Cattleya Orchids

The fascination for Cattleya Orchids has remained unchanged since the 19th century. The ornamental plants, with their exceptionally large and beautiful flowers grow well as houseplants and are an eye-catching beauty.

Oct 15, 2020 08:32 pm
readtime icon 8 Minutes
Growth type
  • rhizome
Growth height (from)
from 20 cm to 25 cm
Growth characteristics
  • upright
  • overhanging
Flower color
  • purple
  • yellow
  • orange
  • red
  • pink
  • white
  • brown
  • multicolored
Flowering time (month)
  • January to March
  • September to November
Flower shape
  • lip-shaped
  • multiflorous
Flower characteristics
  • strongly fragrant
Leaf color
  • green
page format
  • broad lanceolate
  • elliptiques
  • long
Sheet properties
  • evergreen
  • sunny to scattered light
Soil Moisture
  • moderately humid
ph value
  • weakly acidic
Nutrient requirements
  • moderately nutritious
  • low humus
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
  • picturesque growth
  • Scented plant
  • Bouquets
  • Interior greening
  • Planters
  • Winter garden
Garden style
  • Pot garden

Cattleya Orchids were the first Orchids, that stole the hearts of European plant lovers in the 19th century. The ornamental plants, originally native to South America, triggered an outright mania at that time and were often worn by aristocrats as a brooch. Since then, alongside the Phalaenopsis, they have been the epitome of an Orchid — and are still in great demand. Either as house plants or as decorative cut flowers: Orchid lovers will definitely find their personal favorite among the 45 species of this genus. Incidentally, it is named after the English Orchid collector William Cattley who was the first to successfully cultivate the beautiful exotic bloom in Europe in 1818.


All Cattleya Orchids have a sympodial growth pattern. This means that every shoot is fully grown and new shoots arise at the base of the old ones. They have clearly identifiable bulbs (pseudobulbs). In the wild they thrive as Epiphytes on trees. Some even grow on stones and rocks, hence they are Lithophytes. Most of the commercially available Cattleya Orchids reach a height of 9.84 inches..


At the top of the pseudobulbs you will find one or two green, leathery and fleshy leaves. The leaf shape is elliptical to broadly lanceolate. Depending on the number of leaves, a distinction is made between unifoliate (single leaf) and bifoliate (double leaf) Cattleya Orchids.

Cattleya purpurata
Cattleya Purpurata has relatively broad leaves and delicate white flowers, to which the intensely colored lip forms a wonderful contrast

Although the flower stems of Cattleya orchids are supported by the leaf sheaths, you should give the flowers additional support by tying them up. They grow quite big in size and usually stay on the plant for a few weeks. In case of multi-genus hybrids it can take up to four months. In general, they do not develop more than four flowers per stem. Smaller-flowered species and hybrids, on the other hand, produce up to 14 flowers, Cattleya Guatemalense produces over 20 flowers at a time. Flowering period is either in spring or fall. The beautiful ornamental plants come in a wide variety of colors - ranging from pink to yellow and orange, brown or red to a muted white. The flowers of some species are speckled or exude an intense fragrance. Some even fill out a whole room with their fragrance. Cattleya Intermedia exudes a particularly sweet-spicy and pleasant fragrance.


Cattleya Orchids can be planted indoors if they are kept at a moderate to warm temperature. Optimal room temperature is a constant 66 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity should ideally be 81 percent, if this is not possible, then at least 50 percent. In normal households, a mildly heated study is good for maintaining these exotic beauties.

The Cattleya Orchids should always be placed in a very bright location. After a short period of acclimatization, they can also tolerate full sunlight and can even thrive at south-facing windows from September to May. If they do not get enough light, the buds get stuck in the leaf sheath or only empty leaf sheaths are formed. Either way, the flowering phase does not occur.


For Cattleya Orchids, a substrate made of pure, very coarse bark has proven to be quite successful. Cover only the roots with planting material, the new shoots should be able to grow freely.

Cattleya Orchids thrive best on coarse bark
Cattleya Orchids do not need soil, they thrive best on coarse bark

Cattleya Orchids dry out quickly. Thus, it is essential to water them twice a week. Water the Orchids till the water flows out of the bottom of the pot. Water between the Orchids: The correct measure is crucial but the substrate should be able to dry out entirely waterings. The Cattleya can survive two to three weeks without water, if it is not the flowering period. Some Orchid owners do not water at all during winter. Additional spraying of the plants is usually not necessary even in summer.


Cattleya Orchids thrive best when the are fertilized optimally and regularly. Start fertilizing as soon as new bulbs grow. Fertilizer should be added to the substrate twice a month. Conventional Orchid fertilizers work well.


The best time to repot is when the new bulbs of the plants are approximately 1.96 inches tall and new roots have started developing. Fall blooming Cattleya Orchids sprout new bulbs in spring; spring bloomers sprout in late summer/fall. You can use this as a guide. Always choose a sufficiently large planter so that the plant can stay in it for three years.

To strengthen the plants, the oldest bulbs, which are already entirely without roots or leaves, are removed when repotting.. That way, the plant does not waste any more unnecessary energy on them and the new shoots are beautifully vigorous.


When the flowers have withered, the entire flower stems of the Cattleya Orchids should be removed. Another pruning is not required.

Further care

To stimulate flowering, a night temperature drop of at least five degrees Celsius is necessary. Maintain this for a few weeks.

A peculiar feature of the Cattleya Orchids is that you have to help the flowers to bloom fully from time to time. To do this, open the leaf sheath at the top with scissors so that the buds can bloom easily. A tip: Hold the plant against the light to see clearly how far the buds reach into the leaf sheath. This will prevent you from cutting too far.

Cattleya Aurantiaca in bright orange
Cattleya Orchids come in a multitude of colors: Here, you will see Cattleya Aurantiaca in bright orange

In fall or early winter, bunches with five intensely fragrant flowers appear on the flower stems of the Cattleya Labiata. The flowering period lasts almost two months. They come in a variety of colors, often seen with pink petals. The flowers of the Cattleya Bowringiana range from pink to purple; they are shiny with fine veins. The lip has a slightly darker shade. It blooms from September to November. Cattleya Cuttata, has dark red spotted flowers, the leaf margins are slightly wavy. The species, which is native to Brazil, has a blooming period from August to October. The Cattleya Aurantiaca are spring bloomers. It needs watering almost every day but it rewards the effort with extraordinary orange flowers.


Large Cattleya Orchids are propagated by vegetative division. To do this, use sharp scissors or a knife (both should be sterile) to separate the rhizome and replant it separately. Each section should have at least three pseudobulbs.

Diseases and Pests

The young shoots of the Cattleya Orchids are particularly susceptible to black rot. Day after day, infected plants become black and rotten. The only remedy is making a generous cut right into the healthy tissue. Apply some charcoal powder on the cut surface.