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Brazilian Orchid Cattleya

Previously known as:

  • Brasilaelia Campacci
  • Cattleyella
  • Chironiella
  • Dungsia
  • Eunannos
  • Hadrolaelia
  • Hoffmannseggella
  • Lophoglotis
  • Maelenia
  • Schluckebieria
  • Sophronia
  • Sophronitis
  • x Brasicattleya Campacci
  • x Hadrocattleya
  • x Hadrodungsia
  • x Sophrocattleya
Phonetic Spelling
KAT-lee-yuh
Description

The Queen of orchids, corsage orchid or cat orchid (genus Cattleya, named for an avid English 19th century plant collector, William Cattley from Barnet in London) is a tropical epiphyte in the Orchidaceae family. It is native to the tropical New World, found from Costa Rica to Argentina. Having been avidly and recklessly collected during the 1800's, Cattleya is now on the CITES Appendix II. All Cattleyas for sale should now be produced in greenhouses. As an epiphyte it 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. All of this makes it a little tricky to grow at home – very special quick draining soil, high humidity, very specialized light requirements, jungle temperatures. However, Cattleya are amongst the easiest orchids to grow. And it is all worth it when you produce your first spectacular, fragrant flower.

 

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. The flowers come in just about every color except true blue and black. When a plant has seven or more pseudobulbs it can be divided. Each new plant must have at least three or four pseudobulbs.

The cultivation of Cattleya as a house plant requires just the correct amount of light. An East or West facing window is best. Direct sun will burn the leaves. A leaf with the right amount of sun is mid-green. A dark leaf has insufficient sunlight. The temperatures must be between 70-85° F during the day and 55-60° F at night. The humidity must be above 50%. This 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, 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. The plant must dry out completely between waterings. If you aren't sure, leave it two days. Most house plants are killed by overwatering. 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.

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

Quick ID:

  • Thin pseudobulbs that emerge from the rhizome
  • Thick, waxy leaves
  • Colorful flowers with wide segments

 

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

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
C. forbesii, C. labiata, C. mossiae, C. trianae
Tags:
#showy flowers#fragrant flowers#houseplant#perennials#specimen#colorful#epiphytic#hanging baskets#herbaceous perennials#large flowers#orchid#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#container plant#hsc#hsc-fl
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
C. forbesii, C. labiata, C. mossiae, C. trianae
Tags:
#showy flowers#fragrant flowers#houseplant#perennials#specimen#colorful#epiphytic#hanging baskets#herbaceous perennials#large flowers#orchid#non-toxic for horses#non-toxic for dogs#non-toxic for cats#container plant#hsc#hsc-fl
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cattleya
    Family:
    Orchidaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Tropical New World, Costa Rica to Argentina
    Distribution:
    Worldwide
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Epiphyte
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    High
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Orange
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Variegated
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Shape:
    Funnel
    Lipped
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    The inflorescence usually contains 2-5 flowers in a terminal raceme, though some species have tens of flowers per inflorescence. Only one stalk grows per pseudobulb. The inflorescence is enclosed in a sheath to support the weight of the flowers. The flowers are large and brightly colorful, most being between 4"-10" with some species as small at 2". The segments of the flower are wide. The lips will often contrast in color from the rest of the flower.
  • Leaves:
    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, one to six leaves per bulb. They are thick, waxy, and leathery, ranging from 4"-15" in length and 3" wide. 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