Species Name: Cattleya guttata
Care Group: Bifoliate Cattleya
Natural Habitat / “In Situ”
In the wild, Cattleya guttata grows in open and exposed areas, along side cacti and other low shrubs. The pseudobulbs get taller over time and can attain a total length over 4 feet. I believe this is due to it’s natural habitat where it grows in and among the shrubs and must compete for light, while benefiting from the root protection of shade. It also reportedly grows as a lithophyte on rock flats near the ocean and along the mountains, and as a epiphytes in trees on thick branches.
Video of Cattleya guttata in situ – growing wild
Cattleya guttata Care
I purchased this Cattleya guttata in June of 2010. It was labeled as a ‘coerulea’ form…after waiting 10 years I achieved my first flowering in November of 2018. It turns out my guttata is not the blue form. I love the color and low density spotting regardless.
Why I think I couldn’t get it to bloom – Over the years, I was providing variable light as I moved between homes. Anything other than bright light was inadequate for flower production; the plant was also small and may have just needed enough leaves to power blooms; I also let it go very dry between waterings and had it in leca; I was also using alkaline tap water.
What I corrected to make it bloom – In 2018, I started giving it more light (direct sun at a South window); I added a top-dressing of sphagnum moss to hold water around longer; I started watering weekly and occasionally watering mid week during the dryer weeks (if the pseudobulbs are lightly shriveled mid week and moss is crispy dry, I water); lastly, I started pH adjusting to 5.8pH and using a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer though the growth season.
Cattleya guttata is often confused with Cattleya tigrina (formerly leopoldii) – I have not be able to find defining features between the two; however, according to the American Orchid Society, the easiest way to tell the difference is by bloom season. Catt guttata blooms in the the fall-early winter from a dead sheath, and tigrina blooms in the spring from a green sheath…who knows what happens if you have a hybrid of tigrina x guttata… maybe it blooms in both spring and fall.
Flower longevity was short on this plant – and the blooms began fading after 8 days; I have heard that they can last 1-3 weeks; I’m unsure what lead to my flowers fading so quickly. It may have been genetics, or culture. The flowers were very fragrant which can lead to shorter lifespan of the bloom; but the seasonal changes also meant light was lower, and temps were cooler AND it was a first-time flowering. Who knows… hopefully the flowers last longer next year.
Fragrance – the flowers of my guttata have a smell that reminds me of wintergreen mints (those white lifesaver type) in the early morning and the smell changes to be more like Double Bubble gum in the late morning/afternoon.
Bright light is required for all bifoliates – it was a particular challenge for me to get this plant to bloom and I think part of that comes from the necessity for large overall biomass. I’ve said it in videos before, that orchid leaves are like solar panels that charge flower batteries. If you don’t have enough panels for some plants (or bright enough light), you simply won’t get flowers.
This plant lives at a South-facing window which is unobstructed (though it may have a UV tint that reduces the heat/intensity). I also recognize that window insulation is an important aspect of reducing heat that comes through a window; so, if you’re growing plants in your home, be aware of the leaf temperature, watch for signs of scortching (yellowing/bleaching of the leaf at a hot-spot) and if you’re worried about a plant burning, don’t put it at a south window. Instead, consider putting up a sheer cloth in front of the window so that your plant is getting direct BUT FILTERED sunlight.
Water, pH & nutrients
Bifoliates reportedly hate wet roots; but I’ve also found that keeping them bone dry is just as bad. I took a lot of experimenting for me, but I found the sweet spot is to use a very open and airy mix of coarse bark or leca and then top-dress with sphagnum moss. The sphagnum will hold the water around long enough to allow the roots to pull water, but then dry without causing rot issues. Understand though, MY CLIMATE is super dry (often 18-45%).
I started pH-adjusting my orchid water in 2018. My Cattleya guttata gets fertilized with water of a pH of 5.8-6.5 and it has made marked increase in size compared to many of my other plants also on the same water/fertilzier routine. I still use tap water (7.5pH & 300ppm – high alkalinity) to flush the media and fertilizers once a month. The biggest thing for success was to soak the roots, and have them dry within 12-24 hours.
For fertilizers I use 3 things: 1) an organic all purpose mix of 4-4-4 (this mix has: bat guano, glacier rock dust, bone meal, feather meal, blood meal and fish meal); 2) Nitrogen heavy soluble fertilizer in the summer (20-8-8); and a balanced “flowering solution” (20-20-20) in early-to-late fall – I will also dose with a flowering version of the organic fertilizer at this time, a single application of about 1/8tsp on the top of the media after a watering.
Temperature / Climate
Cattleya guttata is an intermediate grower that requires a dry winter rest – perfect for my dry-ass Canadian home. I run the A/C all summer so the highest the temps get are around 28C; average is probably closer to 24C in summer; and in the winter I cycle my house temps to initiate spikes on my phals; day temps range from 18-24C and night temps are 16-18C.
Potting Media / Mix
This is my ONLY plant sort of grown in semi-hydro; because I add some bark and moss (organic media), I don’t consider this true “semi-hydro growing”. The vase is super weird, but it allows me to hoist the plant up above all the other orchids and ensure it gets full & unobstructed sun. Plus, it just looks neat.
Photos of Cattleya guttata