The Cattleya orchid is also called the “corsage orchid” because in the old days fashionable ladies used to sport an oversized Cattleya corsage to special events. Even though it is not so common to wear corsages anymore, the Cattleya orchid is still extremely popular among amateur and professional growers. They are perfect as cut flowers because they are long-lasting and come in an array of colors. The blooms are usually quite big; I’ve seen enormous Cattleya flowers that are as big as my face. (And I don’t have a small face by any standard!)
The discovery of Cattleya was an accident. In the nineteenth century, a moss and lichen collector just grabbed some random sturdy leaves in the forest as packing material to protect his collections en route from Brazil to England. A horticulturist, William Cattley, saw the strange packing material and decided to grow it.
Few years later, the strange plant produced some stunning blooms that rocked the world. The genus was therefore named Cattleya as a tribute to William Cattley, and the plant was then named Cattleya labiata. From then on, people started the crazy hunt for wild orchids in South America.
To this day, Cattleya orchids still define orchids; they are the benchmark of orchids. You may hear growers say “grow this orchid like Cattleya except a bit less light” or “this orchids need the Cattleya temperature.”
Because Cattleya species are founded throughout tropical Central and South America, these orchids like intermediate to warm temperatures (55 to 65°F/13 to 18°C in winter nights and 15°F/10°C or so warmer during the day) and medium bright light.
At home, it’s best to grow your Cattleya orchid by the southern, eastern or western windowsills. Provide as much light as it can take without burning the leaves; touch them to make sure they are not hot. When the plant receives its upper limit of light, it will show you a reddish tinge.
Since Cattleya orchids are epiphytes, they like their potting material to dry out between watering. Or if you live in humid area, you can even mount your orchid on a slab of wood or on the tree in your garden. That way, you would never over water your plant!
Information supplied by Everything Orchids.