Cattleya gets its name from John Lindley who named the flower after his friend Sir William Cattley. Cattley imported tropical plants to England from Brazil and noticed that a strange bulb was used as packing material. He cultivated this bulb and it grew into what is now referred to as ‘The Queen of Flowers.’ John Lindley was tasked with cataloguing and naming the plants for Sir Cattley and named the Cattleya labiata after his employer.
This species of orchid grows primarily in South America rainforests, although it has been cultivated across the globe. Cattleya, as well as a number of other plant species have adapted to growing on tree trunks, in boughs, and along branches in order to survive from over-crowding on the forest floor. They have adapted to draw the moisture they need from the air and dew, rather than through the ground.
The Cattleya is very close in appearance to what most people consider a ‘perfect image of an orchid’. Typically it has three narrow sepals and three slightly broader petals. The two petals are similar to each other while the third can have a frilly edge and sometimes a few markings as well. The colours of Cattleya range from whites and yellows, to deep reds and lavender, and keen growers should keep in mind that it can take up to four years for one of these orchids to flower.
Cattleya need tropical conditions to flourish and so greenhouses are required when trying to cultivate them in cooler climates. You can find Cattleya orchid bulbs in garden centres and online and there are a number of hybrid species available as well.
There are around 48 species of Cattleya orchid as well as a number of hybrid species. The most well-known hybrid species to combine with the Cattleya are Laelia, the Brassavola (also known as the Rhyncolaelia orchids) and the Sophronitis.
Despite its tropical origins, Cattleya is not fond of direct, intense sunlight and prefers shade during the hottest part of the day. Additionally, let your orchid dry before re-watering.
Did you know?
Cattleya has been hybridized for more than a century and now you can find many different varieties available to grow in your own garden.
You should sterilize all cutting equipment before you work on cultivating orchids to prevent the spread of viruses and disease.
Cattleya can grow tall so you should keep a few bamboo canes handy in case they require extra support.