Plant DetailShow Menu

Cattleya trianae

Phonetic Spelling
KAT-lee-yuh try-AN-ay-ee
Description

Christmas Orchid is a lavender-white flowering, tropical epiphyte orchid native to Columbia with succulent light green leaves. An epiphyte grows in the branches of tall jungle trees where its fleshy rhizomes wrap around the branches for stability. It gets its nutrients from the air, water and decaying plant matter that collect around the rhizomes. The plant requires quick draining soil, high humidity, specialized light requirements, and high temperatures. However, Cattleya are among the easiest orchids to grow and the reward is a spectacular, fragrant flower. The plant is the national flower of Columbia chosen because the lip of the flower is yellow, blue and red, as is the Colombian flag. The species was named after the 19th century Colombian botanist Jose Jeronimo Triana. The species is listed as endangered because of habitat destruction.

Christmas Orchid grow best in bright, indirect light and the leaves will be lime green in color when the light levels are optimal. A dark leaf indicates insufficient sunlight.  A south-facing window works well and most plants will need 5,000 fc (foot candles) of light intensity to flower consistently (full, direct sunlight is approximately 10,000 fc by comparison). As a house plant, it requires a potting soil of open rooting compost (for example, coarse redwood or fir bark, epiphytic orchid mix) for circulation of air and water. The plants tolerate temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees F and prefer higher humidity levels. Humidity can be achieved by placing a saucer filled with medium sized pebbles under the plant. Keep a small amount of water in the saucer but never allow the pot to sit in water. The rhizomes very quickly succumb to root rot. If that isn't enough to maintain the right level of humidity, mist in the morning so the leaves can dry out before the temperatures drop at night. A mature plant will need water once a week. Let the potting mix mostly dry out between waterings, but never let it fully dry. Water the plant by placing it in a sink and running a not too strong stream of lukewarm water through the pot for a minute or so. Let the pot drain well before returning it to it's place. Do not use salt-softened water or water cooler than 50° F. Do not use ice cubes.

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, 1-3 inches thick, are food and water storage organs that also bear the flowers on single naked stems. 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. Only divide if there will be least 4-5 pseudobulbs per division.

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#houseplant#perennials#specimen#purple flowers#colorful#epiphytic#pet friendly#hanging baskets#moist soil#endangered#well-drained soil#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#houseplant#perennials#specimen#purple flowers#colorful#epiphytic#pet friendly#hanging baskets#moist soil#endangered#well-drained soil#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:
    trianae
    Family:
    Orchidaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Columbia
    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
  • 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
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    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
    Rubbery
    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