Cattleyas are among the most easily recognized orchids. Like most other orchids, they are epiphytes, or air plants growing on trees in their native habitat. They have well-developed water storage organs called psuedobulbs, and large, fleshy roots. The flowers are usually large and showy. Depending on variety, they may come in almost any color from whites to pastels to bright, vivid oranges, reds and yellows. Cattleyas are used extensively in intergeneric hybridization.
LIGHT: Cattleyas like bright light, even some sun. In the home this translates to a sunny east, west or lightly shaded south window. Foliage should be a medium olive-green color. Dark green, limp foliage indicates too little light. Always provide for plenty of air circulation, especially in high light situations as this helps cool the leaves.
TEMPERATURE: Mature plants need a 15-20°F temperature difference between night and day. Provide night temperatures from 55° to 60° and day temperatures of 70° to 85°. Higher temperatures can be tolerated if shade, humidity and air circulation are increased. Younger, seedling sized plants require temperatures 5 to 10° higher than mature plants.
WATER: Mature plants must dry out between waterings. Depending on the potting mix and size of pot, this means once or twice per week watering. Provide 50-60% humidity. Humidity can be increased by placing plants on a humidity tray or on a tray of pebbles partially filed with water. Never allow the plant to sit directly in water. Feed with a balanced orchid fertilizer at 1/2 recommended strength at every watering. Flush with clear water monthly to remove excess salts.
Repot every two years in the spring when new growth begins. Use a porous mix that allows for good aeration and drainage. Use a pot that will allow for 2 years' growth.
Cattleyas are seldom available or on a very limited basis, usually in 5" clay pots.