in ,

How to Grow Cattleya Orchid

Sharing is caring!

Cattleya are the most popular and best-known orchids. Cattleya is known as the queen of orchids. Cattleya flowers are commonly used for corsages.

Cattleya is an excellent choice for novice orchid growers though it can be difficult.

Cattleya bear leathery leaves and a stem topped with one to four or more flowers. The flowers can be three-lobed or entire. They are borne in terminal racemes. Flower colors range from lavender and purple; white with colored lips; hybrids can be yellow, orange, red, green, or bronze.

Cattleya flowers last about two weeks, but if you touch them they will age prematurely.

Cattleya can be grown as houseplants. They need warm temperatures–70°F or warmer during the day, humidity of 50 to 60 percent or more, and good bright light.

Cattleya is a genus of about 40 species native to tropical Central and South America. Thousands of Cattleya hybrids have been produced.

Get to know Cattleya 

  • Plant type: Cattleya is an epiphyte with a sympodial growth habit and pseudobulbs 
  • Temperature: Day 70° to 85°F (21° to 29°C); night, 55°F (13°C).   
  • Height and width: 12 to 30 inches (30-75cm) tall and 12 to 18 inches (40-45 cm) wide
  • Foliage: 1 or 2 semi-rigid leathery, oblong to broadly ovate glaucous mid- to dark green leaves.
  • Flowers: Large, showy flowers with 3-lobed or enire ruffled lips borne in termial racemes.
  • Flowering time: Once flower buds have formed, it takes from 1 to 2 months for them to open. The flowers appear pale and limp at first, but within 2 or 3 days the color deepens and the flower firms up. Flowers last from 10 to 14 days.  
  • Common name: Cattleya
  • Botanical name: Cattleya 
  • Family name: Orchidaceae
  • Origin: Tropical Central and South America

Where to grow Cattleya 

  • Cattleya are commonly grown indoors. In mild winter regions they can remain outdoors year-ground, usually in pots. They should be brought indoors on cold nights.
  • Light: Cattleya needs bright light from southern exposure, year-round; shade from strong summer sun at midday. Does well under artificial light (especially hybrids), needing 12 to 16 light-hours daily. Good circulation of fresh air.   When light intensity is too low, leaves turn dark green and new growth is soft. Foliage will bleach out if given too much sun.
  • Soil: Osmunda fiber or orchid bark mix. Can be grown in pots or hanging baskets or on slabs of tree tern fiber.    
Cattleya labiata
Cattleya labiata

How to water and feed Cattleya 

  • Moisture: Water Cattleya freely in summer, about once a week. Let the growing medium nearly dry between thorough waterings. Mist frequently. Humidity, 50%.  Water sparingly in winter.
  • Feeding: Give Cattleya a balanced all-purpose fertilizer with each watering while in active growth.   

Cattleya care 

  • Grooming: Repot Cattleya when the plant completely overcrowds pot, or when growing medium has deteriorated, about every two years. Repotting is best done just prior to outset of active growth, when new roots are first visible.   
  • Seasonal Care: Cattleya need short to long rest period after they finish flowering. The rest period lasts a month or two.. Once buds have swelled, reduce water and withhold fertilizer.  

Growing Cattleya as a houseplant

  • Give Cattleya direct light, a warm room, and high humidity.
  • If the light is too intense, the normally yellow-green leaves will turn more yellow. If the plant does not get sufficient light, it may not flower.
  • Use an orchid growing medium, one containing extra fir or redwood bark or osmunda fiber.
  • Fertilize Cattleya monthly from midfall to mid-spring and twice monthly at other times of the year.
  • When plants are in bud or in bloom, keep the soil evenly moist; at other times, allow the medium to dry slightly between waterings.
  • Stake the stems for support.

Cattleya pests and diseases 

  • Check Cattleya for bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, mealybugs, scale, slugs, snails, whiteflies.    

Cattleya propagation 

  • Division of pseudobulbs when roots on newest growth are just starting, leaving at least 3 bulbs in each division.   

Cattleya varieties to grow 

  • Cattleya  bowringiana grows to 36 inches (1m) tall and half as wide; two narrow, oblong leaves; clusters of 10 to 25 glistening flowers on erect or aching stalks; petals and sepals are pink or puple; lip is light pink on outside with golden yellow throat; blooms in late fall and winter.   
  • C. gaskelliana is a small, compact plant grows to 14 inches (36 cm) tall; bears 3 to 6 flowers; ruffled petals are medium to dark mauve; mauve lip is ruffled, with light yellow to orange throat; blooms in summer.  
  • C. intermedia  grows 10- to 15-inch (25 to 38 cm) tall; bears 4 to 10 flowers ; petals and sepals are pale pink; lip is white with dark purple markings and pale yellow throat; flowers in summer.   
  • C. labiata  grows 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 cm) tall; bears 2 to 5 flowers with ruffles petals; flowers are rosy pink with dark purple lip and deeply ruffled edge and yellow throat; blooms in fall.   
  • C. mossiae, Easter orchid, grows 12- to 18-inch (30 to 46 cm) tall; bears 3 to 7 blooms; mauve petals are ruffled; showy, ruffled lip has orange throat with dark purple veining and mottling; flowers in spring.   
  •  C. percivaliana, Christmas cattleya, grows 12 inches (30cm) tall; bears rosy lilac flowers with a distinct scent; fringed purple lip has deep purple streaks and dark orange throat; blooms in winter.   

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

How to Grow Ferocactus – Barrel Cactus

18 Cactus and Succulents to Grow as Houseplants