Habitat: Brazil. Laelia purpurata grows high in the tree canopy where it is exposed to bright light and lots of good air circulation. Native to the regions of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.
Plant Size: Medium to large-sized plant resembles unifoliate Cattleya plants. The tall pseudobulbs of Laelia purpurata have one leathery leaf. Overall plant height can exceed 2 feet (60 cm). Flowers develop in a green sheath on the new growth. Leaves are medium to dark green in color.
Flower Size: 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm). This species has the largest flower of all the Laelias.
Flower Description: Very showy, fragrant, and long-lasting. Flowers of Laelia purpurata develop on a 12 to 15 inch long raceme and have between 3 to 7 flowers. The individual flowers are well-spaced and make an attractive display. The typical form has white petals and sepals and a purple lip. There is a great deal of color variation in the species. There are concolor lavender, semi-alba, white, vinicolor, delicata, flared and blue color forms of Laelia purpurata with a variety of markings and striping within the lip. There are many named varieties available.
Bloom Season: Late Spring to Fall
Growing Temperature: Intermediate to Warm. Grows well with unifoliate Cattleya species and hybrids.
Additional Information: Laelia purpurata is the most popular of all Laelias and has been used by breeders to make some of the most beautiful Cattleya hybrids.
In Brazil, there are collectors who specialize in this species and shows dedicated to the "Queen" of the Laelias. It is the national flower of Brazil.
Many different color forms exist (this is a partial list):
- Laelia purpurata var. alba
- White petals and sepals with a yellow throat
- Laelia purpurata var. carnea
- Pale pink petals and sepals with a darker red-pink lip
- Laelia purpurata var. russeliana
- Medium pink petals and sepals with a dark pink lip
- Laelia purpurata var. sanguinea
- Flowers are the color of red wine and have dark purple lips.
- Laelia purpurata var. semi-alba
- Pure white petals and sepals with a colored lip.
- Laelia purpurata var. werkhauseri
- Flowers have white petals and sepals and a blue.
Laelia purpurata is easy to grow and not particularly fussy in cultivation. Grow in pots or baskets with fir bark or lava rock or any other suitable well-drained orchid growing medium. Some growers prefer to use clay pots rather than plastic.
Synonyms: Amalia purpurea; Bletia casperiana; Bletia purpurata; Cattleya brysiana; Cattleya casperiana; Cattleya purpurata; Hadrolaelia purpurata; Laelia casperiana; Laelia russelliana; Laelia wyattiana; Sophronitis purpurata