This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
This beautiful genus of orchids is closely allied to Cattleya, and some of the Brazilian varieties are found in catalogues, sometimes as Laelias, and in others as Cattleyas. I think that they all come from Mexico and Brazil, except Loelia superbiens, which is from Guatemala. The difference between Laelias and Cattleyas is a botanical one, too scientific for the general amateur cultivator of orchids, for whose benefit these articles are intended. But a far greater difference is found in the manner of growth, and time of blooming, of the Mexican and Brazilian species. The Mexican species do not require as much heat as the Brazilian; bloom mostly in the Winter or early Spring, and have longer flower stems. The Brazilian species are stronger in growth and bloom mostly in the Summer or Autumn, and can be cultivated as the Cattleyas. The Mexican species, I grow both in pots, or on blocks of wood, or cocoanut husks, and find they do well either way, though the plants on blocks require more attention during the season of growth. I grow all Cattleyas and Laelias in the same house, giving the Mexican species the coolest place. They all want plenty of light, especially when they are making their growth, and maturing their bulbs.
If they are grown in too much shade, the growth will be watery, and very little success will be obtained in flowering them. These remarks are applicable to all orchids, that form bulbs.
When I first commenced the culture of orchids, though I made large growth, I was always disappointed in not getting bloom. A fact, that on imported orchids, very small bulbs showed signs that they had bloomed, led me to think there was a radical error in my management. I now give them all the light they will bear, even if the glass runs up to 90° or 95°. While I know that the direct rays of the sun does them no harm in their native habitats, I find that a little shade is advantageous in midday - say from 9 A. M., to 4 P. M. I have an awning on the outside, made of bagging stuff, which is open in its texture and gives a subdued light. I find this better than whitewash or any permanent cover. On cloudy days, or any time when the thermometer does not get over 75°, I keep it up. An awning 60x14 ft. of this material will cost about $8, and lasts two summers. The power of tropical light, and the long enforced rest by drought that plants are called upon to endure in tropical countries, are factors that are not sufficiently considered in our cultivation of plants under glass. No doubt most persons who have bought newly imported orchids, have noticed their shriveled condition, and supposed it caused by their being so long gathered.
The fact is, that it is caused almost entirely by the protracted droughts that they endure before they are gathered. I was once in Brazil, nearly four months at one time, and do not think we had four rains, and at no time was the thermometer below 65°, and up to 90° or 95°. One -can easily conceive what a parching it must be to plants growing on trees, from 10 to 50 feet from the ground, when every passing breeze takes away any little humidity that may arise from the ground.