The Cattleya Alliance Orchids

Cattleya alliance orchids are an easily grown and commonly available orchid group and some plants in this family bear some of the most ostentatious flowers. This family not only comprises the well-known Cattleya orchids, but also Laelia, a very similar group of orchids along with the extremely unpredictable Encyclia and Epidendrum.

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This family also includes orchids like Broughtonia, Brassavola, Caularthron (Diacrium), Sophronitis and Rhyncholaelia, which are not very popular on their own right, but play a very valuable role in developing complex collection of hybrids. All this plants have their origin in tropical America.

While some of them are found growing close to the sea level in moist heat, there are others that are found in their natural habitats in the high mountainous regions where the temperatures are cool.

However, all these orchids need bright light and have a preference for humid atmosphere. Nearly all of them are able to endure an assortment of conditions and thrive well in them. Hence, these orchids are an excellent selection for the beginners to try growing.

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Cattleya

The color of the flowers of new varieties of Cattleya orchids have a wide range from white to very pale pink to yellow, red, orange, deep purple, green and almost blue. The flowers of some species of Cattleyas are spotted, striped or flushed with deep green and bronze.

The lips of many of these flowers have strongly contrasting hues. While there are more than 50 original Cattleya species for enthusiasts willing to grow them, most of the plants that are on offer these days are actually more complex hybrids that have been developed by crossing several species, or also by crossing species belonging to different genera.

The cattleyas can be divided into two classes - unifoliates and bifoliates - for cultural purposes. Plants belonging to the unifoliate class have fat pseudo bulbs producing a solitary chunky and leathery leaf, while those in the bifoliate class have slender pseudo bulbs that are topped by two to three leaves.

The unifoliate cattleyas produce clusters of as many as two to six large flowers having flashy lips. On the other hand, the bifoliates produce larger clusters of relatively smaller flowers. Cattleyas have a love for sunlight and when these plants are grown indoors, ideally they should be placed in a south or west facing window.

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Plants in this family are known to be intermediate growers as far as their heat requirement is concerned. These plants require night time temperatures of 55°F to 60°F (13°C to 16°C), while the daytime temperatures rising by 15°F (9°C). Bifoliate plants perform best when they are grown at the higher end of this temperature range.

However, all the plants are capable of surviving at lower or higher temperatures. The growth of the plants will slow somewhat when the temperatures are low. At the same time, they would produce sparse flowers. When the temperatures are consistently high, these orchids will grow very fast, but again produce less flowers.

Infrequent temperatures of 95°F (35°C) for a couple of hours will not cause any harm to the orchids provided the level of humidity is high and there is good air circulation. You should always use bark or a bark-perlite mixture as the potting medium to grow Cattleyas and place the containers on the smaller side.

This will encourage the plants to produce more flowers, especially when the roots of the plants are confined in the potting mix. On the other hand, over-potting the plants may damage their roots owing to too much of wet potting mix. The key to growing cattleyas successfully is providing them with water in the right procedure.

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You need to ensure that the plants are dry between waterings. However, frequent watering is required when the weather conditions are warm and bright and the plants transpire freely during their active growth stage. On the other hand, you need to keep the plants dry during the winter months.

However, they should not be kept so dry that their pseudo bulbs begin to shrivel. As far as feeding the orchids is concerned, it is best to provide them with liquid plant food. As the nutritional value of the bark is very little, you need to feed the plants potted in bark frequently.

Simply speaking, feed the plants twice a month during spring and summer when they have rapid growths. Subsequently, reduce the frequency of feeding and provide them with fertilizers only once a month for the remaining part of the year. In case, the planting medium becomes too arid, you should water the orchids prior to feeding them.

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Cattleya aclandiae

Cattleya aclandiae is a bifoliate that produces short pseudo bulbs measuring anything between 3 inches and 8 inches in height. The pseudo bulbs produce two to three small roundish leaves, each measuring 2 inches to 3 inches.

The individual flowers of this orchid species measure 3 inches to 4 inches in diameter and are heavy in substance. The flowers are brownish green with closely spotted with deep purple. The lip of the flower is purple having dark veins and white lobes on the side.

The flowers are exceptionally fragrant and appear singly or in pairs on a stalk. The plants are in bloom either in spring or at the onset of summer. It is easy to grow this cattleya species and is prized as a parent for its short height as well as heavy substance.

Cattleya amethystoglossa

This cattleya orchid is a bifoliate. It is a tall plant growing up to a height of 40 inches and bears six to eight clusters (perhaps even more) white flowers. The individual flowers measure about 4 inches across and are very fragrant. The white flowers have speckled purple spots and a purple lip. The plants are in bloom in spring and at times in fall again.

Cattleya aurantiaca

This cattleya is a bifoliate and the plants grow up to a height of anything between 10 inches and 24 inches. The flowers are borne in clusters of eight to twelve and each measure about 1 ½ inches to 2 inches across. The color of the flowers varies from vivid orange to yellow to just about red. Cattleya aurantiaca plants are in bloom from February to March. Like several other cattleyas, this one is also easy to grow.

Cattleya bowringiana

Cattleya bowringiana belongs to the bifoliate class and the plants of this orchid species grow up to a height of about 2 feet, bearing anything between five and 20 rosy purple flowers. The individual flowers measure about 2 inches to 3 inches across.

A blue form of this orchid is a parent of Cattleya Portia. This is actually an early orchid that is still utilized to produce blue cattleyas. It is quite easy to grow Cattleya bowringiana.

Cattleya eldorado

This cattleya belongs to the unifoliate class and its pseudo bulbs grow up to a height of 3 inches to 6 inches and have a thick, 8 inch long leaf at their apex. The individual flowers of Cattleya eldorado measure about 5 inches to 6 inches in diameter.

The flowers are either white or white having shades of pale rose. The lip has a rich purple hue and its base is white with a yellow spot at its throat. A number of plants of this orchid bear pure white flowers with yellow blotches only on their lips. These orchids are in bloom either in summer or at the beginning of fall.

Cattleya gaskelliana

This cattleya species belongs to the unifoliate class and bears resemblance to C. labiata. However, the flowers of Cattleya gaskelliana are rather larger and paler compared to those of C. labiata. This orchid species is in bloom in summer.

Cattleya harrisoniana

Cattleya harrisoniana belongs to the bifoliate class and its plants produce slender pseudo bulbs that grow up to a height of anything between 10 inches and 20 inches and bear a pair of slender leaves, each measuring 4 inches in length. This orchid species is in bloom towards the end of summer and sometimes in other seasons too.

The individual flowers measure about 2 inches to 3 inches in diameter and have a purplish rose hue, while their throat is yellow near the lip. The texture of the flowers is quite heavy. Many are of the view that this orchid can be grown easily and brought to bloom without much effort.

Cattleya intermedia

Cattleya intermedia is a bifoliate and the plants of this orchid grow up to a height of 15 inches and bears two to five flowers, each measuring about 4 inches across. The flowers have a pink hue with purplish or whitish shading.

The flowers are fragrant and they bloom in spring. The petal tips have a splash of contrasting hues and are known as C. i. "Aquinii". In fact, this plant is the parent of many splash-petaled orchid varieties.

Cattleya labiata

The pseudo bulbs of this cattleya species is club-shaped that grow up to a height of 10 inches (25 cm). The pseudo bulbs of Cattleya labiata produce a solitary leaf and anything between one and five flowers, which emerge either a sheath or a sheath from inside the sheath.

The flowers are quite large, each measuring about 5 ½ inches (14 cm) in width. The flowers have variable colors ranging from white to pale pink to magenta. There are some similar species (some of which have been sometimes considered to be variants within a single species) and they include C. dowiana (bearing yellow flowers), C. mendelii, C, trianae, C. mossiae, C. warscewiczii and C. warneri.

All these variants of Cattleya labiata produce ostentatious flowers. All of them are or used to be, what many people would categorize as an orchid. These large flowered cattleyas are magnificent that are found in orchid collections in present times have their ancestors which have been in cultivation over a century back.

Cattleya leopoldii

Cattleya leopoldii belongs to the bifoliate class and produces slender, tall pseudo bulbs that can grow up to a height of 4 feet. However, usually they are shorter. The pseudo bulbs produce two to three tough and thick leaves on each growth. The leaves of this orchid are about 5 inches in length.

The flower spike is about a foot long and it carries up to 20 fragrant flowers, each measuring about 3 inches to 4 inches across. The flowers have a deep brown or greenish brown hue with light spots, while the purple lip has a white base. Cattleya leopoldii orchids are in bloom in summer.

Cattleya loddigesii

This cattleya is also a bifoliate and the plants of this orchid grow up to a height of about 15 inches. Each plant carriers two to nine purplish pink flowers with a paler lip. The individual flowers measure 4 inches in diameter. A pure white form of Cattleya loddigesii is C. I. alba. Another form, C. I. coerulea bears soft lilac blue hued flowers. The plants are in bloom either in fall or in winter.

Cattleya lueddemanniana

Cattleya lueddemanniana belongs to the unifoliate class and the pseudo bulbs of this orchid measure anything between 6 inches and 10 inches. Each pseudo bulb bears a solitary leaf, measuring about 5 inches to 8 inches in diameter. This orchid is in bloom in spring and each flower spike bears three to four potently fragrant flowers.

The individual flowers measure about 8 inches in diameter. The flowers have a pinkish purple hue with paler shadings. The lip also has a similar hue with yellow suffusion in its throat having a pattern of deep reddish purple lines near the tip.

Sometimes, a particularly white form of this orchid is seen. Unlike most other cattleyas, this orchid species has a preference for warmer conditions. The plants are in bloom in spring.

Cattleya luteola

Cattleya luteola is a dwarf plant that produces clusters of pseudo bulbs. The yellow flowers are borne in clusters on a short stem. The individual flowers of this orchid measures about 2 inches (5 cm). Generally, this orchid is not cultivated, but it is crossed with another species, Sophronitis coccinea, to successfully produce a hybrid called Sophrocattleya Beaufort.

Cattleya mendelii

This cattleya species also belongs to unifoliate class. Like C. labiata, this orchid bears large flowers, each measuring about 7 inches to 8 inches. The flowers have a light purplish pink hue, while to tip of the lip has a rich reddish purple color. Cattleya mendelii plants are in bloom from May to July.

Cattleya mossiae

Cattleya mossiae belongs to the unifoliate class and is similar to C. labiata. Like C. labiata, the flowers of this cattleya species are pink or purplish pink. The individual flowers measure anything between 6 inches and 7 inches. This orchid is in bloom in May and June. Occasionally, it is also known as Easter cattleya.

Cattleya percivaliana

Cattleya percivaliana belongs to the unifoliate class and its pseudo bulbs grow up to 6 inches in length. Each pseudo bulb gives rise to a solitary leaf measuring anything between 4 inches and 10 inches in length. The flowers are borne in clusters, each carrying two to four blossoms.

The individual flowers measure about 4 inches to 5 inches across. The flowers have a rosy lavender hue and the lip is deeper colored. The flowers of this orchid have a peculiar fragrance and they appear sometime around Christmas.

Cattleya schilleriana

This cattleya is bifoliate and its plants grow up to a height of anything between 4 inches and 10 inches. The leaves are 6 inches in length and sometimes they have red spots. The flowering spike is short and bears a couple of fragrant flowers, each measuring about 3 inches to 4 inches across.

The flowers are heavy and have a waxy texture. The color of the flowers of this cattleya caries from olive green heavily spotted with brown to deep purplish brown. The lip has a contrasting color - pale yellow, and is strongly marked with purple. This orchid is in bloom towards the end of spring and flowering continues till the beginning of summer.

Cattleya schroederae

Cattleya schroederae belongs to the unifoliate class. This orchid is similar to C. trianaei, but its flowers have a distinct fragrance with a more fully lip. At the center of the lip there is a deep orange hued blotch. This orchid is in bloom in spring.

Cattleya skinneri

This cattleya is a bifoliate and its plants grow up to a height of anything between 12 inches and 24 inches. The highly fragrant, rose purple blossoms are borne in clusters of anything between 5 and 19 flowers. The individual flowers measure about 3 inches across.

A variety of this orchid known as C. s. alba bears white flowers. Cattleya skinneri is among the orchids that are relatively easier to grow, as they can endure high temperatures as well as arid air. You will find this cattleya species growing in abundance in Central America. In fact, Cattleya skinneri is the national flower of Costa Rica. This orchid blooms in spring.

Cattleya trianaei

Cattleya trianaei belongs to the unifoliate class and its pseudo bulb grows up to a length of about a foot. The leaves of this orchid measures 6 inches to 12 inches each. The lavender hued flowers of Cattleya trianaei are borne in clusters of three to four.

The individual flowers measure anything between 6 inches and 9 inches across. The flowers appear in a variety of colors, including white to bluish purple. A white form of this cattleya is known as "Aranka Germaske". The plants of Cattleya trianaei are in bloom during winter and occasionally they are also referred to as Christmas cattleya.

Cattleya walkeriana

Cattleya walkeriana is a small orchid with an atypical characteristic for any cattleya. Instead of emerging from the terminal bud at the crown of the pseudo bulb, the flower stem of this plant arises from the base of the pseudo bulb. Typically, each flower stem carries two flowers that are relatively large.

The individual flowers measure about 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter, are of good substance and somewhat ostentatious. The flowers usually come in various shades of purple, but you may also find this cattleya species bearing pure white flowers. This orchid is crossed with Laelia pumila to develop Laeliocattleya Mini Purple, a much-awarded hybrid.

Some excellent forms of this orchid species have been developed by line breeding Cattleya walkeriana. The rhizomes of this plant are long, which is somewhat disadvantageous to grow this orchid. Owing to its long rhizomes, the plant is rambling by nature and grows very fast over the sides of the pot. This orchid is in bloom in winter.

Cattleya warscewiczii

Cattleya warscewiczii belongs to the unifoliate class and its pseudo bulb grows up to a length of about 4 inches. Each pseudo bulb of this orchid carries a solitary leaf that is about 8 inches in length. The flowers of this cattleya are large and can reach about 7 inches to 9 inches in diameter. The flowers have a purplish pink hue with a deep purple lip, which is bright yellow at its center. This orchid is in bloom in June and July.

Intergeneric Hybrids

There are about 60 intergeneric hybrids that are not only very popular, but are often found in genera such as x Laeliocattleya, x Epicattleya, x Sophrolaeliocattleya, x Brassolaeliocattleya, x Potinara and some plants with strange habits like x Wilburchangara and x Hasegawaara.

While there are numerous varieties as well as individual selections of these genera, actually very few of these are sold widely. The list given below mentions the hybrid genera that are more common together with the abbreviations that are generally used to refer to them.

There are too many individual plants and crosses (grexes) that it is not possible to name them all here. Hence, only a few of them, which are more common hybrids, are mentioned below. It is worth mentioning here that grexes are basically "flocks" of individuals, which may differ very much, even though any single member of these grexes may be an excellent plant.

Moreover, each grex name is likely to be succeeded by a number of names starting with single quotation mark (for instance, Brassolaeliocattleya Pamela Hetherington 'Coronation'). In fact, this ensures that the plant is genuinely superior.

x Brassocattleya (Bc.)

These plants are crosses between a cattleya species and any of the numerous species of Brassavola. Plants that have been developed from B. digbyana (presently called Rhyncholaelia digbyana) are identified by the large flowers borne by them.

Even the lips of their flowers are heavily fringed. Bc. Deesse is a very familiar grex. Hybrids developed from B. nodosa and related species are comparatively smaller and are also grown less widely.

x Brassolaeliocattleya (Blc.)

It is worth mentioning here that several excellent as well as most well-known cattleyas are members of this compound genus. The plants in this genus have been bred so that they bear full and rounded flowers having broad sepals and petals.

Flowers of many of these plants have fringed lips that have been derived from ancestors of Brassavola (now known as Rhyncholaelia) digbyana. Below is the list of some hybrids whose names you are likely to come across.

  • Fortune: These crosses bear large, rounded flowers having golden yellow hue. The orange lip of their flowers is ruffled.
  • Greenwich: The flowers of these plants have a chartreuse green hue, while the lip has a touch of purple.
  • Malworth: The flowers of these hybrids are large, shapely and have an apricot yellow hue, while the lip has pink markings.
  • Mem. Crispin Rosales: These plants bear large, deep lavender hued flowers, while the lip is deep purple. The flowers have a potent fragrance.
  • Mem. Helen Brown: The flowers of these hybrids have a pale green hue with a purple lip. They are heavily scented.
  • Norman's Bay: These hybrids bear large flowers whose color varies from deep lavender to purple. The lip of the flowers is also purple hued.
  • Port of Paradise: These plants bear pale green flowers and their lip is ruffled. The flowers have a strong fragrance.

x Cattleytonia (Ctna.)

These intergeneric hybrids derived by crossing cattleyas (mainly those in the bifoliate class) with Broughtonia sanguine. The plants are compact and produce long clusters of flowers having different shades of yellow, red, pink or purple.

x Epicattleya (Epc.)

The flowers of these crosses are of reasonable size and are borne on tall, erect stems that rise well above the foliage. The bright orange flowers of Fireball are borne on 16-inch stems, while the flowers of Purple Glory have a lavender hue and are borne on 24-inch stems.

x Laeliocattleya (Lc.)

These plants bear resemblance to cattleyas in all aspects, even to the minutest detail. The plants are robust and produce either one or two leaves for every pseudo bulb. Some of the grexes in x Laeliocattleya (Lc.) have won several awards and they include Bonanza (bearing deep lavender hued flowers and having two yellow eye spots), Stephen Oliver Fouraker (bearing white flowers having red lips) and Nippon (bearing white flowers with red hued lip).

x Potinara (Pot.)

This is a cross of four different species – Brassavola, Cattleya, Sophronitis and Laelia and it has blended the bright hue and small size of Sophronitis with the dynamism of the other three species. The resulting orchids are compact plants and their flowers have rich shades of orange, red, or yellow. Some of the representative grexes include World Venture (bearing orange flowers), Flameout (bearing red flowers) and Keynote (bearing yellow flowers).

x Sophrocattleya (Sc.)

x Sophrocattelya (Sc.) is the offspring of Cattleya and Sophronitis. These plants are diminutive and bear vivid orange, red or yellow flowers.

x Sophrolaelia (Sl.)

This is a cross between Sophronitis and Laelia species. These plants are small and bear vibrantly colored flowers. Some of the familiar grexes include Orpetii (bearing red and pink flowers), Gratrixiae (bearing red flowers) and Psyche (bearing red flowers).

x Sophrolaeliocattleya (Slc.)

Compared to other cattleyas, these plants are small and they also have a preference for growing in cooler conditions. Many grexes bear red flowers, a feature they have derived from their Sophronitis parent. Some of the grexes that are grown widely include Anzac, Madge Fordyce, Jewel Box and Paprika.

Brassavola

Generally, the Brassavola plants have a drooping habit and ideally they should be grown in baskets or attached to rafts. Each pseudo bulb produces a solitary leaf, which is slender and roundish in cross section. The flowers have a range of hues, including white, ivory or greenish and they emit fragrance at night time.

These orchids are in bloom during summer, and occasionally they bear flowers all through the year. The plants have a preference for bright light and need to have a drying out period once the growth of the pseudo bulbs is completed. These plants are capable of thriving even in hot climatic conditions.

Brassavola cucullata

Brassavola cucullata plants bear spidery flowers that are borne on drooping stems that grow up to 6 inches long. The individual flowers measure about 2 inches across. The lip of the flower is white and heart shaped with green tints.

Brassavola (Rhyncholaelia) digbyana

This orchid is no longer widely cultivated. Brassavola (Rhyncholaelia) digbyana has its origin in Central America and was famous in olden times as early hybridizers used it widely to create intergeneric hybrids like Brassocattleya and Brassolaeliocattleya.

The concept of these early hybridizers was to integrate the stunning fringed lip into the flowers of these hybrids. The greenish flowers are large and you may grow these orchids along with cattleyas.

Brassavola nodosa

Brassavola nodosa is also known as the "Lady of the Night". The flowers of this orchid are borne in inflorescence that grows up to a height of 6 inches higher than the slender leaves. Each inflorescence bears three to five flowers, each of which measure about 1 ½ inches or more in diameter.

The sepals and petals are slender and have pale green, white or ivory hues. The green and white lip of the flower has maroon spots and is about 3 inches in width. The plants may flower all through the year. In fact, this is an ideal orchid for those who are just beginning to grow orchids, especially if they are able to provide the plants with warm, sunny conditions.

Broughtonia sanguinea

The orchid genus Broughtonia sanguinea has its origin in West Indies and it comprises just one or two species. However, some experts claim that there are more species in this genus. Orchids belonging to this genus produce clustered pseudo bulbs that grow less than 2 inches in height and their crown comprises slender leaves, each measuring about 6 inches in length.

The flowers are borne in clusters on spikes that grow about 20 inches tall and at times they are branched. Each flower spike bears as many as 15 bright red flowers with yellow or ivory lip having bright purplish red markings. The individual flowers measure just 1 inch across.

Broughtonia sanguinea

This is a medium-sized plant that bears numerous flashy crimson hued flowers that are borne on long stems in fall and winter. Line breeding has helped to produce attractive hued round flowers, each measuring about 2 ½ inches (4 cm) across. Recently, yellow and white forms of this orchid have been found.

Broughtonia sanguine is native to tropical lowlands, but you can grow this orchid in the same manner as you grow cattleyas. This orchid has a preference for plenty of light, but it loathes wet roots.

This orchid performs well in the latter part of the season if you grow it on a slab. This orchid species has been utilized to hybridize with other plants in the cattleya alliance and they have resulted in creation of some extremely attractive hybrids.

Caularthron bicornutum (Diacrium bicornutum)

The pseudo bulbs of this orchid genus grow up to a height of 10 inches and bear strap shaped leaves that measure about 8 inches in length. The 1-foot-long flower stalk is slender and may be erect or arching. Each flower stalk of this orchid bears anything between 10 to 15 fragrant, white flowers with a pale pink shade.

The individual flowers measure about 2 inches to 3 inches in width. This orchid crosses well with cattleya to create the seldom seen x Diacattleya.

Encyclia

Epidendrum is a large orchid genus and, for technical reasons, it has been divided into genera. Many species of Epidendrum have been moved to Encyclia. (In fact, even today many encyclias are informally known as epidendrums.) Encyclia is also a very large genus that is native to Mexico, Florida, the Caribbean and South America.

However, the different species of this orchid genus widely differ in appearance. Most of these species grow well in bright light and intermediate temperatures. They also require a resting period after the flowering season and before the formation of the new roots and shoots.

Encyclia adenocaula (Epidendrum nemorale)

The pseudo bulbs of Encyclia adenocaula (earlier known as Epidendrum nemorale) grow up to 3 inches tall and produce one to three foot-long leathery leaves at their apex. The flower spikes of this orchid grow up to a length of a yard and bear several flowers, each measuring about 2 inches to 3 inches across.

The color of the flowers varies from pink to deep purplish pink having dark markings. The color of the lip is paler, but has dark streaks. This orchid is in bloom either in spring or in summer.

Encyclia alata

The pseudo bulbs of this orchid produce one to three leaves near its crown. Each leaf measures about 20 inches in length. The inflorescence of Encyclia alata is branching and fragrant growing up to a height of 4 feet. The plant bears numerous yellowish green or pale green flowers that are closely marked with brown. The lip of the flower is white with four deep red veins.

Encyclia aromatica

The pseudo bulbs of Encyclia aromatic are produced in clusters and they are topped by narrow leaves, each measuring about 12 inches. The inflorescence of this orchid is branching and may grow up to a height of about 3 feet. The flowers have a cream or pale green hue, while the pale lip has reddish brown veins. The flowers are exceptionally fragrant.

Encyclia citrina (Cattleya citrina)

Encyclia citrina (earlier known as Cattleya citrina) is a high-altitude orchid which is in bloom during spring and summer. This species is found growing naturally at altitudes of up to 7200 feet (2200 meters). The pseudo bulbs as well as the leaves of this orchid have a silvery grey look. As the plant has pendulous flower stems, it has a tendency to grow downwards.

This is the reason why it is easier to manage the plants when grown on a slab. The golden yellow flowers are borne singly and are fragrant. However, the flowers of Encyclia citrina do not unfurl completely. It is important to keep the plants somewhat dry during the winter months.

Encyclia cochleata (Epidendrum cochleatum)

Encyclia cochleata is also known as the "Cockleshell orchid" and its pseudo bulbs grow up to a length of 10 inches. The pseudo bulbs are topped by slender leaves, each measuring 16 inches in length. The flower stalk may grow up to a height of 20 inches and it bears many yellow and green flowers, each measuring about 3 inches in diameter.

The lip is about an inch wide and appears at the top of the flower. The deep blackish purple lip and has a white base with purple veins. Plants in this orchid species are in bloom continuously for several months. Encyclia cochleata is an excellent plant for people who are just beginning to grow orchids.

Encyclia cordigera (Epidendrum atropurpureum)

The pseudo bulbs of Encyclia cordigera (earlier known as Epidendrum atropurpureum) are short and are produced in clusters. These pseudo bulbs grow up to a height of 1 ½ inches and have 6-inch-long leaves at their apex.

The flower stalk is arching or drooping and each carries many large dark purple or brown hued flowers whose lips are pink. The individual flowers measure about 3 inches across.

Encyclia mariae

Appearance-wise Encyclia mariae is like an Encyclia citrina growing upright. However, the flowers of both these orchid species are different. The sepals and petals of Encyclia mariae are glossy and have a jade-green color, while the lip is large.

When fully open, the individual flowers measure 2 ½ inches (6 cm) across. Each flower stem carries anything between two to four flowers that bloom in summer. The flowers have a striking color and when the plants are exhibited, they draw a lot of attention.

Encyclia prismatocarpa

The pseudo bulbs of Encyclia prismatocarpa are pear shaped and they produce one-foot-long leaves at the crown. The flowers are borne in clusters on tall spikes. Each spike bears numerous yellowish green flowers with blackish purple spots. The individual flowers measure about 2 inches across. The lip has a bluish green color with a white margin.

Encyclia radiata

Encyclia radiata bears fragrant flowers on 9-inch spikes. The color of the flowers varies from cream to greenish white and has purple stripes. This orchid is in bloom from spring to summer.

Encyclia tampensis (Epidendrum tampense)

Encyclia tampensis (earlier known as Epidendrum tampense) has its origin in Florida and the Bahamas. The pseudo bulbs of this orchid grow up to 2 inches and produces narrow leaves that measure about 16 inches in length.

The olive green flowers appear in 2 ½ foot sprays. The flowers are strongly fragrant, The individual flowers measure about 1 ½ inches across and their white lips have purple veins.

Encyclia vitellina (Epidendrum vitellinum)

The leaves of this orchid species are about 10 inches long and appear at the crown of the pseudo bulbs that grow up to a height of 2 ½ inches. The flower stalk is firmly erect and grows up to a height of 16 inches. Each flower stalk carries about a dozen or even more flowers.

The color of the flowers range from orange to scarlet and their lips are yellow. The individual flower measures about an inch across. Provided the plants are grown in cool conditions, they flower for a long period.

Epidendrum

Orchids in the genus Epidendrum are of two varieties. Some orchids in this genus have firm pseudo bulbs and they bear close resemblance to the plants in genus Encyclia. In fact, Epidendrum was a very large genus and later split into two genera. One of these is Epidendrum.

Hence, plants resembling those in Encyclia were once in the genus Epidendrum. The species in this genus are tall plants and have soft stems like canes. They are terrestrial and you can plant these plants in open ground beds in places where there is enough light and frosts are rare.

The second type of plants in this genus grows easily and freely. Moreover, these plants are in bloom for most of the year. Sometimes the stems and the aerial roots get entangled making the plant look untidy. However, if the plants are provided with rich and well-amended soil and sufficient water, they put up an excellent show.

Epidendrum ibaguense

The canes of Epidendrum ibaguense are slender and they grow up to a height of 6 feet. The leaves are about 5 inches in length and appear opposite to each other on the stem forming two ranks. The stems of this orchid species root and branch freely at the leaf joints and also produce rooted offshoots. Often the color of the leaves changes to reddish under the hot sun.

The small flowers appear in large clusters and their hue may vary from orange, red to pink. The flowers appear at the apex of the stems. This orchid can be in bloom continuously.

The hybrids created from this species bear flowers of numerous colors, including white, yellow, lilac and pink. Many named varieties of this orchid are available, but they are mainly sold by the color of their flowers, for instance "reed-stem epidendrums".

Epidendrum pseudepidendrum

The stems of this orchid species are unbranched and they grow up to a height of about a yard. The stems produce two-ranked leaves on their top half. The flowers are borne in clusters at the top of the stems and the individual flowers measure about 6 inches in diameter.

The flowers of Epidendrum pseudepidendrum have startling colors, such as vivid green, while the lip is bright orange. The plants, however, are not as resilient as those of E. ibaguense.

Epidendrum radicans

The stems of Epidendrum radicans are quite long; measuring about 39 inches (1 meter) and the orchid produces many aerial roots. The flowers are borne in clusters on the terminals of the elongated stems. While each cluster measures 1 ½ inches (4 cm), the size of the flowers varies and so do their colors.

Typically, the flowers of this orchid species are either orange or red. A similar species is E. ibaguense and some consider it to be the same species. There are some other species too and all of them are known as reed stem epidendrums.

Although E. radicans is categorized as a warm-grower, it possesses the ability to tolerate a fair degree of temperature variations. In you are living in a frost-free area; you can grow this orchid outdoors in your garden in full sun.

In places where light frosts occur and the temperature does not drop below freezing point, you can try to grow this orchid against a building wall or under a tree protected by the overhanging projections of the roof. However, you need to ensure that the plant does not remain in shade for more than a couple of hours in a day.

This orchid requires a material around its roots that dries out very quickly. Therefore, the potting medium you use should have excellent drainage. You can also grow this orchid in a greenhouse in pots with peat-based potting medium that is suggested for growing cymbidiums.

However, the medium needs to be watered before it dries out somewhat. In grown in strong light, these plants will offer an excellent display of flowers for several months. On the other hand, Epidendrum radicans are not suitable for growing inside your homes even if you provide them with excellent light. This orchid is an essentially outdoor plant.

Epidendrum stamfordianum

The pseudo bulbs of Epidendrum stamfordianum grow up to a height of 10 inches and they produce elliptical leaves, each measuring about 10 inches in length. The inflorescence grows up to a height of 2 feet and is branching.

They bear numerous fragrant, yellow or green flowers having reddish brown spots. The individual flowers of this orchid measure about 1 inch across. Usually the color of the lip is white, but occasionally they it is flushed with pink.

Laelia

Laelia is a very large orchid genus comprising over 60 species and numerous varieties. In fact, this genus has a close relationship with Cattleyas. The flowers of larger Laelia species bear close resemblance to the well-known florists cattleyas, while some of the smaller species bear cattleya-type flowers on plants that hardly grow up to a height of an inch.

While many of the species are ephiphytes, some of the Brazilian species are found growing on rocks. These plants obtain their nutriments from the mosses and even from their decomposing older parts. Orchids belonging to genus Laelia are exposed to intense sun and heat and also long periods without rain.

Nevertheless, these plants have a preference for humid conditions. Two Mexican species, L. autumnalis and L. anceps, are very hardy plants and they are found growing naturally outdoors in sheltered places, especially along the California coast to far north as the San Francisco Bay Area. In you are growing these species in places having colder climates, it is essential to provide them with the treatment you give the cattleyas.

Laelia anceps

This orchid species from Mexico may be epiphytic or lithophytic and it produces four-sided pseudo bulbs and a long flowering stem that carries up to six flowers. The stems often bend owing to the weight of the flowers making them semi-pendulous. In fact, the flowers of this orchid are displayed best in this position and, hence, you should not try to stake the stems to make them upright.

The individual flowers may measure up to 4 inches (10 cm) across. Usually, the flowers of Laelia anceps have rose-purple hue, but some plants bear flowers in other color variations, which may even include pure white. The plants are in bloom either in winter or in spring.

Compared to cattleyas, Laelia anceps plants have a preference for cooler conditions and better light. This is an ideal plant for people who are beginning to grow orchids. In addition, this orchid is also a favourite of many growers. The plants are capable of enduring temperatures as low as 40°F (4°C) during the winter months.

Laelia autumnalis

This orchid is similar to the Laelia anceps, but Laelia autumnalis is in bloom during autumn. However, both these orchids are quite hardy and have their origin in Brazil. The lip of L. autumnalis is pinkish white and has purple and yellow markings. A variety of this orchid, named L. a. alba, bears white flowers whose throat is yellow. Another variety "Atrorubens" bears large, very deep purple hued flowers.

Laelia jongheana

Laelia jongheana is native to Brazil. This is a low-growing orchid that produces 2-inch pseudo bulbs. Each pseudo bulb produces a solitary leaf, which measures anything between 4 inches and 6 inches in length. The flower stalk carries one or two purple flowers, each measuring about 5 inches across.

Laelia lucasiana fournieri (L. fournieri)

This is a low-growing orchid, usually reaching a height of 4 inches. The individual flowers measure about 1 ½ inches. While the flowers are white, the lip of this orchid is yellow.

Laelia lundii

Laelia lundii is native to Brazil and it is a low growing orchid. The stems of this orchid species carry one to three white flowers, whose tips are marked with red. The flowers emerge along with heavy, cylindrical-shaped leaves and they unfurl much before the leaf is developed fully. This orchid is in bloom in spring. It is important to note that the plants will not bear flowers unless they are kept somewhat dry throughout the winter months.

Laelia pumila

Laelia pumila is a short orchid, growing up to a height of just 4 inches. The plants bear fragrant purple flowers. The individual flowers measure about 4 inches across.

Laelia purpurata

Laelia purpurata, an epiphyte, is the national flower of Brazil. Compared to the other laelia species discussed in this article, this orchid is larger and grows up to a height of about 20 inches (50 cm). Each flowering stem bears as many as five pink flowers, each measuring about 6 inches across.

Although the color of the flowers is generally pink, some plants produce flowers in several other hues, including white sepals and petals. Even the lips of the flowers are of various hues. Brazilian hobbyists have utilized this species extensively for line breeding and over 100 different varieties are catalogued in literature.

Some of these are said to be sold at very high prices. This orchid species has a long flowering season and it is in bloom from the later part of spring to fall.

Laelia sincorana

Laelia sincorana produces roundish leaves, each measuring about 1 ½ inches in length. The flowers of this orchid have a purple hue and each measures about 3 inches across. This orchid is also an excellent plant for beginners provided they are able to give them strong light for growth.

Laelia tenebrosa

The plants of Laelia tenebrosa are large and they bear three to four flowers that are carried on flower stems that grow up to a height of one foot. The individual flowers measure 6 inches across. The flowers have a bronze hue, while the lip is purple.

Rupicolous laelias

Rupicolous denotes something that grows on rocks and this is exactly what the plants in this species do. In their native in Brazil, some plants grow in full sun. Orchids in this species are relatively small in size and nearly all of them bear quite a few flowers that appear on elongated stems.

The leaves of these plants are upright and they are sharply pointed at the end. It is said that the leaves have evolved such so that animals don't graze on them. Usually, these orchids are in bloom in spring, but when in cultivation, they may bear flowers at other times of the year too.

It appears that there are no less than 40 species in this section. Some of these species were brought into cultivation only recently and they are worth having in a collection. The plants in this species can be grown without much difficulty provided they get good light and the potting medium dries out somewhat quickly after watering.

Laelia briegeri, which bears deep yellow flowers, is among the most beautiful Rupicolous laelias species. The individual flowers measure about 2 ¼ inches (6 cm) across and compared to the flowers of other plants in this section, the petals and sepals are broader. In fact, Laelia briegeri has been utilized widely to create several colourful hybrids.

Two plants that are familiar to some extent are L. longipes and L. lucasiana. The flowers of these two orchids are somewhat smaller and have a magenta hue with yellow lips. The diminutive orchid L. lilliputiana is an excellent plant for conservation.

This plant grows only up to a height of 2 ¼ inches (6 cm) and bears rose hued flowers. In fact, this orchid is among the smallest plant in the whole cattleya alliance.

Rhyncholaelia

This genus comprises two orchids that were earlier belonged to the genus Brassavola. The plants in genus Rhyncholaelia produce chunky pseudo bulbs and their grey green leaves are also plump. These orchids require the same conditions that are needed for cattleyas. However, they have a preference for much more sunlight.

Rhyncholaelia digbyana (Brassavola digbyana)

Rhyncholaelia digbyana orchids bear potently fragrant flowers, each measuring about 6 inches or even more across. The flowers are yellowish green and have a wide lip that is profoundly fringed. The lip of this orchid species is responsible for the fringing in the hybrid genera called x Brassolaeliocattleya and x Brassocattleya. (The older genus name Brassavola is still used to form the compounds.)

Rhyncholaelia glauca

The color of the flowers of this species of orchids varies from white, green to light lavender. The flowers are fragrant and individually they measure about 5 inches across. The lip of Rhyncholaelia glauca flowers is white and is marked with purplish red.

Sophronitis

The genus Sophronitis comprises nine species of Brazilian orchids – all of them low growing. The plants in this genus bear large and flashy red flowers. Nearly all these plants are in bloom during autumn and winter. However, it is not very easy to grow these orchids.

You may try growing them on rafts of barks or in shallow, large pots. It is necessary to ensure that the plants do not go completely dry. At the same time, you should be careful not to over-water them. Watering should be reduced during the winter months.

These plants require excellent ventilation and light shade. It is worth mentioning here that the orchids in genus Sophronitis have contributed to the compact growth as well as the vivid color of the flowers of a large number of intergeneric hybrids. Among all the species in this genus, Sophronitis coccinea is the most important.

The pseudo bulbs as well as the short, plump leaves of these orchids grow up to an inch in length. The inflorescence grows up to a height of 2 inches and bears one to three vividly red flowers. The individual flowers measure a little over an inch across.

Sophronitis cernua

Sophronitis cernua is considered to be the most typical species in genus Sophronitis. Compared to other plants in this genus, this relatively smaller and bears anything between two to five orange-red flowers on a single spike. The individual flowers measure about 1 inch (2.5 cm) across. This orchid does well when grown on a slab.

Sophronitis coccinea

This is the most important species in genus Sophronitis and there was a time when it was called Sophronitis grandiflora. The plants grow up to a height of 3 inches (8 cm) and bear large, vivid scarlet flowers. In relation to the size of the plants, the flowers are somewhat large, each measuring about 2 ¼ inches (6 cm) across.

However, line breeding has resulted in some plants producing larger flowers than those of the species Sophronitis coccinea. The flowers of this orchid appear along with the developing leaf in spring. In Brazil, this species grows in the form of an epiphyte and is found growing in places having partial shade in the wet rainforests.

When in cultivation, adequate care needs to be taken to ensure that the plants do not dry out fully during the summer months. At the same time, it is important to water the plants with discretion during this period. If the plants are always kept wet it will result in the decay of their roots.

Sophronitis coccinea plants attain flowering size when they are grown in pots measuring 2 inches (5 cm). You always need to make your best effort to grow this orchid in small pots because you will require greater skills in order to maintain these plants in pots that are larger than 3 inches (7.5 cm).

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