Cattleya Bloom – A Study in Patience

I’m not a fussy gardener, especially when it comes to houseplants. If a plant doesn’t perform well, I throw it out. If it gets diseased, I throw it out. If it gets an infestation of insects, I’ll treat it once or twice, but if that doesn’t work, into the garbage it goes. If it gets too big, I’ll try to take a cutting and propagate it, but if that doesn’t work, I toss it.

This is why it’s a little surprising that I allowed a cattleya orchid to take up space in the house when it didn’t bloom for 2+ years. The only thing that saved it was that was growing well, it had no disease or pest problems and I knew that these orchids take some time to reach blooming size.

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I found a small cattleya orchid at Lowes in 2013. (Maybe tiny is a better word for it since it only had three leaves and was in a 2″ pot.) I’d gotten the hang of growing phalaenopsis orchids and wanted to try my hand at growing a cattleya.

As I said, the plant grew well. I kept it in a window with a south-east exposure so it would get a lot of light, something that cattleyas need. Every time I watered it, I’ll look to see if one of the new leaves was going to push out a sheath-covered bud.

It finally happened this year. A bud emerged and it opened into a flower this week. This orchid has finally reached blooming size and I should get more blooms every year. I’m glad I gave this plant some time to perform because it’s performance is pretty amazing. There’s something very satisfying in taking a tiny plant and bringing it to maturity – especially when it looks like this!

As these pictures show, this cattleya is definitely a keeper and a great payoff for my patience.

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