Plant DetailShow Menu

Cocktail Orchid Cattleya forbesii

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
KAT-lee-yuh FOR-bes-ee-eye
Description

Cocktail Orchid is an epiphytic orchid native to a narrow range of Brazil (Rio de Janeiro to Santa Catarina).  An epiphyte orchid grows in the branches of tall jungle trees where its fleshy rhizomes wrap around the branches for stability. The plant gets its nutrients from the air, water and decaying plant matter that collect around the rhizomes. The Cocktail Orchid has large fragrant flowers that have yellow-tan petals surrounding a central white tube with a yellow center. Cattleya orchids have been avidly and recklessly collected during the 1800's and they are now on the CITES Appendix II. All Cattleyas for sale should now be produced in greenhouses.

Growing in the branches of jungle trees and obtaining nutrients from the air make it a little tricky to grow Cocktail Orchids at home. However, Cattleya are among the easiest orchid species to grow. And it is all worth it when you produce your first spectacular, fragrant flower. Cocktail Orchids are typically grown in containers with potting soil of open rooting compost (for example, coarse redwood or fir bark, epiphytic orchid mix) for circulation of air and water. The plant needs partial shade and consistently moist soils and grow best in bright, indirect light; the leaves will be lime green in color when the light levels are optimal.  A south-facing window works well and most plants will need 5,000 fc (footcandles) of light intensity to flower consistently (full, direct sunlight is approximately 10,000 fc by comparison).  They tolerate temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees F and prefer high humidity levels.  Let the potting mix mostly dry out between waterings, but never let it fully dry, maintaining some amount of moisture at all times. 

The plant has three main parts – thick, fleshy rhizomes for support with a fleshy covering that acts as a water retention area, one or two leaves and pseudobulbs. The pseudobulbs, 1 to 3 inches thick, are food and water storage organs that also bear the flowers on single naked stems. Only divide if there will be least 4 or 5 pseudobulbs per division. Fertilize regularly after watering with a balanced fertilizer twice a month at half strength or weekly at quarter strength. Repot as needed (usually every two years) in spring or just before new roots sprout from the rhizome. Repotting is needed when the rhizome of the plant protrudes over the edge of the pot or when the potting medium breaks down and drains poorly.

Diseases, Insect Pests, and Other Plant Problems:

If kept outside, the plant may be attacked by slugs, snails, thrips, scale insects and mealy bugs. Search the plant periodically for spider mites. They can  be an indication of low humidity.

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Houseplants, Succulents, and Cacti", a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

More information on Cattleya.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#fragrant flowers#houseplant#perennials#specimen#white flowers#green flowers#yellow flowers#colorful#epiphytic#pet friendly#hanging baskets#moist soil#well-drained soil#cream flowers#herbaceous perennials#large flowers#orchid#partial shade tolerant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#container plant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#fragrant flowers#houseplant#perennials#specimen#white flowers#green flowers#yellow flowers#colorful#epiphytic#pet friendly#hanging baskets#moist soil#well-drained soil#cream flowers#herbaceous perennials#large flowers#orchid#partial shade tolerant#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#container plant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cattleya
    Species:
    forbesii
    Family:
    Orchidaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Brazil
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 3 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 3 in. - 2 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Epiphyte
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    High
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Lipped
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    A terminal raceme, only one stalk growing per pseudobulb. The inflorescence is enclosed in a sheath to support the weight of the flowers.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Waxy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Other/more complex
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves emerge from pseudobulbs and are thick, waxy, and leathery. The venation is parallel and the midveins are deeply impressed.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Hanging Baskets
    Houseplants
    Design Feature:
    Specimen