Cattleya iricolor

Common Name: Rainbow-Colored Cattleya Orchid

Habitat: Ecuador and Peru. Cattleya iricolor grows high up in trees where it is exposed to bright light and breezes.

Plant Size: Medium. Unifoliate. Cattleya iricolor has 8 or 9 inch tall compressed pseudobulbs with a single 12 inch (30 cm), dark green leaf. New growth begins in the fall (in the northern hemisphere) and the growth matures during the winter. Flowering occurs as the growth matures.

Flower Size: 3 inch (16 cm)

Flower Description: Powerfully Fragrant. Probably the most fragrant Cattleya orchid there is! A mature plant will generally produce around 6 flowers per growth. The flowers are somewhat spider-like in appearance and have a small, tubular lip. The flower color ranges from straw yellow to cream and the lip is marked with red and yellow. Cattleya iricolor has narrow petals and sepals. The flowers last for less than three weeks.

Bloom Season: February or March.

Growing Temperature: Intermediate to Warm. In its native environment, summer days average 82-84 F (28-29 C), and nights average 71-72 F (22 C), with a diurnal range of 11-12 F (6-7 C). Winter days in its habitat average 77-79 F (25-26 C), and nights average 64-65 F (17-19 C), with a diurnal range of 9-11 F (5-6 C).

Light: Standard Cattleya conditions.

Humidity: Provide 80-85 percent humidity for most of the year. Its acceptable for summer humidity to drop into the 75-80 percent range.

Water: Cattleya iricolor should be watered regularly throughout the year, but they must dry rapidly after watering. Make sure that the plants never stay dry for long periods of time, however. Give mounted plants a daily misting in summer with a thorough soaking of the entire plant and slab twice a week in summer, or three times a week in extremely hot weather (adjust for your climate). Water should be reduced somewhat in winter, but plants should never stay dry for long periods.

Growing Media: Cattleya iricolor is frequently grown mounted on cork slabs or in baskets, but some growers report success using pots with extremely open fast draining medium such as coarse bark nuggets. Whatever the choice of medium, it is critically important that the roots dry rapidly after watering or root rot is a near certainty. Use very small slabs for mounting this species because larger slabs retain to much water. Tree-fern slabs hold more water and should only be used only in very dry growing conditions. When mounting, do not use sphagnum moss between the mount and the plant because it retains too much moisture and promotes rot. Divide, repot, or remount only when new root growth is just starting. This lets the plant become established in the shortest possible time with the greatest success.

Additional Information: Cattleya iricolor is easy to grow and a reliable bloomer. Only one specimen of Cattleya iricolor ever made it to Europe during the nineteenth century. The plant grew, flowered, and prospered but nobody knew where it came from. It was not until 1962 that the species was rediscovered in the wild by a missionary.

Synonyms: None.


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