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Cattleyas and their related hybrids come in many colors, shapes, forms and sizes. Culture varies only slightly among most of these. This sheet is a general guide to basic cattleya culture. Like many other cultivated orchids, cattleyas are epiphytes, or air plants. They have developed water-storage organs, called pseudobulbs, and have large, fleshy roots covered with a spongy, water-retentive velamen. They are accustomed to being dry at the roots between waterings, and therefore should be potted in freely draining media.
Light is the most important factor in growing and flowering cattleyas, whether in a greenhouse or in the home. Bright light to some sun should be given to the plants, with no direct sun in the middle of the day. This means an east, shaded south (as with a sheer curtain) or west window in the home, and 50 to 70 percent full sun in a greenhouse (3,000 to 5,000 foot-candles). Leaves should be a medium green color, pseudobulbs erect and requiring no staking.
Temperatures should be 55 to 60 F at night and 70 to 85 F during the day. Seedlings should have night temperatures five to 10 degrees higher. A 15- to 20-degree differential between day and night is recommended, especially for mature plants. Higher day temperatures can be tolerated (up to 95 F), if humidity, air circulation and shading are increased.
Water should be provided in two ways: in the pot by watering and in the air as humidity. Mature cattleyas need to dry out thoroughly before being watered again. Seedlings need more constant moisture. If in doubt, it's best to wait a day or two until watering. Plants in active growth need more water than plants that are resting.
Fertilize on a regular schedule using a balanced fertilizer.
Repotting is necessary when the rhizome of the plants protrudes over the edge of the pot or the potting medium starts to break down and drain poorly (usually after two to three years).
Masdevallia is a genus of some 350 species usually from cool, misty mountains of the New World Tropics. Masdevallias are best known for their showy flowers consisting of sepals fused into a tubelike structure. Their origins in cool, damp environments make them an excellent choice for cool or coastal climates. Most species and hybrids are compact enough so that they can be easily grown on windowsills or under lights.
Light should be like that given for phalaenopsis and paphiopedilums —1,000 to 1,500 foot-candles. Masdevallias can be kept in light intensities up to 2,500 foot-candles if the growing area can be kept cool. Plants grow well under standard fluorescent fixtures. In the home, place in an east or shaded south window or under artificial lights.
Temperatures should be cool to intermediate. The plants will grow slowly and eventually expire if temperatures remain high for long periods. Cool evenings help reduce heat stress during the day. Nights of 55 to 60 F are ideal; day temperatures should be 65 to 75 F. Avoid day temperatures higher than 80 F.
Water is critical for these plants because they have minimal water-storage tissue. Roots should be allowed to become almost dry before watering again; if drainage is adequate, constantly moist roots are fine. Water at least every other day.
Humidity is an important factor in the successful culture of masdevallias. The ideal range is 60 to 80 percent. In the home, set the plants on trays of gravel partially filled with water. In the greenhouse or enclosed growing area, humidity can be increased by use of a humidifier, while evaporative coolers help raise humidity and lower temperatures.
Fertilize regularly with a dilute solution while plants are actively growing. A well-balanced fertilizer diluted to 4-4-4 should be used.
Potting is best done in the winter or early spring, before the heat of summer arrives or as new roots are produced. Plants must be repotted once a year, before the potting mix decomposes. A medium-grade potting medium, with some sphagnum moss, is best. The plant should be positioned in the pot so that the newest growth is farthest from the edge of the container, allowing the maximum number of new growths without crowding the vessel. Plants growing in many directions may be positioned in the center of the pot. Spread the roots over a cone of potting medium and fill in around the roots with potting medium to the junction of the roots and the plant. Firm the medium around the roots.
These striking orchids, which are also known as pansy orchids, are enjoying increasing popularity. In nature Miltoniopsis species grow on the western slopes of the Andes in Colombia, Panama and Ecuador. They should not be confused with the warmer and dryer growing genus Miltonia that grows in the Minas Gerais area of Brazil and more closely resemble large-flowered oncidiums.
Miltoniopsis have been extensively hybridized and some truly amazing, huge, brightly colored and patterned flowers have been created.
The three species from which the vast majority of Miltoniopsis have been bred originated in areas where the temperature ranges from the low 60s to the mid 80s. In our greenhouse they do quite well with temperatures that range from the mid 60s to the high 80s and an occasional low 90. In the winter the temperature sometimes drops to 50. They should be considered intermediate growers rather than cool growers.
The biggest difference between Miltoniopsis and most other orchids is that they like lots of water. Their natural environment is basically a fog forest. They get rain or heavy dew every day. In the home they should be watered well every 2 or 3 days. In our greenhouse during the summer we drench them every day. During the winter we cut back to every 2 or 3 days.
Light should be bright indirect. Direct sunlight for more than a short period can burn the thin leaves. The leaf color will tell you if they are getting enough light. The leaves should be a light green. If they are yellow-green they getting too much light and if the leaves are a dark green they are not getting enough light. They do very well in east facing windows and somewhat shaded southern exposures. Many people grow them under fluorescent lights.
They like good air movement and and moderate humidity levels. Because they like so much water it is important to repot them every year.
Fertilize at the same level as other orchids every few weeks with a well-balanced fertilizer diluted to a 4-4-4.
Oncidiums may originate anywhere from sea level in the tropics to the high elevations of the Andes. This makes cultural generalizations difficult.
Light Most will
thrive with one to several hours of early morning sun a day. Bright but
indirect light is good. In the home, east, south or west windows are ideal.
Many types of oncidiums will grow under artificial light: Four fluorescent
tubes supplemented with incandescent bulbs and placed 6 to 12 inches over the
plants are necessary for proper growth.
Temperatures for this group are generally considered intermediate
to warm: 55 to 60 F at night, and 80 to 85 F during the day. Temperatures up to
95 to 100 F are tolerated if humidity and air movement are increased as the
Water requirements vary with the type of plant. Plants with
large fleshy roots or leaves need less-frequent watering than thin-leaved or
thin-rooted plants. Watering should be thorough, and the medium should dry at
least halfway through the pot before watering again. This may be every two to
10 days depending on weather, pot size, type of orchid and type of potting
Humidity should be between 30 and 60 percent. Many oncidiums require less humidity than other orchids. Most greenhouses have adequate humidity. In the home, placing the plants above moist pebbles in a tray filled with water is ideal.
Fertilize regularly while plants are actively growing, about twice a month. Use a weak, well-balanced fertilizer.
Potting should be done when new growth is about one-half
mature, which is usually in the spring. Fine-grade potting media are usually
used with fine-rooted plants and coarser mixes with large-rooted plants; the
standard size is medium grade. The plant should be positioned in the pot so
that the newest growth is farthest away from the edge of the pot, allowing the
maximum number of new growths before crowding the pot. Spread the roots over a
cone of potting medium and fill in around the roots. Firm the medium around the
Paphiopedilums, the lady slipper orchids, originate in the jungles of the Far East including Indonesia. They are semiterrestrial, growing in humus and other material on the forest floor, on cliffs in pockets of humus and occasionally in trees. They are easy to grow in the home, under lights or in the greenhouse.
They require shady conditions, in the home in an east or west window, or near a shaded south window. In the greenhouse, shade must be provided. Give about 1,000 to 1,500 foot-candles. In the home, fluorescent lighting is excellent; suspend two or four tubes 18 inches above the leaves.
Temperatures for paphiopedilums cover a considerable range, but generally speaking, they like to be between 65 and 85 degrees.
Water must be available at the roots constantly, because all plants in this genus have no pseudobulbs. All of these plants need a moist medium - never soggy, but never dry. Water twice a week at minimum.
Humidity for paphiopedilums should be moderate, between 40 and 50 percent, which can be maintained in the home by setting the plants on trays of gravel, partially filled with water, so that the plants never sit in water. In a greenhouse, average humidity is sufficient. Using an evaporative cooling system in warm climates can increase the humidity. Air movement is essential, especially when humidity is high.
Fertilize twice a month with a well-balanced orchid fertilizer.
Potting should be done about every two years, or as the medium decomposes. Seedlings and smaller plants are often repotted annually. Mixes vary tremendously; most are fine- or medium-grade fir bark, with varying additives, such as perlite (sponge rock), coarse sand, charcoal and sphagnum moss. Moisture retention with excellent drainage is needed. Large plants can be divided by pulling or cutting the fans of the leaves apart, into clumps of three to five growths. Smaller divisions will grow, but may not flower. Spread the roots over a small amount of medium in the bottom of the pot and fill with medium, so that the junction of roots and stem is buried 1/2 inch deep in the center of the pot. Do not overpot; an average plant should have a 4- to 6-inch pot.
Zygopetalums are the among the easiest of the orchids to grow and are perfect companions for cymbidiums. Zygopetalums grow best under partial shade-partial sun conditions. Zygopetalums can tolerate considerable summer heat and winter chill without damage. Many growers leave their plants outdoors all year long.
Adequate light is the most important factor to grow and flower zygopetalums well. The plants grow best with 3000 to 4000 or more foot candles of light intensity as measured with a light meter. 50% lath covering or 55% to 65% shade cloth overhead provides this light intensity under most conditions. Plants grown outdoors will generally be a little more compact and will have tougher leaves than they will when grown indoors. During the summer, the leaves should be a yellowish green, not a deep green. Plants grown in too much shade will usually be a lush green and will often not flower well. Providing additional shade after the flowers open will hold the color and increase the flower life as well. If you provide extra shade for the flowers, remember to remove it when the flowers fall so that the plant will grow best for next year.
Zygopetalums like lots of water and prefer to be constantly moist, but not wet. During the growing season, water thoroughly at least once a week, more often in warmer or drier locations. Open or porous mixes needing more water than a heavy dense mix that retains a lot of water. Water thoroughly so that water runs through the pot and out the bottom. On hot days, the plants benefit from overhead misting or sprinkling to lower the temperature and increase the humidity in the growing area. During the winter, zygopetalums need less water, but should never be allowed to dry out completely.
These orchids are prized for their long-lasting sprays of flowers, used especially as cut flowers or for corsages in the spring. There are two main types of cymbidiums - standards and miniatures. Where summer nights are warm (above 70 F), only miniatures can be recommended, because these are more tolerant of heat.
Light is important for growing cymbidiums. Coming from cool and bright areas in Asia, they need high light but cool temperatures. In many southern climates, high summer temperatures, especially at night, may prevent the plants from blooming. The maximum amount of light possible, short of burning, should be given to the plants. This means only light shade during the middle of the day, or about 20 percent shade. In cool areas (such as coastal California), full sun is tolerated. Leaves should be a medium to golden green in color, not dark green.
During the summer, standard cymbidiums are usually grown outside in semishade, where day temperatures should be 75 to 85 F (or more), but night temperatures in the late summer to autumn (August to October) must be 50 to 60 F to initiate flower spikes. Optimum temperatures in winter are 45 to 55 F at night and 65 to 75 F during the day. When plants are in bud, temperatures must be as constant as possible, between 55 and 75 F. Miniatures can stand temperatures five to 10 degrees higher than standards and still flower. Most cymbidiums can tolerate light frosts and survive, but this is not recommended. Bring them inside when temperatures dip to 40 F. In mild climates, they can be grown outside year round. A bright and cool location inside is best for winter months.
Water so as to provide a constant supply of moisture to cymbidiums, which are semiterrestrial plants. They generally produce all their vegetative growth during the spring and summer and need the most water during that period. Water heavily during the growth season, keeping the potting material evenly moist. Reduce water when the pseudobulbs complete growing in late summer. Keep barely moist during the winter.
Fertilize year round with a weak, well-balanced orchid fertilizer, once every two weeks.
Potting is usually done in the spring after flowering, usually every two years or when the potting medium decomposes. Shake all of the old potting mix off the roots, dividing the plant if desired. Pick a water-retentive potting mix; medium-grade fir bark with peat moss and perlite is a common mix. Select a pot that will allow for at least two to three years of pseudobulb growth before crowding the pot. Spread the roots over a cone of the mix in the bottom of the pot and fill the container with medium, working it among the roots, tamping firmly. Single backbulbs need not even be placed in mix until new growth and roots are noted. Keep shaded and warm until new growth sprouts, and pot as above.
The Vanda Alliance, as this varied group of plants is called, is made up mostly of warmth- and sun-loving orchids with very colorful flowers. Originating from tropical Asia, they are easily grown in warm climates, where plants are grown outside in light shade, such as in a lath house. In climates where winters are cold, they are often summered outside, and grown inside during the winter in a sunny window, or year-round in a greenhouse.
LIGHT is a crucial factor in blooming some vandaceous plants. There are three types of vandas: strap-leaf, semiterete and terete. The first type has broader, flat leaves, while terete types have round, pencil-shaped leaves. The semi-teretes are hybrids between the two, with an intermediate shape. Terete types need full sun, and are best grown in high light climates. In warm, bright climates, you can grow any type of vanda, outside (if warm) with partial shade for strap-leaf types and semiteretes (especially in midday in summer) or inside (when cold) in a bright, south window. In climates where winters are dull, try strap-leaf types (or ascocendas); grow them outside in summer an in full sun inside during the winter. In a greenhouse, give the plants about 25% to 35% shade, less in winter if dull. Leaves should be a medium green, not dark green.
TEMPERATURE for most vandas should be warm; a minimum winter night temperature of 55 degrees F is recommended. Colder spells can be tolerated for a short time if it is not windy. Optimum temperatures are 60 degrees F at night, and a maximum of 95 degrees F during the day. Warmer temperatures mean faster growth, which must be balanced with higher humidity, air movement, and increased water and fertilizer. Days should be warm and humid for optimum plant growth.
WATER. Vandas generally like lots of water when growing, but must dry quickly. Because of this, and their extensive root system, they are mostly grown in slatted wood baskets, or in pots with a coarse potting medium. If warm and sunny, they may need daily watering, with misting several times a day in dry or hot climates. Water sparingly in the winter or during cloudy weather, but do not allow plants to shrivel.
HUMIDITY of 80% is ideal. In tropical climates this may be easy to obtain. Yet in most climates, misting may be necessary during sunny weather. In a greenhouse, this is easier to provide by wetting down the floor, or using an evaporative cooler. In the home, place the plants on trays of gravel, partially filled with water. Do not mist the plants if the leaves will not dry by nighttime. Air movement must be strong.
FERTILIZING. A well-balanced (3-3-3) fertilizer applied once a week is recommended when warm, or use 1/4 strength every watering. During cool or cloudy weather, apply fertilizer once every two to four weeks. Use a high-phosphorus fertilizer (such as 10-30-20) ever third application to promote blooming. A vitamin B1 compound may be beneficial; use it once a month.
POTTING Plants in baskets do not need to be repotted.
This one is a good orchid for growing in the home, and is also a favorite with many greenhouse growers. Well-grown plants can flower often, sometimes with a few flowers throughout the year, though the main season is late winter into spring. Average home temperatures and conditions are usually sufficient. Culture for Doritis, a related genus, thought by some to be conspecific with Phalaenopsis, and Doritaenopsis, a hybrid between the two genera, is the same as for pure Phalaenopsis.
Light is easy to provide for phalaenopsis. They grow easily in a bright window, with little or no sun. An east window is ideal in the home; shaded south or west windows are acceptable. In overcast, northern winter climates, a full south exposure may be needed. Artificial lighting can easily be provided. Four fluorescent tubes in one fixture supplemented by incandescent bulbs are placed 6 to 12 inches above the leaves, 12 to 16 hours a day, following natural day length. In a greenhouse, shade must be given; 70 to 85 percent shade, or between 1,000 and 1,500 foot-candles, is recommended. No shadow should be seen if you hold your hand one foot above a plant's leaves.
Temperatures for phalaenopsis should usually be above 60 F at night, and range between 75 and 85 F or more during the day. Although higher temperatures force faster vegetative growth, higher humidity and air movement must accompany higher temperatures, the recommended maximum being 90 to 95 F. Night temperatures to 55 F are desirable for several weeks in the autumn to initiate flower spikes. Fluctuating temperatures can cause bud drop on plants with buds ready to open.
Water is especially critical for phalaenopsis. Because they have no major water-storage organs other than their leaves, they must never completely dry out. Plants should be thoroughly watered and not watered again until nearly dry. In the heat of summer in a dry climate, this may be every other day; in the winter in a cool northern greenhouse, it may be every 10 days. Water only in the morning, so that the leaves dry by nightfall, to prevent rot.
Humidity is important to phalaenopsis, the recommended humidity being between 50 and 80 percent. In humid climates, as in greenhouses, it is imperative that the humid air is moving. Leaves should be dry as soon as possible, always by nightfall. In the home, set the plants on trays of gravel, partially filled with water, so that the pots never sit in water.
Fertilize on a regular schedule, especially if the weather is warm, when the plants are most often growing. Twice-a-month applications of high-nitrogen fertilizer (such as 30-10-10) are appropriate where bark-based media are used. Otherwise, a balanced fertilizer is best. When flowering is desired, a high-phosphorus fertilizer (such as 10-30-20) can be applied to promote blooming. Some growers apply fertilizer at one-quarter strength with every watering; this is best for warm, humid conditions. When cooler, or under overcast conditions, fertilizer should be applied twice per month at weak strength.
Potting is best done in the spring, immediately after flowering. Phalaenopsis plants must be potted in a porous mix. Potting is usually done every one to three years. Mature plants can grow in the same container until the potting medium starts to decompose, usually in two years. Root rot occurs if plants are left in a soggy medium. Seedlings usually grow fast enough to need repotting yearly, and should be repotted in a fine-grade medium. Mature plants are potted in a medium-grade mix. To repot, remove all the old medium from the roots, trim soft, rotted roots, and spread the remaining roots over a handful of medium in the bottom of a new pot. Fill the rest of the pot with medium, working it among the roots, so that the junction of the roots and the stem is at the top of the medium.
Dendrobium is a diverse genus of orchids with different cultural needs. Many go through a growth phase and then a rest phase during the course of one year, and must be given water and temperature to match these periods of growth and rest. Flowers can last one day to many weeks, depending on the type. Owing to the extreme diversity of the genus, we have categorized culture according to the following main types:
PHALAENANTHE Evergreen for several years, with thin, tall pseudobulbs, terminal inflorescences, usually appearing in the autumn or twice a year (see culture). Species such as Den. affine, Den. bigibbum (phalaenopsis), Den. dicuphum and Den. williamsianum.
Culture Grow warm year round (see below); 60 F nights; water and fertilize heavily when roots appear from new growth; medium light; reduce water and fertilizer after growth finishes. If a short (three- to four-week), cooler (55 F) dry rest is given, and then plants are warmed again (60 F mininum), another growth may mature during winter and flower in the spring. Treat this growth as a summer growth cycle. These grow well with phalaenopsis, except for the rest period. Plants will go deciduous if grown too cool and dry.
SPATULATA (Antelope Type) Evergreen for several years. Most are large, vigorous plants with long-lasting flowers in summer to several times a year. Species such as Den. antennatum, Den. canaliculatum, Den. discolor, Den. gouldii, Den. johannis, Den. lineale (veratrifolium), Den. stratiotes, Den. strebloceras and Den. taurinum.
Culture Warm all year (60 to 65 F nights, 75 to 90 F days); no rest period; can be kept cooler in winter if dry; medium to high light.
DENDROBIUM Most of the plants are pendulous, with leaves all along the canes that most often drop with onset of cooler, drier weather. One to five flowers per node are borne from the nodes of the leafless canes in midwinter through early spring.
Group 1 Species such as Den. chrysanthum, Den. friedricksianum, Den. nobile and Den.wardianum
Culture Growth period in summer; give warmth, water and fertilize heavily from when roots appear until top leaf appears on canes. Then give high light, little or no water, no fertilizer, cool nights (40 to 50 F). In other words, forget about them.
Group 2 Species such as Den. anosmum (superbum), Den. crassinode, Den. falconeri, Den. fimbriatum, Den. findlayanum, Den. heterocarpum (aureum), Den. loddigesii, Den. moniliforme, Den. parishii, Den. primulinus and Den. transparens.
Culture Same as Group 1, but winter nights 55 F. Deciduous species need virtually no water in winter.
CALLISTA Most are pseudobulbous plants with pendent inflorescences. Species such as Den. aggregatum (now properly lindleyi), Den. chrysotoxum, Den. densiflorum, Den. farmeri and Den. thyrsiflorum.
Culture Summer give warmth (60 to 90 F), medium light, medium quantities of water and fertilizer. Winter keep cool (50 F nights), medium light, just enough water to keep pseudobulbs from shriveling, no fertilizer.
LATOURIA Leaves at top of pseudobulbs are large and leathery, inflorescence erect, flowers commonly yellow-green. Species such as Den. atroviolaceum, Den. macrophyllum and Den. spectabile.
Culture Same as antelope types, but cooler and drier when resting in winter.
FORMOSAE (Nigrohirsutae Type) Canelike pseudobulbs, with black hairs on leaf sheaths and pseudobulbs often apparent, leading to the popular name nigrohirsutae. Flowers usually white, up to 4 inches across, two to three together from near the end of the pseudobulb. Long lasting. Species such as Den. bellatulum, Den. dearii, Den. draconis, Den. formosum, Den. infundibulum, Den. lowii, Den. lyonii, Den. margaritaceum, Den. sanderae and Den. schuetzii.
Culture Intermediate to cool year round, 50 to 60 F nights, maximum 85 F days. Water and fertilize when growing; give a slight short rest (dry) when growth is completed. Keep barely moist until growth starts again.
OTHER SPECIES Among the popular types are Den. linguiforme, Den. tetragonum, Den. gracillimum and Den. cuthbertsonii (sophronitis).
Culture Depends on the plant's native environment. It is generally safe to grow them intermediate to warm (55 to 60 F at night), drying them out in winter (or as growth stops). Hybrids between sections vary in culture.