Pink cattleya orchid in flower. Photo Getty Images.

How to grow cattleya orchids

Find out all you need to know about growing cattleya orchids, in this detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flowers
Flowers

Plant does flower in January

Plant does flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does not flower in June

Plant does not flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does flower in October

Plant does flower in November

Plant does flower in December

Divide
Divide

Do not Divide in January

Do not Divide in February

Do not Divide in March

Do not Divide in April

Do Divide in May

Do Divide in June

Do Divide in July

Do not Divide in August

Do not Divide in September

Do not Divide in October

Do not Divide in November

Do not Divide in December

Cut back
Cut back

Do not Cut back in January

Do not Cut back in February

Do Cut back in March

Do Cut back in April

Do not Cut back in May

Do not Cut back in June

Do not Cut back in July

Do not Cut back in August

Do not Cut back in September

Do not Cut back in October

Do not Cut back in November

Do not Cut back in December

Cattleya orchids are tropical plants that produce exotic, glamorous, often frilled flowers. They’re traditionally used as corsages for special occasions. There are 70 species, mostly from south and central America, but many more hybrids are grown as houseplants.

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Cattleyas are epiphytic plants and, in their native habitats, grow clinging to trees and rocks, taking nutrients and moisture from the warm, humid conditions of the surrounding rainforest. It’s possible to mimic these rainforest conditions when growing cattleyas as indoor plants. The flower stems produce between two and eight flowers, depending on the variety of cattleya and there are many different colours to choose from, so they are well worth the effort.

Grow gorgeous cattleya orchids, with the help of our Grow Guide, below.


Where to grow cattleya orchids

Grow cattleya orchids in a warm, bright spot, but away from direct sunlight, particularly through the summer. Minimum night temperatures of 10-15ºC are needed, along with a slightly humid atmosphere. Some air movement from a fan is recommended.


Planting cattleya orchids

Planting a moth orchid into orchid compost
Planting a moth orchid into orchid compost

Cattleya orchids grow well in pots with bark and rocks or perlite, which is as close as we can get to recreating their natural growing conditions. You can mix up your own or buy commercially made compost. Cattleyas can be grown in normal terracotta pots, but grow better when space is restricted, so don’t choose a pot that’s much bigger than the root ball.


Propagating cattleya orchids

Cattleya flower stems develop from a pseudobulb that grows from a new bud at the base of the plant. Mature plants may have lots of pseudobulbs – if there are over eight, you can divide the thick rhizome to make two plants for potting on. Divide when the plant isn’t in flower.


Cattleya orchids: problem-solving

Mealybugs on a leaf
Mealybugs on a leaf

Look out for mealybug or scale insects. Both are small sap-feeders and can be tricky to spot, often choosing to lodge themselves in crevices, so inspect closely. Heavy infestations of either are difficult to treat, so you may be better off getting rid of the plant. You could also try a biological control such as ladybirds or parasitic wasps.


Caring for cattleya orchids

From March to September water cattleyas twice a week. Feed with orchid fertiliser every two weeks. In winter, water when the compost looks dry – it’s better to under- rather than overwater. Cut back the new flower spike after flowering. Repot your orchid every two to three years, although not because plants look pot-bound. When you see the roots wrapping around the base of the plant it’s the way plants might grow in the wild if they were clinging onto a rock or tree.

Relate content: Advice on caring for orchids


Cattleya orchids to grow

Cattleya 'Green Mist'
Cattleya ‘Green Mist’
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  • Cattleya ‘Green Mist’ – the white flowers have a brilliant crimson lip
  • Cattleya mossiae – large flowers in colours from yellow to lavender
  • Cattleya bowringiana – the spikes of this species can carry as many as 20 of the vivid pink flowers at a time, from autumn to winter. It will tolerate lower temperatures if kept quite dry
  • Cattleya bicolor – this is one of the bifoliate group, with smaller flowers, but more of them. Colours range from green to yellow, brown pink and lavender
  • Cattleya ‘King of Taiwan’ – a beautiful hybrid with rich purple flowers