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Cultural Information Sheet for Catasetum, Stanhopeas, and related Orchids

From the Greek kata (down) and Latin seta ( bristle)

This fantastic group offers a tremendous variety of flower forms and colors to the orchid fancier. Native from Mexico to Peru in the American tropics, the more than 100 species offer serious orchidists and taxonomists a tremendous challenge in distinguishing one from another. Interestingly, male flowers of species are equipped with an antenna-like trigger device which is attached to the column. When irritated or bumped by a curious, unsuspecting insect visitor, it fires the pollen-charged anther cap onto the insect's body, where it adheres. This is one of the most unique developments among species of this highly evolved family -- the orchids.

Catasetum flowers are usually either male or female; seldom are they perfect, i.e. hermaphroditic. Since flowers of the two sexes from the same species are significantly different, there has been considerable confusion regarding taxonomy in the genus. As interest increases in these exciting types, it is expected that even more effort will be devoted to clarifying these matters.

The following cultural instructions are intended as a guide only; specific information can be obtained from the Recommended Reading list or from evidence obtained in the areas where the plants are native. This general cultural information may be applied to Catasetum, Coryanthes, Cycnoches, Gongora, Mormodes, Stanhopea, and their hybrids. Exceptions for Coryanthes and Stanhopea are outlined in the final paragraph.


Catasetums produce fattened, fleshy pseudobulbs and are deciduous. These characteristics suggest that attention must be given to watering practices and a dormancy requirement. The plants grown here require year 'round warm house conditions with good air circulation.


The plants can be grown at 75°-80°F. (25° Celsius) during the day, with temperatures falling to 60°-70°F. (18-21° Celsius) at night. Dormancy will occur in response to changes in day length, usually in the fall, and soon after flowering; temperatures need not be altered to induce or treat dormancy.


Catasetums can be grown with as much light as for cattleyas or as little as for phalaenopsis. However, growth is most vigorous under the brighter conditions and the heavier bulbs produced are capable of yielding more substantial inflorescences of better quality blooms. Generally, female flowers are produced in bright light; in some cases, near full sun conditions may be required to obtain this response. As the plants complete their flowering cycle, they will lose their foliage and require less light.


Plant catasetums in a well-drained medium, e.g. New Zealand sphagnum moss, tree fern, etc., and in a container which encourages good drainage; orchid pots or wood slat baskets have proven effective. Repotting should ideally be done just as the plants are making growth, usually spring. Watering may become more regular and heavier as growth increases, producing more roots to satisfy the plants' needs. These adjustments are made as days become longer, brighter and warmer, resulting in heavy growth which will maximize potential for flower production in the fall.

Of course, as the plant uses more water, it can also use more fertilizer, preferably 20-20-20 at the rate of one teaspoon/gallon of water applied as frequently as once each week. The fertilizer formula should match the potting medium. Use 20-20-20 with tree fern, charcoal, or various inorganic aggregates, but use 30-10-10 with fir bark. We recommend non-urea based fertilizers at half strength. Non urea fertilizers provide 100% immediately available nitrogen, which urea based fertilizers do not. We recommend Grow Mor fertilizers , which also have micro nutrients. The micro nutrients provide strength for the new growth and support for the flowers.

Plants need not be unpotted and dried out after flowering; however, do withhold water from plants in containers until growth begins in spring.


Catasetum foliage is susceptible to spider mite infestation. Watch the thin, soft leaves carefully for symptoms of their presence, being quick to eliminate problems as they occur; use a miticide, at the recommended dilution.

If rot should develop in catasetum bulbs, cut away the affected area or bulb, treating the cut surface with Captan, Dithane M45 or Banrot paste; do not water until the problem is arrested.


When you receive the plant, please remove all packing material carefully. Water the plant thoroughly and place it in a bright location with good humidity but out of drafts.

As catasetum spikes become 4"-6" long, begin careful staking which may be helpful in encouraging good flower arrangement on the developing inflorescence. Be certain to leave the plant facing the same direction during inflorescence development. Do not probe the male flowers at any time, for these may be accidentally emasculated, causing them to fold prematurely.


While these three genera are from another tribe, their culture is nearly the same as that of catasetums. These all produce basal inflorescences and therefore give best results when grown in wood slat or wire baskets, permitting the spike to emerge below. All will do well in intermediate conditions, although warmer conditions should cause no harm; light intensity may be best as for phalaenopsis. Plants are evergreen to partly deciduous and may benefit from a brief period of dormancy, i.e. little water when growth is complete.


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