Cattleya Orchids: The Captivating Corsage Orchids

Cattleya Orchids: The Captivating Corsage Orchids

Cattleya orchid, with its showy flowers and delicate frills, has inspired many people to venture into growing orchids either as a form of therapeutic hobby or as a lucrative profession.

Dubbed as the queen orchid, Cattleyas are also fondly called as “corsage orchids,” because of the fact that women used to wear them as a floral accessory for special events in previous times. Today these fancy, fuss-free, and sometimes fragrant blooms are one of our top-selling orchid plants that most clients love to have at home.


  • Botanical Name: Cattleya(pronounced as CAT-lee-ah)
  • Popular nicknames: Corsage orchids, queen orchid
  • Tribe: Epidendreae
  • Subtribe: Laeliinae
  • Blooming: Produces one new flush annually or bi-annually, usually in spring until fall depending on variety
  • Recognized orchid species: 46 to 53
  • Classification: Sympodial, epiphytic, lithophytic


Man’s earliest encounter with the captivating orchid we know today as Cattleya can be traced back as early as 1818. Dr. W. T- Hooker had flowered a similar orchid species in his greenhouse in Suffolk, England, although he doesn’t have any published work about it then.

Almost during that same year, William Swainson, an English moss and lichen collector, gathered random leaves in the forests of Organ Mountains, about 60 miles north of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, to use as protective packing material for his important specimens.

Somehow William Cattley, an aficionado of orchid horticulture and one of the first amateur collectors of exquisite exotic orchids during that time, reached some of Swainson’s foraging and decided to grow them – one of it is a novel orchid species about to be named after him.

When his showy orchid plant bloomed in November 1823, samples were sent to distinguished orchidologist, Dr. John Lindley, for further studies, who wrote about it afterward in his paper, COLLECTANEA BOTANICA, t. 33 (1824), establishing a new orchid genus named Cattleya labiate, after its successful grower.

Through the years numerous Cattleya orchid varieties have been identified and countless orchid hybrids have been created.


The book Orchids of Asia by Eng-Soon Teoh describes and talks about the parts of the Cattleya thoroughly.

Its delicate flower has narrow sepals that are identical. The top is called the dorsal sepal while the two other ones spread sideways on either side of the lip are called lateral sepals. Aside from the sepals, a Cattleya orchid has three broad-shaped petals. The most unique of the three is called the lip or labellum, which has three lobes. The midlobe of a Cattleya orchid’s lip is such a beauty, because it’s usually colorful, curly, and has frills around its edges.

Experts split Cattleya orchids into two groups:

  • Unifoliate Cattleya Orchids – Sometimes referred to as the labiata group, they have only one big leaf per pseudobulb, have huge flowers accentuated by a prominently large lip, and were the first Cattleya orchids brought to Europe. C.labiata is the best-known species of this group. C. mossiae, C. mendellii, C. warscewiczii, C. dowiana, and C. percivaliana also fall under this category.
  • Bifoliate Cattleya Orchids – This group has two or sometimes three fleshy, flattened elliptic leaves per pseudobulb, with flowers blooming in clusters of five to as many as 20 per stem, usually yellow or lavender. C. bicolor, C. amethystoglossa, C. elongata, and C. harrisoniana are from this group.

While we’re most familiar with the soft, delicate types, Cattleya orchids are, as a matter of fact, tough, waxy, and thick in texture. They come in various patterns and a rainbow of colors – including different shades of pink, white, red, purple, and yellow.



Cattleya orchids and Laelia orchids look like identical twins, it’s sometimes hard to tell them apart. 

While orchid books say they’re a separate orchid genus, the American Orchid Society in one of their articles explained that the genus Cattleya is a prominent member of the larger grouping of genera known as the subtribe Laelieae. 

But allow us to save you some headaches. First of all, Cattleya orchids only have four polinia while Laelia orchids have eight. Laelia orchids, although equally dainty and vibrantly colored, have smaller flowers, with narrower petals and sepals.

Leilia orchids are epiphytic (aerial) or lithophytic (on stones). Cattleya orchids are sympodial, epiphytic. We’ll elaborate on that when we discuss its classification according to growing behaviors.

Interestingly, there are hybrids of these two gorgeous orchid genus aptly named Laeliacattleya, which have beautiful bi-colored varieties.


The World Checklist of Monocotyledons currently acknowledges 46 species and 35 natural hybrids of Cattleya orchids.

  1. Cattleya aclandiae Lindl. 1840
    Subgenus: Aclandia Withner 1989
  • Cattleya aclandiae f. alba (L.C.Menezes) F.Barros & J.A.N.Bat. 2004
  • Cattleya aclandiae var. alba L.C.Menezes 2002
  • Cattleya aclandiae var. grandiflora F.Buyss. 1878
  • Cattleya aclandiae var. salmonea auct. 1893
  • Cattleya aclandiae var shilleriana Jenn. 1875
  • Cattleya acuensis (Fowlie) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya acuminata Beer 1854
  • Cattleya alagoensis (V.P.Castro & Chiron) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya alaorii (Brieger & Bicalho) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya alaorii f. dietliana (O.Gruss) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya albida Beer 1854 Cattleya alexandrae Linden & Rolfe 1892
  • Cattleya alexandrae var. elegans Rolfe 1892
  • Cattleya alexandrae var. maculata auct.1895
  • Cattleya alexandrae var. rosea auct. 1895
  • Cattleya alexandrae var. tenebrosa Rolfe 1892
  • Cattleya alutacea Barb.Rodr. 1881
  • Cattleya alutacea var. velutina Barb.Rodr.1882
  1. Cattleya alvarenguensis (Campacci) Van den Berg 2014
  • Cattleya alvaroana (F.E.L.Miranda) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya amabilis B.S.Williams 1862
  • Cattleya amethestina C. Morr. 1848
  • Cattleya amethystina C. Morr. 1848


  1. Cattleya amethystoglossa Linden & Rchb.f. ex Warner 1862
    Subgenus: Aclandia Withner 1989
  • Cattleya amethystoglossa var. alba L.C.Menezes & Braem 2006
  • Cattleya amethystoglossa var. lilacina (Rchb.f.) Fowlie 1977
  • Cattleya amethystoglossa var. rosea Rolfe 1892
  • Cattleya amethestoglossa Linden & Rchb.f var sulphurea Rchb.f
  • Cattleya anceps [Lindl.] Beer 1854
  • Cattleya angereri (Pabst) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya aquinii Barb. Rodr. 1891
  1. Cattleya araguaiensis Pabst 1967
    Subgenus: Stellata Withner 1988

  • Cattleya araguaiensis f. alba (L.C.Menezes) Christenson 1996
  • Cattleya araguaiensis var. alba L.C.Menezes 1991
  • Cattleya arembergii Scheidw. 1843
  • Cattleya aucklandiae Heynh. 1841
  • Cattleya auclandii Beer 1854
  1. Cattleya aurantiaca [Bateman ex Lindley]P.N.Don 1840
    Subgenus: Circumvola SECTION Aurantiacae Withner 1989

  2. Cattleya aurea Linden 1883
    Subgenus: Cattleya SECTION Xantheae Withner 1988
  • Cattleya autumnalis Beer 1854
  • Cattleya autumnalis O'Brien 1888
  • Cattleya bassetii A.H.Kent in H.J.Veitch 1887
  • Cattleya batalinii Sander & Kraenzl. 1892
  • Cattleya bicalhoi Van den Berg 2008
  1. Cattleya bicolor Lindley 1836
    Subgenus: Schomburgkoidea Withner 1989
  • Cattleya bicolor f. alba (Fowlie) F.Barros & J.A.N.Bat. 2004
  • Cattleya bicolor subsp. brasiliensis Fowlie 1977
  • Cattleya bicolor subsp. canastrensis L.C.Menezes & Braem 1992
  • Cattleya bicolor subsp. minasgaerensis Fowlie 1977
  • Cattleya bicolor var. caerulea auct. 1894
  • Cattleya bicolor var. grossii (Kraenzl.) Pabst 1972
  • Cattleya bicolor var. lewisii auct. 1896
  • Cattleya bicolor var. mearuresiana B.S.Williams 1888
  • Cattleya bicolor var. olocheilos Klinge 1898
  • Cattleya bicolor var. splendida Rchb.f 1857
  • Cattleya bicolor var. wrigleyana Rchb.f. 1885
  • Cattleya blumenscheinii (Pabst) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya bluntii H.Low 1876
  • Cattleya bogotensis Linden ex C. Morr. 1865
  1. Cattleya bowringiana Veitch 1885
    Subgenus: Circumvola SECTION Moradae
  • Cattleya bradei (Pabst) Van den Berg 2008
  1. Cattleya × brasiliensis Klinge 1898
  • Cattleya brevicaulis (H.G.Jones) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya brevipedunculata (Cogn.) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya briegeri (Blumensch. ex Pabst) Van den Berg 2008
  1. Cattleya × britoi (K.G.Lacerda & V.P.Castro) Van den Berg 2010
  • Cattleya brownii Rolfe 1894
  1. Cattleya × brymeriana Rchb.f. 1883
  • Cattleya brysiana Lemaire 1852-3
  • Cattleya bulbosa Lindley 1847
  • Cattleya bullieri D.J. Carr 1886
  • Cattleya buyssoniana O'Brien 1890
  • Cattleya caetensis (Pabst) Van den Berg 2010


  1. Cattleya × calimaniana Campacci 2007

  2. Cattleya candida [Kunth] Lehm. 1895
    Subgenus: Cattleya SECTION Cattleya Lindley
  • Cattleya candida hort. 1851
  • Cattleya candida B.S.Williams 1852
  • Cattleya candida F.N.Williams 1851
  • Cattleya carrieri Houller. 1876
  • Cattleya casperiana Rchb.f


  1. Cattleya × cattleyioides (A.Rich.) Van den Berg 2010
  • Cattleya caucaensis Ballif. 1901
  • Cattleya caulescens (Lindl.) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya cernua [Lindley]Beer 1854
  • Cattleya cernua (Lindl.) ined
  • Cattleya chlorantha (Hook.) Beer 1854
  • Cattleya chocoensis Linden 1870
  • Cattleya chrysotoxa (Sander) God.-Leb. 1890
  • Cattleya cinnabarina [Batem. ex Lindl.] Beer 1854
  • Cattleya cinnabarina (Bateman ex Lindl.) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya coccinea Lindley 1836
  • Cattleya coccinea subsp. pygmaea (Pabst) W.Forst. 2013
  • Cattleya coccinea var. rossiteriana (Barb.Rodr.) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya colnagoi (Chiron & V.P.Castro) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya conceicionensis (V.P.Castro & Campacci) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya concolor Drapiez 1840
  • Cattleya × crethus auct. 1901
  • Cattleya crispa Beer 1854
  • Cattleya crispa var. buchananiana B.S.Williams & T.Moore 1883
  • Cattleya crispa var. purpurea Guidon 1858
  • Cattleya crispata (Thunb.) Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya × cristinae (F.E.L.Miranda & K.G.Lacerda) Van den Berg 2010
  • Cattleya crocata Rchb.f 1886
  • Cattleya cupidon Linden & Rodigas. 1894
  • Cattleya dawsoni Warn. 1862


  1. Cattleya × dayana Rolfe 1902
  • Cattleya deckeri Klotsch 1855
  • Cattleya decora Beer 1854
  1. Cattleya diamantinensis (V.P.Castro & Marçal) J.M.H.Shaw 2013
  • Cattleya dichotoma[Ruiz & Pavon]Beer 1854
  • Cattleya dichroma Van den Berg 2008
  • Cattleya digbyana (Lindl.) Gentil 1907
  • Cattleya dijanceana Rolfe 1902
  1. Cattleya x dolosa [Rchb.f] Rchb.f 1876
    Subgenus: Intermedia [Cogn.] Withner 1989
  • Cattleya domingensis Lindley 1833
  1. Cattleya dormaniana (Rchb. f.) Rchb. f. 1882
    Subgenus: Laelioidea [Fowlie] Withner 1988
  • Cattleya dormaniana f. alba (L.C.Menezes) Christenson 1996
  • Cattleya dormaniana var. alba L.C.Menezes 1991
  1. Cattleya dowiana Bateman & Rchb.f 1886
    Subgenus: Cattleya SECTION Xantheae Withner 1988
  • Cattleya dowiana f. carmoniana Pupulin 2015
  • Cattleya dowiana f. marmorata (auct.) Pupulin 2015
  • Cattleya dowiana f. rosita (Pfau) Pupulin 2015
  • Cattleya dowiana subsp. aurea (Linden) Pupulin 2015
  • Cattleya dowiana var aurea Will & Moore 1883
  • Cattleya dowiana var. aurea-alba Cogn. 1897
  • Cattleya dowiana var. aurea-marmorata auct. 1896
  • Cattleya dowiana var. chrysotaxa Sander 1890
  • Cattleya dowiana var. rosita Pfau 1895
  • Cattleya dupontii Ruschi 1970
  • Cattleya duveenii (Fowlie) Van den Berg 2008
  1. Cattleya × duveenii Pabst & A.F.Mello 1977
  • Cattleya edithiana Williams 1862
  • Cattleya elatior Lindley 1833
  • Cattleya eldorado Linden 1890
  • Cattleya eldorado var. splendens Linden ex B.S.Williams 1871
  • Cattleya eldorado var. wallisii (Linden) E.S.Rand 1892
  • Cattleya elegantissima Linden 1881



Sympodial in Latin literally translates to “many-footed.” It describes the spreading growth behavior of orchids that are outward along the surface of the growing medium and with its stems, otherwise called rhizomes, moving horizontally. New shoots appear on the rhizome where they grow out their own roots. The flowers, on the other hand, may bloom from the base of the plant, normally from between the leaves or the base of a newly matured pseudobulb.

Cattleya orchids are classified as sympodial type. In the wild or in their natural habitat, Cattleya orchids can be seen blooming from the raw, rough bark of trees with stems and pseudobulbs thriving outward and upward.

If you’ve seen a mature cattleya orchid plant in a pot, either from orchid gardens, at the florists, or of your own, you’ve perhaps noticed that (unless, of course, repotting to a bigger container is done occasionally), it tends to grow wildly around the surface, with roots even cracking terra cotta pots.


Around the world, Cattleya orchids are found naturally only in most countries in the Western Hemisphere. They are frequently seen growing side by side or nearby Laelias in major parts of tropical America:

  • Mexico and Guatemala
  • South America, from Colombia to British Guiana
  • Coastal provinces of Southern Brazil

These days, many Cattleya orchid hybrids can adapt in tropical Asian countries, such as Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. We bet The Orchidarium inside the Singapore Botanic Gardens has a couple hundred species to boast of.

To get your Cattleya orchid fix in Los Angeles, all you need is a visit at the impressive orchidariums and botanical gardens around town, which offers breathtaking views of its vast orchid collection to the public. Free up one weekend and schedule a day trip to one of these orchid gardens in L.A.:

  • The Arboretum of Los Angeles County
  • Descanso Gardens
  • South Botanic Garden

But if you wish to have your own Cattleya orchid blooming for your personal viewing pleasure, we highly recommend you check out Orchid Republic’s stunning orchid arrangements collection. Located conveniently in the heart of Studio City, Orchid Republic offers flower delivery anywhere in Los Angeles and Orange County.


Bringing home a Cattleya orchid plant? Check out these quick maintenance tips.

  • Cattleya orchid loves light. Put in a spot that gets ample amount of morning light, without getting burned. Somewhere near windows with sheer curtains would be nice.
  • Fertilize your Cattleya orchid in minute amounts at least every two weeks.
  • Water thoroughly whenever potting material is dry to the touch, preferably in the morning to allow roots to dry and prevent rotting.


Orchids of Asia, Eng-Soon Teoh, 2005
Ortho’s All About Orchids, Elvin McDonald, 1999
Jay's Internet Orchid Species



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