[KAT – lee – uh]
CONDITIONS The Cattleya family is indigenous to Central and South America and range from warm to cool growing varieties. The plants are epiphytes or lithophytes, growing on trees or rocks. Commonly known as the corsage orchid, they can be huge or petite, but always beautiful. Cattleyas need to be undercover in Tasmania as preferred minimum temperatures are 10C through to highs of low 30’s. They need good light with the leaves being a medium green. Too dark, there is not enough light.
PROPAGATION Cattleyas make successive new growths called pseudobulbs from the previous years’ growth. They are easy to divide by back-cutting through the rhizome, which forces the plant to send out a new shoot from the base behind the cut. Once cut, then leave undisturbed until new growth is well advanced before potting the divisions.
Potting Mix: Cattleyas can be grown on a mount, imitating a tree, or in pots, either plastic or terracotta. Potting medium is usually pine bark nuggets, the bigger the plant, the coarser the bark. Smaller plants use a finer bark. Allow enough space for 2 to 3 years growth, ensuring the back of the plant is to the edge of the pot. Do not bury the rhizome in the mix, imitating how it would grow on a tree and re-pot when the root system is showing, so the roots can continue down into the mix for food and moisture.
Watering: Cattleyas need regular watering through Spring to early Autumn, easing off as winter arrives and any cold period. On hot days, keep the humidity high by placing buckets of water around the growing area and water the ground below the plants. Never water overhead when hot midday as the water in the leaf axis will heat and burn the plant tissue and may cause irrepairable damage to the plant. Best to water early morning or alternately when the sun sets if a warm night’s forecast. Mature plants will appreciate drying out a bit before watering again.
Fertilizing: Regular fertilizing is recommended with either a high Nitrogen liquid form fortnightly or use a pelleted chicken manure, at the suggested rate, applied to the top of the pots. Reapply the pellets six weekly from Spring when new growths show through to late Summer. A bloom booster applied in Autumn, which is higher in Potassium and Phosphorus, will assist in stimulation flower spikes.
Flowering: With a large collection of Cattleyas you will have flowers throughout the year, though there is not much movement during our colder months.
Problems: Watch out for mealybug, aphids and scale. Treat with recommended application on the pesticide of choice. Eco Oil is a good product. Overhead watering will cause spotting on blooms, so just water the pots. Air circulation is important, remembering that they grow up in the trees in their natural habitat.