This section is from the book "The Standard Cyclopedia Of Horticulture Vol2", by L. H. Bailey. See also: Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts.
(William Cattley, an early English horticulturist and naturalist). Orchidaceae. Epiphytic orchids, requiring intermediate temperatures.
Pseudobulbs ovoid, clavate, fusiform or cylindric, short or elongated, smooth or furrowed, bearing 1-3 leaves: leaves coriaceous: flowers single or in clusters, borne usually at the apex of the pseudobulb, rarely on a leafy stem arising from the base of the pseudobulb, showy; sepals and petals similar or the petals much broader, membranous or fleshy; lip usually 3-lobed; lateral lobes commonly forming a tube inclosing the column, rarely the lateral lobes small; column clavate, fleshy; pollinia 4. - A genus of about 40 species, natives of continental tropical Amer., especially numerous in Brazil and in the Andean region. Innumerable hybrids and horticultural forms have been named, those of the labiata group alone running into hundreds. Showiest of all orchids, and of great commercial value.
The cattleyas are indigenous to the western hemisphere only, Central and South America being the regions in which they abound, particularly in the latter, from the different countries of which large quantities are imported yearly. During the last few years the collecting and importing of cattleyas into the United States has assumed large proportions, owing to a continually and steadily increased demand, not only by amateurs but also by the trade in general. There are two particular reasons for this increased demand: first, the exquisitely beautiful flowers, combined with size and marvelous colors adapted for decorations at all sorts of functions, are never out of place; second, their easy culture. Florists and amateurs alike are beginning to realize that, after all, orchids are plants, and if only treated in a common sense way they are by far easier to grow than a good many other plants, and especially so the cattleyas, provided some attention is paid to their requirements.
Cattleyas, as a whole, delight in a genial atmosphere, with all the air possible when the outside temperature will permit. In summer, from May on to the end of October, air should be admitted day and night; thus there are no temperatures to be prescribed for these months. Later, when artificial heat has to be depended on, 50° to 55° at night is the best, bearing in mind that the earliest species to flower may be kept at the warmer end, and the later summer-blooming species, such as C. Mossiae and C. gigas, may be wintered at the cooler end of the structure; thus beginning in autumn with C. labiata, C. Percivaliana, C. Trianae, C. Schrcederae, C. Mossiae, C. Mendelii; and, last of all, C. gigas, in their regular order of bloom, these may be treated according to their season of flowering. One cannot change the time of blooming of a cattleya, that is to say force it as other plants may be forced, without injury to the plants and a poor quality of bloom, but they are often retarded by systematic cooler treatment.
Plate XXIII. Cattleya Lawrenceana.
The best potting material is the soft brown osmun-dine, used alone with no sphagnum moss unless it is possible to make this moss live, and even then it is of no value to the plants except as an index to the presence of moisture. Moss that is dead and inert is a detriment in the potting material of all orchids. The one imperative thing in the potting of cattleyas is that they be made perfectly firm in their receptacles; if loose potting is practised, the young roots are injured each time the plant is handled, and the material is like a sponge, holding too much moisture in suspension for the plants to do well, and, given a time when the roots do not dry out quickly, all will soon die.
Newly imported cattleyas, as they arrive from South America, are usually much dried up, due to the treatment given before shipment to avoid loss by decay or fermentation on the way. If the plants are washed well with soap and water, placed in an airy shaded house for a few weeks and allowed to plump up again, roots will 60on be seen starting. At this time, pot each piece in a receptacle suitable to the size of the plant (never let it be too large, but always err on the minimum when in doubt), fill the pots half full of drainage if common flower-pots are used, and fill up with osmundine to the top, pressing this material in with a blunt-pointed stick so that the plant will be firm. Moisture from this time on for weeks may be applied by spraying overhead during bright days. If the pieces are large, baskets are preferable to pots, as there is more aeration through the material and the plants may be suspended and space economized. Newly established plants often bloom the first year, and one may get an idea of the infinite variety found among the plants, as no two are alike. Some districts known to collectors produce better forms than others, in fact, in certain localties, the plants found produce flowers of very inferior quality.
It is becoming more difficult to collect orchids, especially cattleyas from their native habitats, transportation not having improved and the distance to travel being greater each time. In consequence of this, hybridizers are now turning their attention to the reproduction of fine forms true to themselves, with considerable success, and should the supply of wild plants fail, there cannot now, in view of the well-understood and successful methods of raising cattleyas, be a time when the plants will be unobtainable. Considering the variation found among the wild plants, it is to be expected that home-raised seedlings will vary; but if the best-known forms are used, and these only are worth the trial, one may expect a large measure of success.
In our climate there is no period when the cattleyas should be kept dry at the roots. The plants are either getting ready to bloom, in crop, or recuperating therefrom, and these three periods cover the year. One does not have to resort to drying to attain ripening as do the European cultivators, and failure here is often traceable to foreign training or text-books.