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Cattleya orchid: Everything important from care to propagation of the exotic flower

Cattleya orchids (Cattleya labiata) are widely distributed in the tropical and subtropical forests. They can also be found in Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Guyana and Bolivia. Meanwhile, these exotic flowers can also move into your living room, no matter where you live. A cattleya orchid isn’t that hard to care for and can take a beating, but you have to know what you’re doing. Here is the most important information around sun/shade preferences, temperature, air circulation, watering, humidity, potting soil and fertilization.

The sun/shade preferences of the cattleya orchid

cattleya orchid location by the window

Cattleyas prefer sun in the early morning or later hours of the day. An east-facing window with morning sun is best, but if that’s not possible, a south-facing window is also perfect. In this case, make sure the orchid doesn’t get too much direct sun.

In general, cattleya orchids prefer a brighter location than the phalaenopsis (butterfly orchid) . If you have both types, you should place the cattleya closer to the light than the phalaenopsis, which prefers more shade.

cattleya orchid gets purple spots on the leaves

You can tell if the light conditions are right by the light green color of the leaves. If they are dark green, almost spinach green, then the orchid is not getting enough light. If it gets too much light, the leaves will turn yellowish-green and black to red-purple spots will appear.

Best temperature for the Cattleya orchid

Best temperature for the cattleya orchid

The cattleya orchid lives in the tropics and subtropics. So in a warm location. In the rainforest, daytime temperatures fluctuate between 25 and 30 °C throughout the year. However, this is a bit too uncomfortable for a living room or office, especially in summer.

At night, cattleyas like lower temperatures of 10-12 °C. The drop in temperature stimulates the flower buds. Keep your cattleya orchid near a slightly open window during the summer, where the cooler night air will do wonders for your orchid.

Air movement

At what time of year do cattleya orchids bloom


Another option would be to move the cattleya orchids outside (weather permitting). In most states, this is possible from late May to early October. In addition to the drop in temperature, cattleyas like wind movement best. Air circulation prevents water droplets from settling on the leaves and in the crown of the orchid, preventing problems with fungus and bacteria.

The moisture preferences of the cattleya

The humidity preferences of cattleya orchids

Cattleya orchids live in a humid environment with humidity between 40% and 70%. In an average German household, the humidity is around 40%. However, if you use a humidifier, you can be comfortable with up to 55%. Above this percentage, there is a risk of mold forming on a drywall and respiratory infection.

Watering Cattleya Orchid Properly

water cattleya orchid correctly


In general, no orchid likes water in the root crown where water can settle on the leaves. This leads to mold growth, and soon your orchid will rot. The same goes for the roots: don’t over water and allow time for your orchid to dry out well.

A good way to determine if your orchid needs watering is to test the potting soil with your finger. If it is moist, do not water. If in doubt, don’t water. If it is completely dry and you don’t feel any moisture, you should water. You can use distilled water, rainwater or regular tap water.

For beginners, start with a 5-day break between waterings, but don’t check the humidity until day 3. Larger orchids like a one-week break between waterings; younger orchids prefer to be watered twice a week. For smaller pots and miniature orchids, the time is much shorter, about 3 days. Larger pots take longer to dry out.

How often to water a cattleya orchid

How quickly the orchid soil dries out depends on the following factors:

Temperature – higher temperatures speed up the drying time
Air movement – stagnant air promotes moisture, which can lead to root rot
Light – direct sunlight causes the pot to dry out faster
Growth/rest periods – during rest periods, the orchid absorbs less water
Calendar – water less in the winter

As you can see, there are too many factors to successfully determine if watering once a week is right for your orchid.

The potting medium will determine how often you should water your orchid. The more sphagnum moss and charcoal in the substrate, the longer the moisture will stay in the pot. This is especially good for smaller, younger cattleya orchids, but the older they get, the less moss you will need to use.

What soil is best for cattleya?

What soil is best for the cattleya

When choosing potting soil, you need to pay attention to two things.

1) It must provide adequate air circulation. The roots should not be constricted by packing the substrate so tightly that no air can circulate freely.

2) Water should be able to drain away quickly.

To meet this requirement, pine bark, tree fern fibers or larger clay pebbles are a good addition to your orchid substrate.

Potting and repotting

repotting cattleya in plastic pot

As for the type of pot, many orchid lovers claim that their cattleyas prefer clay pots to plastic ones. For now, stick with a plastic pot with lots of slits or holes. In two years, when it’s time to repot the cattleya, you can go with a clay pot.

If you repot the cattleya in a clay pot, you will most likely have to break the pot open. This is better than trying to pull it out of the pot with a wedge, tearing and damaging the roots. The cattleya will slide out more easily in a plastic pot.

Choose a pot that the plant can grow in for 2-3 years. To estimate this, add the space that three pseudobulbs need to the plant and choose a pot of this size. Typically, cattleyas grow 1 or 2 pseudobulbs per year.

Divide Cattleya Orchid

cattleya orchid does not bloom

If you have a larger cattleya orchid and want to divide it, select a section with three or four pseudobulbs. A rhizome with only two pseudobulbs will not have enough energy for adequate growth and will likely die after division.

Wait until all the flowers have fallen off . For most cattleya orchids, this happens in late spring. After blooming, the dormancy cycle begins.

Do not water the cattleya for a week after repotting. If you have moistened the potting soil well before repotting, this will be sufficient for water supply. Also, at this stage, the risk of infection is greatly increased. Water will make it worse.

Another tip: always use sterilized utensils for each orchid. You can use alcohol, a flame or any other commonly known method of sterilization. You can also apply some cinnamon to the open “wound”.

Fertilize cattleya

Cattleya fertilize with a diluted NPK fertilizer

Choose a fertilizer that has a low concentration and a balanced NPK ratio, for example, 10-10-10 or 13-13-13. Always dilute the fertilizer to a quarter of the amount recommended in the instructions. Some orchid enthusiasts fertilize once a week or every other week with an extremely low dose. Too much fertilizer will cause root burn and promote salt buildup on the potting medium.

What time of year do cattleya orchids bloom?

Most cattleya orchids bloom only once a year

Most cattleya orchids bloom only once a year, usually toward the end of summer or in late winter. If you want to plant two orchids in one pot, this is good to know because you can plant two varieties with different bloom times together. While one is blooming, the other is preparing to bud.

How long do cattleya flowers last? One to three weeks. Although cattleyas grow slowly – five to seven years from seed to mature specimen – their blooms are worth the wait.