Do Cattleya require too much light to be grown in a home environment?
Cattleya is a genus of often fragrant, tropical epiphytic and lithophytic plants, that is to say they grow in large clumps in fast-draining pockets of debris on trees and rocks. Native to warm forests of Central and South America, they are known for their large, colorful flowers, though great variation in type and coloration are now available to the grower. The natural setting of loose, fast-draining, growing medium, strong humidity, and bright, filtered light is also what they need to prosper in the home.
Light is the condition where this plant places the greatest demands on the grower. Cattleya require extended bright to very bright light to remain vigorous and produce flowers. Offer them bright, filtered light in the hot summer months and full light in the winter. In the New York City area, a south-facing window with a shear, filtering curtain is often best for the summer or an east or west window with extended light. An adjustment for the winter may be necessary. Protect the plant from the harshest midday sun. If your pseudobulb will not stand on its own, the plant is probably not receiving adequate light.
With the use of a light meter, you can directly measure the light exposure of a potential growing area. A bright, sunny day out of doors may measure 10,000 foot-candles, while a south-facing window may be about 5,000 foot-candles. Cattleya is considered a high-light orchid and requires about 2,000 to 3,000 foot-candles of light.
LED artificial light can be used to supplement light for most orchids. Increase exposure gradually and be careful not to place the light too close and burn the plant. Look for a full-spectrum light option made for plants.
For more information on caring for a Cattleya orchid, see our Guide to Cattleya Culture.
Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service
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