CLAN Tropicals

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Dr. John Lindley erected the genus Cattleya in 1824. His original description was published in Collectanea Botanica. Dr. Lindley named the genus after William Cattley, who was one of the first horticulturists to grow epiphytic orchids successfully in England.

Members of the Cattleya Alliance are usually epiphytic, but some are lithophytic (growing on rocks). They possess thickened pseudobulbs with one or two leaves at apex. Their leaves are leathery in texture, thick and tough (coriaceous) or fleshy. They are sympodial in growth, with each new growth arising from the previous growth. In their natural habitat, members of the Cattleya Alliance grow on and along supporting surfaces, such as limbs and trunks of trees, in the tropical and subtropical Americas. Included in the Cattleya Alliance are species and hybrids of the following popular genera: Brassavola, Broughtonia, Diacrium, Encyclia, Epidendrum, Laelia, Rhyncholaelia, Schomburgkia, Sophronitis, and Tetramicra, as well as numerous man made hybrid genera. .


Members of this ALLIANCE can be grown in plastic pots, clay pots, wooden baskets or attached to some kind of slab. Ideal annual temperature range is 45°F to 90°F. A 10°F drop between day and night temperature is beneficial. Cattleya Alliance require conditions of good light and humidity, with plenty of water during growth. Some shade will be needed in summer to avoid leaf burn. When pseudobulbs are fully formed, less water should be given.


Cattleya Alliance members grow best in medium light intensity. If possible full eastern sun (morning), up until noon can be given. Unless protected, during the hottest part of the day, the flattened leaves will burn in full sun. Lime green colored foliage is an indication of proper light. Dark green foliage, while very attractive, is not conducive to the plant reaching their full blooming potential. Yellow colored foliage indicates too much light. Most members of this alliance can be successfully grown, and flowered, under lights. In very mild climates, most members of this alliance can be grown out of doors, with protection from the hot summer sun, and the colder nights of winter.


Plants should not be exposed to temperatures below 45° F (10° Celsius), but will tolerate temperatures up to 100° F ( 38° Celsius) for short periods. At higher temperatures, air circulation and humidity must be increased.


Cattleya Alliance enjoy frequent watering, during their growing period, but will not tolerate wet feet for extended periods. The frequency of watering is relative to the container, the temperature, air circulation, and the amount of water retained in medium in the container. Watering should be done, so the roots are approaching dryness, before re watering . In the warmer periods, several waterings a week can be done, without worry, if the roots can dry quickly.


Cattleya Alliance plants should be fed consistently, when in full growth. During the Spring through early Fall, fertilizing every seven days, with several clear waterings in between, will make your Cattleya Alliance plants happy. In the late Fall through Winter, a light feeding once a month will suffice.

  The fertilizer formula should match the potting medium. Use 20-20-20 with tree fern, charcoal, or various inorganic aggregates, but use 30-10-10 with fir bark. We recommend non-urea based fertilizers at half strength. Non urea fertilizers provide 100% immediately available nitrogen, which urea based fertilizers do not. We recommend Better Gro fertilizers , which also have micro nutrients. The micro nutrients provide strength for the new growth and support for the flowers.


Cattleya Alliance do not resent being disturbed, so re potting should be undertaken whenever necessary. The best time is after all flowering has ceased. To minimize root damage, a warm water soak for 10 minutes, will make most roots very pliable and easier to remove from the container.

The best potting container for Cattleya Alliance plants is clay orchid pots. The plastic pots are second choice and considerable cheaper. Water in plastic pots does not evaporate as fast as in clay pots, but if adjustments in watering frequency are made no problems will be encountered. Wooden baskets can be used to grow specimen size plants, as the plants can grow in the same basket for many years. The baskets allow free air flow over the roots, and eliminate over watering problems.

The potting medium must be well-drained, i.e. coarse fir bark, lava rock, river rocks, pieces of broken pottery, chunks of tree fern, hardwood charcoal, etc. so that the roots can be wet, but then dry quickly.

When dividing Cattleya Alliance plants, always divide into parts with four psuedobulbs. Remove any dead roots from the divisions, then lay the divisions aside until new root growth begins. At that time, usually a week or so, repot the divisions in their new pots. Now the plants can be watered and fertilized as usual, without worrying about rotting them, because they retained no roots in the division. Newly repotted plants should be placed in slightly lower light for several weeks


When you purchase a new plant, always place it where you can watch it for a couple of weeks until it is acclimated to your area. Initially, water the plant thoroughly and place it in a bright location with good humidity.

A preventative spraying of Orthene 75%, wettable powder or in aerosol, on maturing flower buds will prevent thirp damage, as well as aphids and ants. If insects are found on the open flowers, the same chemical can be used to eradicate the infestation, without damaging the flowers. Other insecticides WILL damage the flowers and should not be used. Use Orthene spray as recommended on the label. If using the aerosol, spray from at least a foot away from the flowers. In addition, Orthene 75% does not leave any unsightly residue.

Examine your plants on a regular basis. Always remove the dried sheathing from pseudobulbs to prevent buildup of moisture, and as a hiding place for insects. In nature, the breeze removes the sheath. In captivity, you must remove the sheath. The removal of the sheath also provides more surface for photosynthesis activity. Insects, particularly scale insects, find Cattleya Alliance plants attractive. Also slugs and snails will dine on these plants. Following the label recommendations on your favorite insecticide will usually solve any insect problem. 70% isopropyl alcohol and dish soap make a good alternative insecticide for small outbreaks.

Bud sheaths often collect water inside causing the new buds to rot. Cutting the top off the sheath will eliminate this problem. On occassion, a sheath will form without a bud evr forming. On the other hand some, because of their mixed up genetics, will form a sheath, then many months later form the flower buds.


  • All About Orchids, by Charles Marden Fitch
  • Home Orchid Growing, 5th Ed by Rebecca Northen
  • The Cattleyas and their Relatives, Vol. 1 by Dr. Carl L. Withner
  • Growing Orchids - Book Two, by J. N. Rentoul
  • Orchid of Brazil by Jim and Barbara McQueen
  • Encyclopedia of Cultivated Orchids, by Alex D. Hawkes
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Orchids, by Alec Pridgeon

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