February 28, 2012

Cattleya Orchids for
Landscape Culture

BL. Morning Glory
one of the best and most vigorous
hybrids for outdoor culture
One of the many advantages to living in Miami is the ability to use orchids and other epiphytes as permanent landscaping. I've written about the myriad uses of such plants in previous blogs, but here I will focus on a certain group of orchids well suited for landscape usage. There are numerous Cattleya-alliance hybrids which are great candidates for landscape applications, including Broughtonia, , Brassavola, Laelia, Diacrium, and Schomburgkia hybrids. The range of flower colors and plant sizes is enormous, and the prices have dropped nicely so that plants can be purchased most reasonably. Our local orchid sales are well stocked with such vigorous hybrids, and most of the plants flower several times per year. Numerous inter-generic hybrids are available as well, in a huge range of plant sizes. There are hybrids using the petite Brassavola nodosa produce carpets of foliage with modest roots, 3 inch flower spikes, small, brilliant flowers, and a near-continuous flowering habit. Hybrids using Schomburgkia as a parent tend to be large, heavy, robust plants with 2 to 6 foot long long flower spikes, and flashy flowers with good coloration. 


Laelia purpurata
the glorious species from Brazil
with over 500 known color forms.
It is one of the parents of Bl. Morning Glory 
There are species and hybrids for cool climates such as coastal California and those for tropical conditions, as seen in the Florida Keys.

What makes a plant suitable for tree culture, or use in the landscape ? The qualities that make a good "tree" candidate are plants which naturally grow in sunny locations on exposed trees, which qualities exclude many terrestrial genera. A great many species in the genera listed above make excellent choices for landscaping applications.   
Some research with local growers will yield information about which orchids like to grow as mounted specimens or in baskets. These plants will also make good landscape plants, provided they get routine watering and fertilizing. Increasingly I see good quality orchid plants for sale at home improvement stores' garden centers.     

Schomburgkia tibicinis x
Cattleya forbesii 

Cattleya skinneri
'Heiti Jacobs' FCC/AOS

Iwanagara Apple Blossom
courtesy of Carter and Holmes
an outstanding repeat-blooming type
Dialaelia Mizoguchi
great for outdoor or basket culture

One of the criteria which determines which plants can be grown on a given type of tree is whether the plants has ascending rhizomes or grows in a flat plane. The ascending-rhizome types, as seen in the Laelia anceps parentage, are great for growing up an angled branch. The flat-rhizome growers, as seen in the Brassavola nodosa and many repeat-flowering Cattleya alliance types, are good for growing on tree trunks or horizontal tree branches. Whichever type you use, give the plants at least 3 or 4 hours of direct morning sunlight. Too much shade will net you a lush plant with few flowers. Try a few different plant types to see what grows best for you, consult some local orchid growers for their ideas, and experience the easy care of established orchids on a natural mount. Once you get proficient at it, you'll wonder how you ever spent so much money of expensive orchid potting mixes and fancy pots !

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


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