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When most people think of orchids, the genus Cattleya is usually what they have in mind. They come in a very broad range of colors and most of them are delightfully fragrant. These orchids require more light than Phalaenopsis or Paphiopedilum. In a greenhouse they can be grown in 25 to 50% shade. For home gardeners try a windowsill with a southern exposure. For fluorescent light gardeners, stick with the compact varieties and keep the tops within a few inches of the light bulbs. Plants that are receiving the right amount of light will have light green leaves.
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Cattleyas thrive when the humidity is kept between 55 and 70%. To increase humidity, place the pot on a tray of pebbles covered with water. Temperatures should not fall below 50 degrees F. at night, and should remain between 70 and 85 degrees F during the day. They can withstand temperatures as low as 40 and as high as 100 degrees F. for short periods of time.
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Cattleyas have pseudobulbs that serve as water reservoirs, so it isn't necessary to keep the potting material moist all the time. The medium should dry out between watering. When you do water, drench the pot thoroughly.
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Use a high nitrogen water-soluble fertilizer year round on Cattleyas. Follow the directions on the container of fertilizer for information on rate and frequency of application.
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Medium grade fir bark is most commonly used as a potting medium. Repot every two to three years. Cattleya can be repotted at any time of the year, but the plant will recover faster if it is done right after the blooms fade or when new growth is emerging.