Habitat: Brazil. Laelia crispa is common throughout its range. It is primarily found in Serra do Mar, which in Rio de Janeiro State is also called Serra dos Organos (Organ Mountains). Additionally, it is found within the city limits of Rio de Janeiro. It grows high up in trees or on cliffs facing away from the ocean. The main habitat is tropical rain forest above 400 meters in elevation where it grows on trees or rocky cliff faces.
Plant Size: Medium. Laelia crispa is very similar in appearance to Laelia lobata and Laelia purpurata. There is a tall, laterally compressed, grooved pseudobulb that grows about 12 inches (30 cm) tall with one long leaf. Overall, it looks like a unifoliate cattleya.
Flower Size: 4 to 5 inches (10-12.5 cm)
Flower Description: Fragrant; Laelia crispa is one of the best! The attractive flower has heavily twisted and waved segments. Usually the lip does not open fully and has a triangular appearance when viewed from the front. The flower color ranges from white to very light purple. There is a fair amount of variation on the lip, which ranges from dark purple to wine-red on the front lobe, and white to dark yellow in the throat. Only one true alba form has been found. There are no coerulea (blue) forms known. It produces a large number of flowers per inflorescence (up to 10, 4-9 is typical). Flowers are long-lasting.
Bloom Season: Summer
Growing Temperature: Intermediate to Hot
Additional Information: This species is often crossed with Cattleya orchids to create showy hybrids. Grow it like Laelia purpurata. It needs very high levels of light and lots of air circulation to succeed. Many growers grow it in a hanging basket and hang it near the glass in the greenhouse to meet its need for light. Grow with warm temperatures in a well drained coarse media (lava rock or coarse fir bark). Some growers use clay pots for faster drying of the root zone. Water frequently (2-3 times a week during warm weather) during the growing season, less during the winter. Fertilize 3-4 times a month except during winter dormancy.
The seeds of Laelia crispa are very light and the species spreads quite easily even out of the rain forest. It can even be found growing on garden trees in the city.
Synonyms: Bletia crispa; Cattleya crispa; Cattleya reflexa; Hadrolaelia crispa; Sophronitis crispa