more air movement your orchid will need to help prevent any disease.

Fertilizer Requirements

When Cattleya orchids are in full growth they should be fertilized every two weeks, or if you prefer to dilute the fertilizer solution you can fertilize more often. If the Cattelya is not in active growth then fertilizing once a month will be plenty. It is important to never fertilize an orchid that is completely dry. This can cause major damage to the roots. An orchid fertilizer mix of (20-20-20) is recommended unless your medium consists of bark. If you are growing your Cattelya in bark medium you should choose an orchid fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen (30-10-10) because when the bark breaks down, the process uses up a lot of the nitrogen.

Potting Requirements

Cattleyas should be repotted in a course mix every two to three years or once the potting medium remains soggy and no longer drains properly. Before repotting in a new pot, you should always trim away the damaged roots with a sterile cutting tool. The best type of pot to use for a Cattleya is a clay pot. This is because water evaporates from clay pots faster and this is better for the dryer conditions that Cattleyas require. Cattleyas can be divided once the orchid has bloomed and new growth is starting to show. Each division needs at least four growths in order to do well on its own. After dividing the orchid it is imperative to keep the plants in a humid area while to roots begin to grow.

And that just about covers the basics of Cattleya Orchid Care! 🙂
Don’t forget to watch our Cattleya Orchid Care video!

Next Steps: Where do you go from here?

A couple options:

#1 – More Free Cattleya Tips!
At a minimum, I strongly recommending signing up for our orchid tips newsletter (it’s free!). That’ll give you some additional (more detailed) step-by-step tips you can start using with your Cattleyas right away…

#2 – Get Access to ALL My Articles on Cattleyas…
If you’d like to learn everything you need to know about cattleya orchid care (and caring for ALL types of orchids) we also have something called the Orchids Made Easy Green Thumb Club.

The Green Thumb Club includes a number of different benefits – including weekly lessons on all different orchid care topics delivered to you in a special, password-protected members area. You also get the opportunity to get YOUR actual questions answered in my weekly “Ask The Orchid Guy” column, which you can check out here.

The Green Thumb Club costs less than a meal at McDonald’s – and ALSO includes all sorts of ADDITIONAL benefits, including exclusive discounts at orchid suppliers from 20-40% off as well access to our “orchid diagnosis tool” which helps you identify what problem might be plaguing your plant.

Because the club is backed by a full 100% money-back guarantee for a full 30 days, if after checking it out you decide that it’s not for you or that you didn’t get value you out of what you learned – no problem! Simply send us an email to let me know, and you’ll receive a fast and courteous refund. Put it this way: If you’re not happy, I’m not happy!

(By the way, this here will give you access to 50% off the cost of membership. A little “gift” for reading this article all the way to the end :-))

All my best,

Ryan “The Orchid Guy” 🙂

IMPORTANT: To learn everything you need to know about caring for your orchids, if you haven’t already I strongly recommend signing up for the “Orchid Care Tips & Secrets Newsletter” my wife and I publish by clicking here.

It’s completely free – and the best part? You can even choose the type of information you’d like to receive (reblooming tips, basics of orchid care, etc.) Join over 20,000 fellow orchid enthusiasts young and old and sign up for our free orchid care newsletter today! 🙂

Hybrid Connect Error : Connector could not be found

Psst… Hey, did you enjoy this article or have a question? I’d love to hear from you! Please click LIKE, and leave a comment below to let me know!

Cattleya (Kat-lee-a) Culture

Commonly known as the Queen of Orchids, Cattleya are epiphytes (tree dwelling plants) and are native to Central and South America. They are among the most colorful and fragrant of all the orchid family, with the blooming period lasting anywhere from 4-6 weeks or more. When the flowers have expired simply cut the stem off at the point where it had emerged from the leaf. The following care instructions cover the many related inter-generic varieties and relatives of the Cattleya.

To ensure good growth and profuse flowering, Cattleya requires bright light. They prefer some direct sun and do best when receiving the light source from above rather than from the side of the plant. While growing in your home, a south or west exposure is recommended. Some Cattleya are known to be photoperiodic (day-length sensitive) so it is important that they receive no additional light past the normal hours of light between sunrise to sunset.

Cattleya do best when grown outdoors during the months of June through October. Hang them from a tree or the overhang of your house, or place in a screened porch where they can receive some dappled sunlight. Cattleya can benefit from higher intensities of light as the day length decreases towards fall and into winter, and vice-versa for the spring and summer. Try to provide as much light as possible for your plant throughout the year without causing sun burn on the leaves. Once your Cattleya is in the flowering stage it is best to shade it from any direct sun to prolong the life of the blooms.

One important cultural element for Cattleya is that they do best when exposed to a 10 to 15 degree differential between day and night temperatures. It is for that reason we recommend to grow Cattleya outdoors from June until early October. While growing outdoors these plants do not mind periodic temperature dips into the 40’s at night, as long as the temperature rises at least 10 degrees or more during the day. It would be time to bring your Cattleya indoors once the temperature differential between day and night becomes narrow; for example when the October day time temperature is consistently 45 degrees and the nights are 40 degrees. Do not ever allow your Cattleya to freeze.

Once you have brought your Cattleya indoors for the growing season of October through May, it is best to place them in a sunny area that experiences a nighttime temperature of 55 to 60 degrees. In the home this can be best achieved by using a basement area or a spare room that you are able to reduce the nighttime heat source. For the day time, it is still important that the plant experiences a rise in temperature of at least 10 degrees or more. On cloudy winter days an artificial heat source may be needed to achieve the proper daytime temperature differential, while the sunny days should generate enough warmth for an adequate temperature differential.

Proper indoor watering requires allowing the bark mix to become dry beneath the surface between watering cycles. Factors such as how root bound your pot is, how much light the plant is receiving, and what size pot it is in, will all play a role on how fast it dries out. Typically while growing indoors a good thorough watering once a week should be sufficient. In cases of root bound plants grown in warm, high light areas, watering every 5 days is needed. When watering, water the bark thoroughly until water runs freely from the bottom of the pot. Always remove your pot from any decorative container to allow for proper drainage. Never allow your pot to stand in any water as this will cause root rot. Never use softened water on any of your orchids.

For outdoor growing it is best to maintain slightly more moisture than for indoors. During the highest temperature periods (mid summer) we recommend to keep the Cattleya moist but not soggy. A watering twice a week is usually needed during that period. As the temperature begins to drop towards the end of the outdoor season, begin letting the bark become dry beneath the surface, much like the indoor watering schedule. While outdoors the natural rain on the plant is beneficial.


Cattleya and their inter-generic relatives are fairly active growing plants, and therefore fertilizer is essential for good growth and flowering. We recommend applying a 20-20-20 or similar balanced type fertilizer once every 2 to 3 weeks throughout the entire year. A safe dilution ratio is one level teaspoon of fertilizer mixed in one gallon of water. Do not over-fertilize as this will cause permanent root damage.

Like most orchids, the Cattleya enjoys a moderately humid climate of 50% or greater. While growing outdoors this is not an issue since we generally have adequate humidity in our Wisconsin summer climate. While growing indoors it is recommended to increase humidity around the plant simply by placing your plants on a humidity tray, misting them adequately in the morning, or grouping your plants all together in one area.


We recommend repotting Cattleya every two years. If you are not experienced or comfortable doing this yourself we offer the repotting service at our greenhouse for a small fee. Your recently purchased Cattleya may be ready for a repotting job as soon as it has finished flowering. Inquire with us as to when your individual plant was last repotted. Good indicators for a repot candidate are: when the rhizome and roots of the plant have protruded over the edge of the pot, when the potting medium starts to break down and drain poorly, or when the plant is completely root bound in the pot. It is best to repot just as new roots sprout from the rhizome which is typically after flowering has completed or in the springtime as the plant becomes actively growing again.

Cattleya may be divided if the plant has enough pseudobulbs to safely do so. A division should consist of a minimum of four pseudobulbs to allow enough strength for future growth. Larger divisions of 6-10 pseudobulbs are acceptable, which in turn will make for a specimen plant the next blooming season. If your plant is not dividable at this time simply repot it into a slightly larger pot.

To make a proper division, start by locating the pseudobulb that had most recently produced flowers. From there, follow the rhizome which connects each pseudobulb and count back from there four to six pseudobulbs. At that point, cut the rhizome and root mass using a pruning sheer or large stiff knife to make your division. Repeat this process with the remaining portion of the plant. After doing that, you may have a clump of leftover pseudobulbs called back-bulbs. These will not have a recently flowered pseudobulb attached and are not viable or worthy of potting and should be discarded.

A note about orchid viruses: most commonly the transmission of orchid viruses is caused by using the same cutting tool on multiple plants. The most effective method to reduce virus transmission from plant to plant is to briefly flame sterilize all your cutting tools between use on each plant. A simple Butane torch or a gas stove are handy items for this purpose. This practice should be implemented when repotting as well as when cutting off expired flowering stems.

Once your division is made, select a new pot in the appropriate size to allow for another two years of growing. Unfortunately, there is not a set rule for choosing the proper pot size, but generally you will need to increase the pot size by one to one and one half inches. Do not use too large of a pot because these plants like to be somewhat crowded, even after repotting. Cattleya prefers to be potted into clay pots for the benefit of the porosity offered by the clay. Place the cut side of the division against the inside perimeter of the pot and fill the pot with our moistened fir bark orchid potting mix. Try to keep the rhizome about 1/2” below the potting mix and pack it firmly with a blunt tool to ensure the plant is secure in the pot. Wait about one week and then water thoroughly.

For more assistance with your Cattleya or any other Orchid, please call us at 608-831-4700, send an email, or visit our greenhouses.

Happy growing, from Orchids Garden Centre & Nursery!

Cattleya Orchids Care Tips

Botanical Name: Cattleya orchid species and hybrids

Big, frilly petals in gorgeous colors make Cattleya the hands-down favorite of many orchid growers. Members of the Orchidaceae family, Catts are among the best-known. This is the genus you’ll find in Mother’s Day corsages.

Although there are more than 50 cattleya species, most you’ll find today are complex hybrids.

Cattleyas usually bloom in clusters of 2 to 6 flowers. You’ll find them available in a range of colors, including pink, white, yellow, purple and red. Their lip colors are usually contrasting to the rest of the flower. You can expect each flower to last about a month.

Beautiful cattleyas are native to the tropical jungles, where they thrive in warm, misty breezes and dappled sunlight. Catts make their home near the treetops in their native habitat and need brighter light than many other orchids. So, how do you create a compatible environment in your home? Fortunately, this is easier than it seems.

Cattleya orchids may refuse to bloom if they don’t get enough light. Put your orchids in a well-ventilated location where they’ll get plenty of light, but out of direct sun. If you don’t have a spot near a window, fluorescent grow lights work beautifully. Use 1 warm white tube and 1 cool white tube under a reflector. Put your orchids about 8 inches (20 cm) beneath the light and keep the lights on for 14-16 hours a day. It’s important to give them darkness at night. Plants need a rest, too.

Gorgeous Cattleyas are among the showiest orchids, as well as easy for beginners.

Beautiful Beginnings

Cattleya (pronounced cat-lee-a) labiata was discovered in Brazil by William Cattley, a horticulturalist who brought the plant to England in 1818. This is the species upon which the genus is based and what sparked a passion for growing catts in the early 19th century.

To repot…or not. Fir bark mix breaks down after a couple years and needs replaced. Catts can be finicky about being repotted at the wrong time. In fact, some even resent being in a pot. However, if you get the timing right, orchids will forgive the disturbance and will bloom on schedule. The best time to repot your orchid is when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over. Pot them in a smallish container; Cattleyas bloom best when their roots are confined. Besides, using a too-large pot will hold too much moisture, which can lead to root rot.

Got a reluctant bloomer? Give your orchid slightly cooler nighttime temperatures to spark blooming. A 15° difference will do. Cattleyas will tolerate varying temperatures from 60° nights up to 85° days. They usually flower once a year, and with good cattleya orchid care, you can expect blooms year after year.

Frilly petals and a large lip in a contrasting color are the hallmarks of Cattleyas orchids.

You’ll find Cattleya orchids for sale most often in spring, when most are in bloom. However, their blooming time varies by species.

Tips for Growing Cattleya Orchids

Origin: Central and South America

Height: Species vary widely

Light: Bright indirect light year-round. Some direct morning sun is fine. Light, yellow-green leaves are a sign of too much sunlight. Move your orchid to a shadier spot.

Water: Water thoroughly and allow top inch of soil to dry between waterings. Cattleyas store water in their thick leaves and pseudobulbs, making them more tolerant of dry soil than wet.

Humidity: Moderate to high, preferably 50-70% relative humidity. Raise the humidity if it drops below 50%. Use a humidity tray or room humidifier to increase the moisture in the air. Grouping plants also helps to maintain the humidity around them.

Temperature: Slightly cooler (60-70°F/16-21°C) nights, and warmer (75-85°F/24-29°C) days will trigger blooming.

Soil: Orchid potting mix or half-half mix of medium-grade fir bark and perlite

Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks with orchid fertilizer while plant is growing (spring and summer), and once a month the rest of the year.

Propagation: Divide pseudobulbs into clumps of 3 or more and pot in separate containers.

  1. Home
  2. Caring for Orchids

Cattleya Orchid Care

Cattleyas are what most people think of when they hear the word orchid. Producing large and fragrant flowers with vibrant colors that are commonly used in corsages, Cattleyas are a popular choice for beginners and experts alike. These plants are very sturdy and can take a lot of abuse from those who tend to forget to water. They are also tolerant of several temperature ranges. Miniature Cattleyas are also available, which are great for those with limited space.

Light and Shade

Cattleyas need abundant though not intense light in order to grow and flower well. About 2,000 – 3,000 foot-candles is satisfactory, and as with many orchids, the early morning sun is very important. An east window, or a south window with light shading such as a sheer curtain from the middle of February to the end of October is ideal. L.E.D. Grow Lights are the best artificial light you can provide for Cattleyas. Be sure to check out our L.E.D. Grow Lights page for more information.


Cattleyas thrive with a day temperature range between 70 and 80 degrees F. At night there should be at least a 10-degree drop, around 60-64 degrees F. This lower night temperature will help initiate flower buds and will promote stronger growth. Keeping the plants near a window is important if you do not provide artificial light. Cattleyas can be grown outside from June to late fall in areas with filtered light. Direct sun will burn the leaves. If you live in an area where snow falls (like here in Minnesota), you can leave Cattleyas outside until the first frost.


Cattleyas like a humidity of between 45% and 60%. This may be attained by the use of a humidifier, or by filling a saucer with crushed rock and placing it under the plants. Then, when you water, the run off will fill the saucer, releasing humidity into the air via the crushed rock. However, make sure that the pot is elevated above the water level in the saucer.


Always use a clean form of water such as distilled, rainwater or reverse osmosis water for your plants. Cattleyas should be watered when the potting medium feels dry almost to the bottom of the pot. This generally occurs every week or so from the previous watering. If in doubt, don’t water. Wait another day or two. Remember that small plants in clay pots can dry out within a couple of days. Plants should never stand in water.


Cattleyas generally bloom large and fragrant flowers. The average flowering period for a Cattleya is 3 to 6 weeks. Make sure to water more often when Cattleyas are about to bloom, and throughout the blooming period. The flowers will drop when the blooming period is over.


In the summer, Cattleyas potted in fir bark should be fed every second watering with a half strength solution of Grow More 20-10-20 fertilizer. In the winter feeding once every three or four weeks is sufficient.

We highly recommend Green Jungle Orchid Food, especially formulated to work with rain, distilled, reverse osmosis water or water low in alkalinity. Fertilize with Green Jungle every time you water.


Medium grade fir bark is one of the best potting mediums that can be used for Cattleyas. In general, repotting should be done every 2 years in the spring. Repotting becomes necessary when the plant has outgrown its pot and the new growth reaches out over the edge, or when the potting medium has broken down. When repotting, chose a pot that is large enough to accommodate 2 or 3 years growth (1 or 2 new pseudobulbs per year).

Grab the plant near the base of the pot and start by gently, but firmly, pulling the plant out of its old pot. When growing in clay pots, it is sometimes easiest to simply take a hammer and break the clay pot, clearing away the clay shards. Do not worry about breaking or cracking roots, because you will break several in the process. This does not harm the plant. Pry out from between the roots as much of the potting material as you can. Trim off any dead roots and/or dead pseudobulbs and position the plant with its oldest pseudobulbs to the edge of the new pot. Then, spreading the plant roots out, fill in the space with the potting medium. Press down firmly with each handful so that the plant does not wobble around. Build up the compost until the plant rests with its rhizome on the surface, about a half-inch below the rim of the pot. Newly potted plants do have a tendency to wobble, in this case you can use a ring support or rhizome clip to secure the plant.

To divide a plant simply pull it out of the pot and cut through the rhizome between the pseudobulbs leaving three to four bulbs per division. If possible try to untangle some of the roots for each division. You may have to cut some of the roots in order to divide the plant, but this is inevitable. Keep dry for the first week after repotting.

Growing Cattleya Orchids: Caring For Cattleya Orchid Plants

Orchids are a family of 110,000 different species and hybrids. Orchid enthusiasts collect different hybrids with Cattleya as one of the more popular varieties. It is native to tropical America and sometimes referred to as the “queen of the orchids.” Cattleya orchid plants produce some of the brightest, most uniquely formed flowers in the orchid world.

The average home interior is perfect for growing Cattleya orchids. There are just a few details to learn regarding how to grow Cattleya orchids; but once you master those, you will have a lovely and long-term addition to your home.

Information About Cattleya

Orchids are the largest group of flowering plants. Their presence is in most areas of the world and they are highly adaptive as a species. Cattleyas are named for William Cattley, an English horticulturist from the 19th century. Cattleyas are the focus of collectors and breeders and new hybrids come out nearly every year amid fanfare and excitement in the growing community.

Some interesting information

about Cattleya is their native habit as ephiphytes, or tree growing plants. They can cling to a tree crotch or rocky crevasse and need little soil. The plants are long lived perennials and some professional collectors have plants half a century old. Cattleya orchid plants grow well in soilless media, such as bark and rocks or perlite, which mimics this natural growth habit.

How to Grow Cattelya Orchids

Growing Cattleya orchids requires some patience, but the lovely blooms are worth the effort. In addition to proper growing media, they require well draining containers, medium to high humidity, temperatures of at least 65 F. (18 C.) during the day and bright high light.

Repot the plants every two to three years, although they do enjoy being pot bound. Don’t worry if you see the roots wrapping around the base of the plant. This is normal and in their native setting those roots would be holding the plant in place high above the forest canopy or rocky cliff.

Caring for Cattleya Orchid Plants

Once you choose a good location and get the site conditions just right, caring for Cattleya orchids is easy. The lighting should be bright but indirect.

Warmer temperatures are best from 70 to 85 F (24-30 C.). Humidity is often the hardest part to control in the home interior. Use a humidifier in the orchid room or place the plant on a saucer filled with pebbles and water. The evaporation will add moisture to the air.

Allow the potting medium to dry out between watering. Then water deeply until excess moisture runs out of the drainage holes.

Use a high nitrogen fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season. A formula of 30-10-10 is suitable.

Watch for mealybugs and scale and don’t overwater or the plant will experience root rot.



The Cattleya (CAT-lee-ah) is the quintessential corsage orchid. Their flowers are immediately recognized as an orchid. Cattleya flowers are large, long-lasting and are immensely satisfying to grow.

Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. to learn more.

BONUS: For your convenience, you can also download your own-quick reference Cattleya Care Card.



Cattleyas require bright light (2000-4000 fc). You may hear the phrase “Cattleya light” as the standard for many orchids with bright light requirements. Providing enough light is vital to blooming your Cattleya. If your windowsill is insufficient, artificial light works fantastically.


Humidity levels between 40-70% are ideal for this orchid. Use a humidifier if necessary and a fan set to low to provide air movement. Home growers: remember 50% is the maximum recommendation. Easily track humidity levels with a humidistat.


Allow potting mix to dry almost completely between watering. Watch the lead (newest) pseudobulb to be sure that it remains plump. During the winter months cut back slightly on water.


Cattleyas are moderate feeders. Apply balanced fertilizer three out of four weeks. On the fourth week, flood the potting media to rinse fertilizer salts. If the orchid is potted in bark, use a high nitrogen fertilizer (9-3-6).


Under pot Cattleyas: large Cattleyas = 4-6″ pot, mini Cattleyas = 3-4 ” pot. Wait to pot until new roots are growing. Place backbulb (oldest pseudobulb) at the edge of the pot and the newest growth towards the center of the using medium grade fir-bark based potting media.


Cattleyas have been heavily hybridized. For best results, look for award-winning clones. Full-size Cattleyas can grow very large, if growing space is at a premium, choose a miniature Cattleya.

Cattleya Orchid Plant Care

Author: admin

Care and Culture

Cattleya orchids are very popular among growers for their large beautiful blooms and ease of care and culture.

This is an informational article about cattleya orchid care. Cattleya orchids are probably the easiest to care for and like all plants need water, light and fertilizer. Most of the wild cattleya orchids grow in the rain forests of South America, mostly in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico. They flourish in the Andes from altitudes near sea level to high altitudes of 9,000 – 10,000 feet. These orchids are truly epiphytes (air plants). They are used to being partly covered by the canopy of the rain forest and get considerable humidity and bright light. This is important to remember when caring for cattleya orchids.

Cattleya orchids generally do not require direct mid-day sunlight. It is bright light which helps them to develop hard pseudopods. The pseudopods are an orchid plants main way to hold water which is very important for their growth and bloom. It is from the pseudopods that the orchid flowers come from.

In the winter and higher altitudes these plants become accustom to temperatures which can drop as low as 50 – 55 degrees in the winter and as high as 80 – 90 degrees in the summer. The cattleya orchid should have some temperature changes to help it grow and bloom. Temperature variations of at least 10 degrees between day and night are ideal.

Humidity is the friend to cattleyas. Most cattleya orchids do well with being set on humidity trays. These are metal or plastic trays that are filled with pepples and then half full with water. The plant roots cannot sit in water for a long period of time or else they will get root rot. Allow for good air circulation but not directly aiming at an air vent.

Generally, watering is important when caring for cattleya orchids. Twice a week does well during their growth and flowering period and once a week during their resting period. Cattleyas are orchids that can and should get dry between watering after blooming. This aids in the growth of healthy pseudopods. Be sure that the potting medium allow the water to drain out fairly rapidly. To check to see if a plant needs water stick your finger about 1 inch into the potting material and see if it comes out dry or damp. If your finger is dry the orchid probably needs watering. If it is damp it may be able to go another day or two without water. When watering orchids allow the water to flow into the plant and then drain right out into the sink and not directly on the humidity tray. You can let the water flow on the plant for about 30 seconds and the pseudopods will get enough water for storage.

If plants blossom in the winter or spring this means that these orchid plants need a resting period of about 6 to 8 weeks. During this time water them about once a week and keep the lighting the same.

If the plants blossom in the summer time no resting period is needed.

Fertilizing should take place about every other week with a balanced formula like 20-20-20. If the orchid plant is flowering you can fertilize with a blossoming mixture with a higher nitrogen factor, e.g. 30-10-10.

With these rather simple and easy steps of caring for cattleya orchids you will see beautiful blooms for many years.

Cattleya Orchid Plant Care

Care Instructions for a Cattleya

These care instructions are written specifically for our cattleya orchids. Other growers may have different care requirements for their plants based on how they have grown their orchids. If you have a Brennan’s Orchids cattleya, these rules will help you keep it happy and robust.

Rule No. 1: A mature cattleya likes to just dry between waterings. When the mix is dry ¼ to 1/3 of the way down into the pot, it’s time to water. Take the pot to the sink and water the pot with tepid water until water is pouring out the drainage holes. Let the plant stand and drain thoroughly. Do not let water pool and sit in the crevices of the leaves. This could cause crown rot, which is almost always fatal.

Rule No. 2: Give the plant the proper light. This is very important for flower production. An East, West, or lightly shaded South-facing window will be fine. Avoid direct sun during the harsh “skin cancer” hours.

Rule No. 3: Regular meals all year long, please. Your orchid does not go dormant. When not full of buds and blooms, your orchid is growing roots, pseudobulbs, and leaves so it will have the energy to put out more blooms the next cycle. Feed your plant every other watering with a balanced (20-20-20) plant fertilizer mixed at ½ strength or a balanced orchid fertilizer.

Rule No. 4: Your plant is potted in an orchid bark blend. Repot your plant every other spring; increasing the pot size just enough to fit the new air root growth into the pot. Moisten the mix prior to use. Pot the plant so that the mix is firm but still airy. Do not center the plant in the pot, but offset it a bit so it has room to put out lots of pseudobulbs.

Rule No. 5: When in bloom, your cattleya will need to be protected from cold drafts or very dry air. The blossoms are sensitive to these conditions.

Cattleya Orchid

The Orchid Queen

Cattleyas are among the most commonly grown orchids, and their culture is often used as the basis for comparison with other types of orchids. Like most other cultivated orchids, cattleyas are epiphytes, or air plants. They have well-developed water-storage organs (called pseudobulbs) and large, fleshy roots. The discovery of Cattleya was an accident. In the nineteenth century, a moss and lichen collector just grabbed some random sturdy leaves in the forest as packing material to protect his collections en route from Brazil to England. A horticulturist, William Cattley, saw the strange packing material and decided to grow it. Few years later, the strange plant produced some stunning blooms that rocked the world. The genus was therefore named Cattleya as a tribute to William Cattley, and the plant was then named Cattleya labiata. From then on, people started the crazy hunt for wild orchids in South America. Cattleya orchids are still considered the benchmark of orchids. Today, there are old-school growers that will give advice by saying “Care for this orchid just like a Cattleya except a with less light” or “this species need the same as temperature as a Cattleya”.


The best place in the home is a south or east, west or lightly-shaded window where the light is bright but not direct. Direct sunlight for long periods can cause burn on the leaves of most orchids. As long as the foliage is not damaged the brighter the light the better. Sunrooms, bay windows or a screened in porch are also good places to grow these. Sufficient light is important for healthy growth and flower production. In a greenhouse, about 30 to 50 percent full sun. Under lights, four 40 watt fluorescent tubes and two 40 watt incandescent bulbs directly over plants. Plants should be naturally erect, without need of much staking, and of a medium olive-green color. Dark green, limp foliage indicates too little light.

Mature plants need a 15 to 20 F difference between night and day. Provide Nights of 55 to 60 F; days of 70 to 85 F. Cattleyas can tolerate temperatures up to 95 to 100 F if shading, humidity and air circulation are increased. Seedling cattleyas need temperatures five to 10 degrees higher than mature plants. Large standard cattleya require a night time drop in temps to promote flowering their season. If you keep your thermostat the same year round, day and night, your cattleya may not bloom. Keep out of cold, dry air while in bloom. Cattleyas especially must adhere to the common ‘wet-dry cycle’ many orchids need.


Mature plants must dry out between waterings. Seedlings need more constant moisture. When watering these orchids, it is best to drench the potting mix thoroughly and wait until the center of the pot is relatively dry before watering again. Most mature orchids in fir bark-based mixes will need watering no more than once every 5 to 7 days. Smaller pots and miniatures may need water as often as every 4-5 days. The more overgrown or pot-bound your plant is the more water will be needed. If you consistently keep the potting media wet through the middle of the pot, the roots will eventually succumb to rot and the plant will start to decline.

Cattleyas need 50 to 60 percent. In the home, place on trays over moistened pebbles. In greenhouse, us a humidifier if conditions are too dry. Some growers use “humidity trays” or trays of wet gravel around or under the plants. Pots should not touch the surface of the water.


Must be provided on a regular basis because most potting media have little, and the exact fertilizer you use will depend on the mix in which your plant is growing. A good general rule is to use a balanced (10-10-10, 12-12-12 or similar ratio) fertilizer “weakly, weekly.” That is, fertilize every week at one quarter to one half of the recommended dilution. All plants can be fertilized safely with a weak solution of urea-free fertilizer such as Growmore 20-10-20 or Dyna Grow Orchid Pro 7-8-6 once a month. Always water before fertilizing and remember that it is better to under-fertilize rather than to over-fertilize. With the lower light and drier conditions in the home, orchids cannot use as much fertilizer as they can use in the greenhouse and only every 6-8 weeks might be necessary for happy plants.

They should be potted in a porous, free-draining medium. The most commonly used are fir bark, shredded tree-fern fiber, various types of rock, processed coconut fiber and/or mixes based on peat moss and perlite. Whenever you repot your cattleya, never allow for more than two years worth of growing room. Sometime this means only changing an inch or so in pot size at repotting time, which should be done every two to three years in spring before mix loses consistency (breaks down). Pot firmly in media that have good aeration and ample drainage, allowing enough room for two years’ growth. Miniatures and young seedlings should grow in smaller pots with finer media and larger standard sized cattleyas will prefer bigger more open media.


Cattleya Orchids….

The plants produce strong ‘pseudobulbs’ topped with one or more leathery leaves.
Each year a dormant bud at the base grows into a new shoot. This thickens to produce the current year’s pseudobulb. The flowers arise from the axil of the current year’s leaf where a protective sheath usually develops, and come in a range of colours from white and pink to green and purple, depending on the parentage and genera. Some flower twice yearly.
Hybrids. Multitudes of hybrids have been bred over the years, many of which are easy to grow and easy to flower. Over 40 other genera of orchid have been cross bred with Cattleyas and Laelias, and notably among them Sophronitis has been used to introduce scarlet and Brassovola for the frilly lip.
Temperature and Humidity. Minimum night temperatures of 10 -15 C, depending on the plants’ origin, are needed, but growth in summer is rapid at temperatures up to 26 C. A humid atmosphere, propelled by a fan is beneficial.
Light requirements. For best results, the normal maximum is 50% of full daylight or 2000-3000 foot candles. In hot weather shade sufficiently to ensure that the leaves are cool to the touch. If you are growing in the home give a bright situation but not direct sunlight, behind a net curtain, from April to September.
These also make good conservatory plants as long as summer shade and good air movement can be provided.
Watering and Fertilising. From March to September the compost should never be allowed to dry out completely. Water twice weekly and fertilise fortnightly with a recommended orchid fertiliser. From October to February, no fertiliser is needed, but water the plants when the compost appears dried out. It is better to underwater as the plants can stand neglect more than over watering!
Compost and potting. A medium bark mix will do well with added polystyrene spheres or perlite to keep it open. Chopped sphagnum helps retain humidity and some charcoal keeps it ‘sweet’.
New compost will keep the plant growing for two to three years before it turns acid and the plant needs repotting. Don’t repot until the plant roots are likely to go over the sides of the current pot and the best time to repot is when the new roots are just beginning to appear at the new shoot’s base.

If the plant has over eight pseudobulbs, the thick rhizome can be cut to give two equal sized plants which can be potted separately.

Categories orchids, culture, cattleya orchids, orchid society, north of england.

Growing and Blooming Cattleya Orchids

By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin

Blc Orchid Turner’s Ace
‘Tropical Treasure’

Blc Orchid Hawaii Stars
‘Pink Lace’

Orchid Mist

Cattleya Orchid Hagan’s Ace
‘Mandarin Orange’

Cattleya Orchids are some of the most beautiful orchids in the world. Their stunning colors make them beloved jewels of the jungle. To understand their culture and care we need to look at their native habitat. They grow in the upper story of the jungle forest canopy and are epiphytes. They need a porous potting mix and should never sit in water. Cattleyas also grow as rhizomes; that simply means their stem runs along the ground or tree trunk from which arise pseudobulbs and leaves.

Level Cattleyas need high light, high enough to turn the leaves pale in color not a deep green. This is healthy. If you see cattleyas with a deep green leaf color, then they are not getting enough light.

Cattleyas grow best in day temperatures that range from 65° to 85° with the minimum night temperature around 55°. We recommend night temperatures above 60°.

They need periods of dryness between waterings and should never sit in a saucer of water. Basically the potting medium should be brought to near dryness between waterings.

We recommend growing in clay pots so water is wicked away from the root system, keeping the plants healthy. The potting media in clay pots dries out quicker and this makes for healthier roots.

There are several types of orchid fertilizers available on the market including those to promote growth or bloom. We recommend a dilute fertilizer solution every other watering. Then flush with clear water between fertilizer applications. Orchids are meager feeders but they do benefit from fertilization.

With good care and culture, cattleyas will flower reliably once, or even twice, a year. As new growth matures, the flower buds form where the leaves meet the pseudobulb. In some varieties the floral sheath will emerge along with the maturing growth. Others varieties will wait until there is a seasonal change in daylength before the flowers begin to grow. It’s always the older leaves and stems that produce the energy for next year’s bloom.

Cattleyas have rhizomes that grow in one direction. They generally need to be repotted so they don’t run out of their pot. Sometimes bark or coir potting media can get too old. When the media breaks down then moisture is held against the roots and the root system can be damaged. At the time of repotting, divide the plant up so there are at least three mature pseudobulbs and leaves. This provides enough energy to the plant for the ensuing year’s growth so it’s strong enough to produce flowers. Cattleyas should not be grown in soil or potting mix. Plant them in coir chips, fir bark or loose clay aggregate so there is plenty of air for the roots.

Tips on re-potting
Cattleya orchids need to be held securely in the pot. Tamp down the media firmly. Even old roots can help anchor the plant into the new pot.

Plants are generally not pruned, however, flowers and the old flower stems can be removed after blooming.

If Cattleyas don’t re-bloom, it’s generally a light level issue. They are not a low light plant and need to be grown in a south, southeast or southwest window. Too much sunlight can burn the leaves, but make sure your leaves look yellow. People generally think yellow leaves indicate that the plant needs fertilizer, but this is perfectly natural for cattleyas.

They are not too susceptible to pests. There are some insects that can get on them. But generally they are pest free.

Fungal diseases
Occasionally black spots appear on the leaves but if they are in warm enough temperatures and are able to dry down between waterings, then you should not have fungus problems. Root disease can be an issue but proper watering and an occasional repotting will eliminate it.

Biggest Challenge Roots are the key to having a healthy Cattleya. You must have open air media that is not decomposing and do not let cattleya orchids sit in water.

Bloom Frequency

I recently purchased a beautiful red cattleya orchid. The plant has done very well for me and, since blooming, has produced three new pseudobulbs. Can I expect more flowers soon? Drew L
Cattleyas have the flowering characteristic where by they only bloom on their newest leaf growth or pseudobulb. This process occurs at the same time each year and is individual to the plant. For example, a cattleya that blooms in July this year will bloom again each July forever. (The exception is the miniatures which can bloom several times a year). Larger plants, which have multiple pseudobulbs, are capable of producing a stunning display of flowers as all the buds open at once. It is rare, however, to have the pseudobulbs mature and bloom out of synch with each other. In your case, the three new pseudobulbs, when fully mature, will likely just sit there until next year when they burst forth with blooms. Orchid growing requires patience but once a year, your cattleyas will reward you for your efforts.

The blooms of my phalaenopsis dried up and fell off. A week later, one of the leaves turned yellow and also fell off. I thought the plant was gone. Now I’ve noticed a new green double shoot coming
up. What is happening? Nancy M
It is perfectly normal for a phalaenopsis to lose a leaf or two during the summer, after it blooms and, as it prepares to grow new leaves on top, provided the plant has at least three leaves remaining. (A plant with only one or two leaves is stressed out and requires immediate attention such as repotting into sphagnum moss or changing the environment). The new shoot that you describe sounds like a new plantlet emerging from the base which sometimes happens if the center of the plant (crown) cannot produce new leaves due to damage or rot. All is not lost, however, since the new shoot has all the energy of the mother plant and draws on the large root system within the pot to grow a replacement plant relatively quickly. In all likelihood, those small leaves will grow large by winter and the plant will bloom on schedule.

I received an orchid about a year ago and it seemed to bloom forever. Now what do I do with it? Soil, water, sunlight? Carol K
Ideally, it would be nice to know what kind of orchid you have since the growing requirements vary considerably within the orchid family. Most likely though, your orchid is one of the five popular genera available today – Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium, Paphiopedilum, or phalaenopsis. There should be a plant label in the pot that, at least, identifies the general orchid type if not the complete botanical name (genus, hybrid, variety). In the event that there is no label in the pot, try to identify the plant by consulting an orchid book or viewing a website (search ‘orchids’). Here is some background information that you will need: All the popular orchids mentioned above are epiphytes (grow on trees) or semi-terrestrials and require a potting media that is somewhat airy. Soil is too dense and will smother the roots. Typical orchid media is cypress or fir bark chips, peat moss, or sphagnum moss. Some orchids do not need to be repotted for several years while others need fresh media yearly. The watering schedule is practically the same for the five popular genera – drench thoroughly once or twice a week. The sunlight requirements are critical to good growth and blooming – Cattleya, Dendrobium, Oncidium are intermediate light and Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis are low light.

How to grow cattleya orchids – planting and care guide

Orchids are among the most beautiful and unusual flowers in the world. They have been used for religious ceremonies and decorative purposes for hundreds of years. The climate around Brisbane and the coasts is ideal for growing orchids.
The Cattleya Orchid was named in 1824 as a tribute to William Cattley of England. The plant originates from Central and South America. Long before the Europeans came to the area, the local people knew and used them in various ways for ceremonies and for decoration.
The right growing conditions will help the plant to grow well and flower regularly year after year. The ideal condition will be achieved in a normal growing house that has 50% shade cloth on the top, east and northern sides, with a more solid wind protection on the south and west sides, for example a paling fence or some fibreglass sheeting. The floor should be gravel or similar substance that will create a moist atmosphere. The plants should be on benches or preferably hanging, to help control snail damage. Alternatives to a shade house would be a patio or balcony with 50% shade, or a sunroom with the plant sitting above a tray of water to give a moist atmosphere would be suitable also. Orchids do not like direct sunlight as it burns the foliage. All orchids must be protected from winds.
Cattleyas like to be watered well, and then allowed to dry out before the next watering. So water every second day with increased watering in Summer and less in Winter. Water misting under benches is favourable.
When the flower sheath swells and the buds emerge, bring the plant in out of the weather and keep the flowers dry to prevent bruising.
When the plant grows over the side of the pot, remove the plant and if necessary divide it. Always have three bulbs – the lead bulb and two bulbs behind it in a clump. If this is not possible, do not divide the plant, just repot it as is into a larger container. Use a commercial mixture, such as Searles Orchid Mix for Cattleyas and put charcoal, polystyrene or bark into the bottom of the pot to assist with drainage. Place the plant into the container with the oldest bulbs at the edge of the pot and the new growth in the middle. The plant should be at the top of the mixture, not buried in it. Place a stake into the pot and tie the plant loosely to it for support. The best time to repot is in Spring or after flowering.
To promote healthy growth of your cattleyas, feed with Searles Flourish Orchid Booster and SeaMax Fish & Kelp regularly. To boost flowering supplement feeding with Searles Liquid Potash prior to flower bud development.
To control mealy bugs and scale use Searles Pest Gun. Use pellets to control slugs and snails. Fungicide all orchids every 4-6 weeks with Searles Mancozeb. Also be aware of attack from thrips or red spider. A periodic spraying with David Grays Malathion & White Oil spray will act as a deterrent to these pests.

For brilliant results with your Cattleyas:

  • Repot with Searles Orchid Mix for Cattleyas.
  • Feed with Searles Flourish Orchid Booster and SeaMax Fish & Kelp.
  • Use Searles Pest Gun to control mealy bugs and scale and check fungus with Searles Mancozeb. David Grays Malathion & White Oil will deter thrips and red spider.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *