If you're looking for an exotic-looking tropical plant that doesn't have overly complicated care requirements, a Catasetum Orchid could be a good match. There are thought to be over 160 different species to choose from.
These plants have large pseudobulbs, and they need careful watering to ensure the best growth. They flower for a set period, and then the leaves will drop and enter a phase of dormancy - during this phase, they have minimal care requirements.
Catasetum Orchids produce male and female flowers. It's difficult, sometimes impossible, to identify the species from the female flowers. They tend to be very similar in shape and are usually yellow-green in color.
It's the male flowers that provide the opportunity for species identification. There are over ten different basic male shapes, and the specific flower heads can also vary greatly in their appearance.
How to Grow Catasetum Orchids
Catasetum Orchids, although still particular about their care requirements, aren't as labour-intensive as some orchid species. This makes them a good choice for enthusiasts that are new to this type of plant.
Unless you live in a region that can provide the tropical-style temperatures and humidity required for this for the Catasetum, it would be best to keep them as a houseplant.
As with most orchid types, Catasetum are rather particular about the light they need. Too much and you could see the leaves starting to turn brown as a result of scorching, too little and you won't see vigorous blooming.
During early growth, placing them in a bright position, but one that doesn't receive full sun all day is usually recommended. Towards the end of their flowering period, they can handle a little more direct sun, and this will harden and strengthen the pseudobulbs.
The amount of light and moisture your plant receives will influence whether male or female flowers are produced. Usually, a lot of light and low moisture levels will result in female flowers developing.
During the growing season, using a richer orchid potting mix with something like water-retaining sphagnum moss can be a good choice.
Some Catasetum lovers will bare-root their orchids during the dormant phase. This involves taking them out of the potting mix entirely. Doing this helps to ensure they don't get too moist and experience root rot.
Getting the balance right with moisture levels is crucial for all orchid types. Catasetum, with their large pseudobulbs, need the chance to store a lot of water during their growing season.
Throughout this period, you'll need to water them more frequently. Usually, anything from twice a day to once a week will be required, depending on the temperatures. Towards the end of their growth period, you'll be able to be reduced this slightly.
Once the orchid drops it leaves and goes into its dormancy phase, you should only water them if you notice that the pseudobulbs are beginning to develop a dried-up appearance. The roots are best kept dry during this phase, and if they do need watering, it's unlikely to be required more than once a month.
The orchids should never sit in waterlogged pots, so there's a fine balance that needs to be achieved. Fungal and bacterial disease and rot can develop if Catasetum are too moist. Some enthusiasts place their orchids pots in gravel-filled trays before watering to combat this problem.
Temperature and Humidity
Catasetum are all native to tropical regions. They prefer warmer conditions, and ideal daytime temperatures will range from 70 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. During their periods of growth, they'll do better if the temperatures are above 80 F.
Ideally, nighttime temperatures shouldn't drop below 55 F. Unsurprisingly, these orchids aren't frost resistant.
They prefer humidity levels of around 40 to 60 per cent and good airflow. These species can be susceptible to spider mite infestations. By keeping the humidity levels higher and ensuring there's a good level of airflow, this can help prevent this problem from developing. The humidity levels can be decreased during their dormant phase.
Regular fertilizing during their growth phase will help the Catasetum pseudobulbs to be strong and healthy. Using a high-quality and diluted fertilizer is recommended, and it won't do any harm to do this every week. Select one that has high quantities of nitrogen.
Being Grown in Containers
Keeping your Catasetum Orchids in containers indoors will ensure the best results. Unless you live in a very hot and humid region, they'll struggle in an outdoor environment.
Hanging the containers, growing them in mounts or keeping them on elevated platforms will help to ensure a good airflow is achieved.
It's not essential, but annual repotting is something that some Catasetum enthusiasts do to encourage healthy development at the beginning of their growth phase.
It's at this time that dividing the orchids can happen using the separated pseudobulbs to produce a new plant.