This genus consists of approximately 250 species found naturally throughout tropical South America and the Caribbean Islands with a few species found in Florida, although they are considered endangered there. They are epiphytes (grow in trees) or lithophytes (grow on rocks) and most have numerous small flowers on branching inflorescences. Most grow best mounted on branches, tree fern or EpiWeb plaques and respond best to intermediate conditions much like the majority of Cattleyas.
As members of the Cattleya Alliance, they should be grown in moderate light of 3,000-4,500 foot candles with night time temperatures in the range of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or 15 degrees Centigrade. They can tolerate high temperatures during the day with adequate water and air circulation. Be sure to check the cultural conditions of the specific species as some will need a dry rest during the winter months.
Ironically, the best known Encyclia, Encyclia cochleata, the cockleshell orchid, has now been moved to another genus entirely. It is now known as Prostechea cochleata. If you are interested in this orchid here is a previous articleOrchid Profile - Encyclia cochleata. This is one of the best orchids for beginners as it is easy to grow and blooms sequentially for months.
A Florida native which is extremely popular is Encyclia tampensis. They are easy to grow and the brown flowers with bright purple lips appear year round. They make a really nice showing when grown well and are nicknamed the Butterfly Orchid.
The largest flowered of the Encyclias is Encyclia randii. This is a warm growing orchid which produces many flowers on an inflorescence, each one about 2 ½ inches in width. It provides a spectacular display with its chocolate brown petals and sepals contrasted with the white lip with bright purple striping. This species is native to Brazil and Paraguay where it is found in rainforests in hot conditions.
One of the most beautiful of the lithophytes is Encyclia dichroma with lavender and purple flowers carried on a 14 inch, or 35 centimeter inflorescence. The flower color on this Brazilian native is truly spectacular.
Another interesting member of this family is Encyclia diota which sports sight orange flowers that are quite fragrant. This Central American native blooms during the summer months with up to 80 flowers on long inflorescences. There is also a variety with a red and white lip which provides a startling contrast!