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Pronounced KAT-lee-ah

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).


Pronounced: mas-deh-VALE-lee-ah


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.


Pronounced mil-TOH-nee-OP-siss

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 temperatures rise.

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 medium.

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 roots.


Pronounced paph-e-oh-ped-ilum

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.



Temperature Requirements


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.



Zygopetalums are moderate feeders and will do well with the same fertilizer growers use for cymbidiums. We recommend a well-balanced, 10-10-10 orchid fertilizer, applied as a liquid about twice a month.

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