Cattleyas originate from Central and South America. The English orchid collector William Cattleya gave his name to the Cattleya. The Cattleya is the national flower of a number of South American countries (including Colombia). The plants are epiphytes; in the wild they grow on trees.
Cattleyas are available all year round from the better florists and garden centres. The peak is in the spring and autumn.
Of all the orchids, the Cattleya has the most varied forms. There are large- and small-flowered Cattleyas. The small-flowered cultivars have more flowers per stems than the large-flowered cultivars. Cattleyas catch the eye with their spectacular colours. The flowers are often scented, particularly when they are placed in daylight.
All Cattleyas have fairly hard leaves. This indicates that they get comparatively large amounts of light or sunlight in their natural setting. The plant therefore also needs a lot of light here, but not bright sunlight. The Cattleya can be placed outdoors in the summer in mixed light and shade. The ideal temperature for the Cattleya is between 18 and 22 ˚C. The Cattleya flowers for two to three weeks.
In the winter you only need to water once every ten days. In the summer you can water slightly more often, depending on the position. Tepid rainwater is best for the plant. Immerse the plant until no bubbles are produced, and then allow it to drain well before replacing it. Give the plant special orchid food once a month. Feed the Cattleya a total of twice over the winter period.
After flowering treat the plant the same as during flowering. When the flower has finished blooming, it will shrivel of its own accord and drop off. There is no need to cut back the branch. A new shoot will appear at the bottom of the exhausted bulb (fully-grown shoot). A new flower stem emerges from the sheath at the bottom of the leaf. The sheath provides protection during the early stage. When the young shoot is fully grown, it will flower again. This entire process takes six to nine months.
Repot the Cattleya into a larger pot every two years. Use fine bark (pot soil) when the orchid has small leaves, and coarser bark when the orchid has larger leaves. It is important that you keep the plant growing vigorously, since only the new shoots produce flowers.