It is one of the most fascinating orchid genera that can be cultivated indoors. The cattleya orchid enchants the viewer with unusually large flowers and is the undisputed flower queen for many garden lovers. To date, 45 species have been recorded, which in turn have been refined into colourful, stunning hybrids. As glorious as its blooms may appear, it is sensitive to care and consistently demands an appropriate level of attention. The following care instructions would like to make a contribution to the cattleya orchid being able to develop its full beauty for a long time.

Caring for the Cattleya Orchid

In its South American homeland, the Cattleya orchid is mainly found on trees (epiphytic) or on rocks (lithophytic). Only a few of the 45 species feel comfortable there on the ground. Most Cattleya species and hybrids bred for Europe’s living rooms are epiphytic. The following care criteria play an important role:

  • Bright location without direct sunlight.
  • Normal potting soil is not suitable as a substrate.
  • Special orchid substrate from specialist shops or your own mix.
  • Clear planter supports photosynthesis.
  • Uniform heat not below 15° Celsius.
  • Ideal temperature during the growth phase 18° to 25° Celsius.
  • Slight temperature fluctuations between day and night promote flowering.
  • Water copiously during the growing season.
  • Allow the root area to dry completely before the next watering.
  • Use collected rainwater or softened tap water.
  • Never water cattleya orchids with cold water.
  • Increase room humidity with humidifiers.
  • Optionally place the planter on a saucer filled with water and pebbles.
  • The bottom of the pot should never stand in water, because waterlogging causes root rot.
  • Alternatively, spray the orchid from 21° Celsius with room-warm, low-lime water.
  • Water only moderately over the course of the two-month rest period.
  • Damage from drought is easier to repair than too much moisture.
  • Apply fertilizer at a low concentration every 14 days during growth.
  • Conventional liquid fertilizer is too salty and not suitable.
  • Use diluted special fertilizer, fertilizer sticks or homeopathic fertilizer spray.
  • Do not fertilize during the dormant phase.

The ideal substrate

Conventional potting soil does not meet the requirements of the cattleya orchid. If you don’t want to buy one of the rather expensive special substrates from the specialist trade, you can mix it yourself from the following components:

  • two parts well-seasoned bark
  • alternatively Osmunda fibers
  • part sphagnum (peat moss)
  • some perlite
  • a little horn or bone meal

Pine bark has proven its worth because it supports the loose, airy permeability of the substrate. However, the cheaper pine bark has also proven its worth. It is important that the surface of the bark is roughly structured so that the roots of the Cattleya orchid find a good hold. Osmunda fibers come from the roots of the royal fern. They are hard, brittle and promote aeration of the orchid substrate. However, this material is comparatively expensive and is therefore only rarely used in favor of pine or pine bark because the royal fern has been placed under nature protection. The moss should be purchased from specialist retailers because it is then sufficiently disinfected, which is not the case with moss you collect yourself from the forest.

Proper watering is not done on schedule

Unlike most flowering plants, there is no rule of thumb or even schedule for watering the cattleya orchid. This fact is not only a challenge for the beginner. A wide variety of factors determine when it is time to water the orchid.

The substrate should be almost dry, but not completely dried out. Experienced hobby gardeners swear by the weighing method to determine the exact time for the next dose of water. For this purpose, the orchid is weighed together with the plant pot immediately after watering; so it’s the hardest. After three or four days they are weighed again. If it hasn’t become noticeably lighter then, it’s not ready to receive the next ration of water, even if the substrate seems to feel dry. Over time, experience accumulates as to when the best time to water is. Then the orchid lover will also get a feeling for how to evaluate the other factors that play a role in watering a Cattleya orchid:

  • The pot size: the smaller, the more often it is watered.
  • The temperature: The warmer, the higher the water requirement.
  • The texture of the bark: the thicker it is, the faster it dries.
  • The growth phase: If the orchid is developing new shoots, it needs more water.
  • The season: the longer the days, the more water the orchid needs.
  • The substrate: The quality influences the water requirement.
  • The humidity in the room: if it is low, the orchid absorbs the water faster.

This multitude of criteria that influence the watering of the Cattleya orchid may be confusing at first glance and raise doubts in the hobby gardener that such a demanding plant can be cultivated at all; The fact is, however, that numerous field reports show that the garden lover enters into a real dialogue with his cattleya orchid over time and develops a feeling for what it needs at the moment.

Transparent plant pots – an advantage

In their subtropical homeland, the Cattleya orchids thrive mainly on trees, but not in a parasitic capacity, but simply because they are closer to the light there and receive the amount of water they need to survive. Their aerial roots, which they use to hold onto the tree, supply the Cattleya with the chlorophyll without which photosynthesis would not be possible. Without chlorophyll, no plant is able to form green leaves and flowers. The fact that their roots are in the ground without direct contact with light and air is therefore rather unusual for epiphytic orchids. Colored ceramic or clay pots may look more decorative, but for the reasons mentioned, they hinder healthy growth and lush flowering of the cattleya orchid.

Lately makes an alternative to the clear orchid pottalk about themselves, the Orchitop. It is a vessel whose wall consists of rods. The spaces in between allow the Cattleya’s aerial roots to grow outwards, giving them not only light but also air to breathe. In addition, the formation of waterlogging is virtually impossible in an Orchitop because the floor has a sufficient number of drainage holes. This not only eliminates one of the most common causes of death of an orchid, but also makes repotting easier because the aerial roots no longer grow down through the drainage holes, but sideways between the sticks. However, the purchase of an Orchitops is relatively expensive at a price of around 10 euros and is basically only worthwhile for those hobby gardeners who


Because Cattleya orchids grow primarily on trees and rocks, they are used to a low-nutrient environment. The roots are particularly sensitive to salt, a circumstance that also speaks against too frequent and too concentrated fertilization. Commercially available liquid fertilizer is out of the question, if only because of its high salt content. Special orchid fertilizers, which are available in liquid form, as fertilizer sticks or as a vital spray, are more suitable. In order to safely avoid harmful over-fertilization, the experts advise only ever administering 50% to 70% of the amounts specified on the packaging.

In order to ensure the existential calcium supply of the cattleya orchid, the irrigation water should be enriched with cottage lime. To do this, 1 g of slag lime is dissolved in 10 liters of rainwater, which takes 3 to 4 days. With conventional types of lime, the calcium does not split off and cannot be absorbed by the roots. In the case of slag lime, on the other hand, the calcium is bound to silicic acid and is therefore water-soluble. The result is strong roots and a healthy Cattleya Orchid that will thrive on many of its beautiful blooms.

Regular rest breaks

It takes a lot of energy for the cattleya orchid to form the beautiful, unusually large and colorful flowers. Therefore, like most other plants, she takes a break after the growth phase. As a rule, this takes place during the winter, but not necessarily, because the orchid itself determines when it is time and signals the transition to the dormant phase by the withering of the leaves and flowers. So there is no cause for concern when this process begins. Withered and fallen leaves and blossoms should be collected, as they may provide a shelter for lice. In addition, the Cattleya orchid regains its strength more quickly if it is a little cooler at around 15° Celsius, watered less and not fertilized. With regard to the resting phase, the orchid cannot be pushed into a fixed schedule. Several weeks can go by. Incidentally, the period of rest is ideal for repotting the orchid.


About every 2 to 3 years it is necessary to repot the Cattleya orchid. Either the previous planter has become too small or the pieces of bark on the substrate to which the roots cling have decomposed. The following materials are required:

  • fresh orchid substrate
  • sharp scissors or knife
  • alcohol to disinfect
  • new, only slightly larger planter

A quick water bath will soften the orchid’s roots, making them easier to remove from the pot. Now dry, rotten roots are cut off with disinfected scissors or a knife and old pieces of substrate are removed. Then part of the fresh substrate is spread on the bottom of the pot and the orchid is placed in the middle. The rest of the substrate is stuffed around them between the roots. It is very important that the roots do not suffer any damage. In the following two weeks, the orchid can then recover from the excitement and is only sprayed with soft water.

Cattleya Orchid – Species and Hybrids

A large number of charming hybrids have emerged from the known 45 species of the Gattleya genus. A few are presented below:

Cattleya Williette Wong

  • large, deep yellow, slightly wavy petals
  • Flower size 12 cm to 15 cm
  • Growth height up to 25 cm

Cattleya Floweringsize

  • Blossoms with a wonderful play of colors in shades of blue
  • Flower size up to 18 cm
  • Growth height 25 cm to 30 cm

Cattleya C. Green Emerald

  • light pink flowers with burgundy dots
  • pink pillar
  • dark pink lip
  • Flower size 12 cm to 18 cm
  • Plant size up to 25 cm

Cattleya Chia Lin

  • deep pink flowers with a ruffled edge
  • yellow-pink shaded lip
  • Flower size up to 23 cm
  • Growth height up to 30 cm

Cattleya Angel Kiss

  • Bright orange flowers
  • small yellow pillar
  • Flower size 8 cm to 12 cm
  • Growth height 20 cm to 25 cm

Cattleya Blc. Toshie Aoki

  • bright yellow flowers with a delicate dark red stripe down the middle
  • dark red column and lip
  • Flower size 10 cm to 15 cm
  • Growth height 18 cm to 25 cm

This list only serves as a small overview of the multifaceted play of colors that Cattleya orchids can conjure up.

It is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating flowers that Mother Nature has produced. The cattleya orchid represents the ultimate challenge for every hobby gardener in terms of successful cultivation. However, those who conscientiously deal with their origin, their way of life and their needs and follow these care instructions have good prospects of becoming the proud owner of an attractive one within a short time to be cattleya orchid.

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