Cattleya Care – a bit more in-depth
This month we are going to go into some detail about the care of cattleya orchids. These orchids are probably the easiest to care for and like all plants need water, light and fertilizer. Playing some nice music or talking to them doesn’t hurt either.
Most of the wild cattleyas grow in rain forests of South America, namely in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico. They flourish in the Andes from altitudes near sea level to high altitudes of 9 – 10,000 feet. These orchids are truly epiphytes or air plants. So, they are used to being partly covered by the canopy of the rain forest and get considerable humidity and bright light to grow.
Being in the forest as noted above they are used to diffuse light, albeit bright light. They generally do not have direct mid day sunlight. The bright light helps them to develop hard pseudopods. The pseudopods are the orchids main way to hold water which is so important for their growth and life. It is from the pseudopods that the orchid flowers come from.
Being in the forest and at various altitudes there are a wide range of temperatures that these plants are used to. In the winter and higher altitudes these plants become accustom to temps which can go as low as 50 – 55 degrees in the winter and as high as 80-90 degrees in the summer.
Humidity is the friend to cattleyas. We can understand this from being in rain forests. Most cattleyas do well with being set on humidity trays. These are metal or plastic trays that are filled with pebbles and then half filled with water. The plant roots cannot sit in water for a long period of time or else they will get root rot. Allow for good air circulation but not sitting in direct aim of an air vent.
Generally, watering twice a week does well during their growth and flowering period and once a week during their period of rest. Cattleyas are orchids that can and should get dry between watering. This aids in the growth of healthy pseudopods. Be sure that the potting medium allows the water to drain out fairly rapidly.
To check to see if a plant needs water stick your finger about 1 inch into the potting material and see if it comes out dry or damp. If dry it needs watering. If damp it may be able to go another day or two without water.
When watering allow the water to flow into the plant and then drain right out into the sink and not into the humidity tray. You can let the water water flow onto the plant for about 20-30 seconds and the pseudopods will get enough water for storage.
If the plants blossom in the winter or spring, this means that these orchid plants deserve a rest period of about 6 to 8 weeks. During this time water them about once a week, and keep the lighting the same.
If the plants blossom in the summer time no rest period is needed.
Fertilizing should take place about every other week with a balanced formula like 20-20-20. If the plant is flowering you can fertilize with a blossoming mixture with a higher nitrogen factor, e.g. 30-10-10.
With these rather easy steps you will get many years of joy from your cattleya orchid plants.
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