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Cattleyas, since the beginning of orchid cultivation, have been considered the undisputed  "Queen of Orchids". Surely, this is due to  their natural grace and beauty, as well as often almost intoxicating fragrances. Tens of thousands of plants were collected in the late 1800s to fill the demand by enthusiasts to cultivate these beautiful flowers. The genus, cattleya, so named in honor of Sir William Cattley, is not exceptionally large, but does include some of the most striking flowers, and varied cultivars. Cattleyas can be found in mountain regions from Mexico through Central America to the northern regions of South America. Varieties can vary from the very petite C. aclandiae to the massive C. guttata. The flowers can range from  huge clusters, as with C. bowringiana and C. leopoldii, to the attractive single flowered C. quadricolor. Of course, many of the species have a fantastic fragrance as well. This genus was almost solely responsible for launching the commercial orchid industry. In the 19th century, there existed an insatiable demand for these newly discovered plants by wealthy collectors. As time progressed however, a completely new industry began; the cut flower business. First established in England, this type of nursery production soon moved to America, where cut flower cattleya species were in high demand. By the 20th century, we could seed the building of quality orchid nurseries in places like New Jersey and Ohio and more. Almost none of these nurseries exist today, but we can credit them with the foundation of orchid growing in America.

It didn't take long for these original  American growers to begin a legacy of hybridizing. At the turn of the century and  beginning with primary hybrids, just one tentative step away from the species, thousands more crosses were soon created. Back then growers were driven to create a better cut flower as the demand for corsages was huge. After World War II, with the collapse of the English orchid industry, a noticeable change resulted in creating hybrids for orchid growing enthusiasts, rather than solely for the corsage market. We all owe a great deal of thanks to the pioneers of cattleya breeding such as B. O. Bracey, Ernest Hetherington, Leo Holguin, Eugene Finney, and more recently Gene Crocker. Times have changed and now modern hybridizing has moved from the majestic and often quite expensive, standard cattleya to smaller, faster growing  and more novel types of hybrids and so it is that today, there is a cattleya for everyone. Though controversial, meristemming, the mass production of single cultivars, has also transformed the marketplace, making cattleya hybrids widely available and selling for a very reasonable cost. For us, nothing is more enjoyable than growing new seedlings rather than clones. These new one-of-a kind hybrids not only offer a variety of flower styles,
but they also broaden the conditions which cattleyas can thrive, thus extending their popularity even more.


Temperature-- Since the group of cattleyas is so diverse, different species can grow under a wide variety of temperature ranges. However, some general guidelines apply to nearly all the species. As a rule, cattleyas thrive under what is called 'intermediate' conditions.  Simply put, if you are comfortable, the plants will be quite happy as well; day temperatures in a range of 80-85 degrees, with night temperatures in a range of 55-60 degrees.

Light-- This is a very important aspect for good cattleya culture as they require good strong light to grow well.Too little light will result in soft, weak growths that are not erect. Even if light is only a little too low it can result in plants not flowering. A good test is to hold your hand over your plant at mid-day; it should show a noticeable shadow. Growers often refer to this as 'bright' filtered light. For under light growers, you must make sure that the light level is sufficient thru the use of light meters. There are a number of books available to guide you.

Humidity and Air Movement-- Cattleyas prefer a fairly humid environment, especially during the growing season in Spring and Summer. It is advisable to keep the humidity level at least 50-60 percent for this period. As Fall and Winter arrives, a lower level of humidity an be tolerated. Again, make sure to ventilate your growing area to keep the conditions fresh to prevent many types of diseases and flower spotting.

Watering and Fertilizing-- Cattleyas are epiphytes and because of this they prefer some drying off between waterings. The roots are covered with a thick velamen to prevent water loss so don't panic and keep drenching  your plants. Also, consider their bulbous pseudo-bulbs as reservoirs that provide for the plants during times of stress.  Because of these attributes, cattleyas can be grown quite successfully on mounts. Although we do not advocate watering strictly by the calendar, watering potted plants once a week works as a general rule. Just remember that you may need to water more often in the warm months and less (and early in the day) when it is cooler. Cold wet plants produce disease. Remember to ferilize quite heavily during the growing season as cattleyas are heavy feeders and you want to develop strong new bulbs which will in turn, produce robust new flowers. Low levels of fertilizer can be applied in the winter.

Potting--For us, a medium grade fir bark is the best mix. There are many other options for the grower, so test out other products prudently. (Don't repot your whole collection until you have found that the new media is working for your conditions well.) We also like to add some charcoa to the mix. If you grow in wetter climates,like Florida, a more porous mix will be necessary, or even no mix at all! Do not overpot your plants. It is best to under pot rather than overpot. All orchids will grow best in a rather small pot. We recommend that you repot your plant when you see the new roots pushing; otherwise, the plant will sulk and do poorly for some time before growing into the new media and sometimes even spiral downward and fail to ever thrive.

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