This group consists of species and hybrids from Catasetum, Clowesia, Mormodes, Dressleria, and Cycnoches, as well as all of their intergenerics like Catamodes, and Cycmodes. Most definitely one of my favorite groups of orchids for their bizarre, colorful and often fragrant flowers. The texture of the flowers will vary from waxy to satiny, and from matte to glossy like enamel paint ! Culturally quite easy, and most rewarding for beginners and experts alike, who are looking for something "different", and a real conversation piece for their friends.
Many of these plants have the unusual characteristic of being able to shoot their pollen via a trigger mechanism in the flower. This adaptation ensures that these flowers will remain as one of the weirdos of the orchid world. I myself have been responsible for tricking innocent bystanders into smelling these flowers, just to enjoy the horror when their noses trigger the pollen ejection ! No-one ever seems to expect the attack !
Plants from this group need moderate to bright light to grow and flower well. This is easily satisfied in an east or west window, or filtered south. Also many light setups can be quite satisfactory for growing most of these types. A good guide to whether or not a plant is getting the proper light is the colour of the leaves. They should be a medium to light green, rather than a dark lush green. The pseudobulbs should be firm, straight and upright, never soft, thin and weak. Occasionally, some of these types will produce pseudobulbs that grow out to the sides. This can make these plants difficult to balance properly in the pot. Do not be afraid to gently guide the pseudobulbs into an upright position as they develop. This will make for a tidier and more attractive plant.
The best temperature range for growth and flowering is 27 ° C during the day, and NEVER lower than 18 ° C at night. However, these plants are tough and can tolerate a higher range of temperatures if the humidity, watering and air movement are adjusted. If these plants are subjected to even brief periods of temperatures cooler than 18 ° C, they can go into a deep dormancy, sometimes taking years to exit that state.
Catasetinae have evolved water storage organs to help them survive their dormant states that coincide with the dry seasons in their native habitats. For this reason, it is recommended that plants in cultivation be allowed to stay nearly dry during the dormant stage. I usually apply a trickle of water to prevent the pseudobulbs from shrivelling. Watering thoroughly at this point could encourage rot to set in, and when this happens, it usually results in the death of the plant. For most Catasetinae, it is difficult to overwater them during their active growth period, but none of them want to be in a sopping wet mix. These plants generally need to be watered about once or twice per week, depending on the size of the plant, and the humidity of their surroundings.
In general, I find that Catasetums prefer more moisture for longer periods than do Cycnoches, and Mormodes like the least amount of moisture. To satisfy this preference, I pot average sized Catasetums in straight sphagnum moss (which has to be high quality), Cycnoches go into a mix of sphagnum with some sponge rok and/or charcoal, and Mormodes go into the same mix with less sphagnum. Occasionally I will also use bark mixes, but never for small plants.
I use general orchid fertilizers, 1/4 strength given every 3rd watering. These plants enjoy receiving food during their active growth period, as it helps to produce the thick, plump pseudobulbs that will bloom for you a few months later.
I consider this group to be one of the easiest groups of orchids to grow, and bloom successfully. I often refer to them as "orchids for dummies", as the plants communicate clearly what they want at all times. If they are showing signs of growth, then water and fertilize. If the leaves begin to yellow, they are signalling the approach of their dormant period, so ease off on the watering. When all of the leaves have dropped, only give a trickle to prevent the pseudobulbs from shrivelling excessively. When growth begins again, increase the amount of watering slowly until you return to a regular regimen. Although many of these types have short-lived flowers, they are produced in abundance and over a long period if the plant is mature and happy. Most will bloom quite readily even when the plants are quite young, but as the plant matures, the number of flowers, and the size of the flowers usually increases dramatically.
Note that some of the hybrids, don't ever go into a fully dormant state. Parts of the plant will hang on to their leaves longer than expected, and often past the point where new growth has started. This is probably due to their more complex genetics. Not to worry, just treat the plant as you would any other orchid, and enjoy the fact that it will probably bloom several times each year for you ! Another important fact is that flowers will last much longer if the pollen is not removed from the flower.
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