Catasetum Orchids Through the Year

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Catasetum type orchids are a very unique group of orchids. This group contains 4 separate genera Catasetum, Clowesia, Mormodes, and Cycnoches and all their hybrids. Native to Central America to South America they are used to tropical climates with a defined wet-dry season. The plants are epiphytic in nature growing commonly in the crooks of palm trees. These plants all share similar ecologies and growing habits which is why they are commonly lumped together.

The ecology of the group leads it to be a somewhat challenging group to grow. These plants grow rapidly during the growing season and go completely dormant in winter. During the dormancy these plants require absolutely no water. Water during this time can lead to rot and could ultimately lead to death of the plant. During growth these orchids also tend to require more fertilizer than most orchids.

Potted orchid

Fdk. ‘After Dark’ after its first water of 2023 on April 10th. Notice the size of the new growth/roots and how thin the past years pseudobulbs are.

These plants grow large pseudobulbs in a matter of a few months. This means they need lots of nutrition. You may be asking yourself, what is the point of these pseudobulbs? They store water and nutrients for the plant to survive the dry season. Without these structures the plant would desiccate in the bone-dry winter. They also help the plant grow a new root system the following spring. Each year catasetum grow a new root system to support the grow of the next pseudobulb. This is why fertilization is critical during the short growing season. Preparing the plant for dormancy and next year’s growth.

Potted orchid on table outside

The same Fdk. ‘After Dark’ on July 13th, 2023. Notice the size difference of the newest bulb only after 3 months of growth. This month was also when the orchid started to spike on 7/29/2023.

This group may be intimidating to grow however, with a bit of understanding these plants are very rewarding. Many emit sweet scents when flowering, filling rooms with their fragrance. Their flowers can last for upwards of a month giving a prolonged show. These orchids also give you a break! During their dormancy you have to do nothing to them, other than enjoy the unique structure of the leafless pseudobulbs.

potted orchid is with flowers

The same Fdk. ‘After Dark’ on October 12, 2023. The flower count totaling 30 on two spikes. Notice the pendulus nature of the spikes flowing over the container. They emit a sweet/spicy scent somewhat like allspice.

If you would like to learn more about growing these orchids and many more consider signing up for Growing Orchids in WNC at Bullington Gardens. The class will take place October 18th from 2-3 p.m. The link below will take you to the website to register for the class.

orchid flower

The same Fdk. ‘After Dark’ October 12, 2023. Close up of one flower, they still have some opening to do. This plant will be at the class on 10/18/2023 come out and see/smell it in full bloom!