This article will endeavour to explain the beauty of and how I fell in love with mini-Cattleyas. After attending the Brisbane Orchid Society for a number of years I couldnt help but admire the colour, elegance and charm of these beautiful little plants. There is a lovely lady named Betty Lane who kept bringing in these most adorable little plants. As I started to collect a few, the first thing I noticed was the ease and speed with which they grew. I grow most of my orchids in sphagnum-moss and I am still trying to work out why they grow so much better in this medium. I believe fertiliser is retained in spag a lot longer than in bark and therefore I believe you dont have to fertilise as much when using spag. If you over fertilise, the spag will break down much quicker. My shadehouse has 50% green shadecloth and I found that they grow well alongside the big Cattleyas, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums and a small number of species that I have growing. I believe that with Cattleyas in general, if you give them as much light (without burning) as possible and good air movement they will grow and flower well.
The next advantage was that they take up a lot less space than the big Cattleyas. I could at least fit four flowering size minis in the space taken up by one flowering size big Cattleya. Because of their breeding (many have C. walkerana and Sc. Beaufort in there background), the flowers have a good substance and therefore present themselves so well. This makes the presentation for shows so much easier.
I have found the most economic way to purchase them is in a community pot. From there it only takes two and a half to three years until they are flowering. Big Cattleyas take at least five years before you would see a flower on them. I have purchased seedling crosses and therefore the flower on each plant will have its own uniqueness. When trying to come across an award quality plant it is a numbers game and that is another advantage in purchasing a community pot.
Have you ever had problems transporting a large specimen plant to a show? Well forget that problem with mini-Cattleyas. I have never damaged a mini-cat flower when transporting it to a show.
We all grow orchids because of their beautiful flowers and I was so happy to find that I didnt have to wait for twelve months between flowerings. A small mini-cat will flower two to three times a year and once it gets bigger it could flower five to six times a year. I am never without a mini-cat in flower.
I could not write an article on mini-cats without mentioning David Littman. David passed away recently but his work in collecting and breeding mini-cats will be remembered for many years to come. He always used the very best plants to breed with and by doing this I believe you had a better chance of producing an award quality plant with his crosses. I have flowered a number of Davids crosses and I believe the best ones are Sc. Dals Good One, Pot. Dals Emperor and Bish. Dals Touch.
I have extended my interest in these plants by trying to do my own breeding. There seems to be an art in getting the pod to take on the parent plant. The flower that you are pollinating should have only just opened. Sometimes it helps to place the plant under lights for the first few weeks and trim the petals etc. off the flower as well.
All in all, growing mini-Cattleyas is a very rewarding hobby.