Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Laelias are related to the genus Cattleya and have been used extensively to breed hybrids with them. Recent work in identifying the plants has put them in the genus Sophronitis but they are well known as a group called Ripicolous Laelias. Ripicolous means "rock dwelling" since that is their habitat in nature where they grow in small pockets of soil caught between rocks. Most occur only in small areas in Brazil and are becoming rare in the wild. They require high light as many grow in full sun and a short dry rest after flowering. They are mostly small in size with very brightly colored flowers which are often large for the size of the plant.
Sophronitis briegeri is a small plant which produces long spikes with four or five bright or cream yellow flowers approximately 1.5 inches, or 4 centimeters across. The flower has a ruffled lip which is very handsome, although the bright color is what attracts most people to it. This Laelia is a cool growing species with one leaf. They require high light with shade during the middle of the day, cool to intermediate temperatures, and a rest after flowering. A general rule of thumb is to provide the plants with warm day temperatures and a night drop of 10 to 15 degrees and good drainage and air circulation.
Sophronitis ghillanyi is a rather rare member of the family and is one of the only ones with a purplish or pink flower. The pseudobulbs and leaves are only about 2 1/2 inces, or 6 centimeters, tall and the flowers are held on an inflorescence about twice as tall as the leaves. Some are single flowered, and others will produce multiple flowers at a time. The plant needs bright but filtered light, high humidity and air circulation. Since they come from mountainous regions, they need cool to cold conditions with 75 degrees Fahrenheit, or 23 degrees Celsius, during the day and much cooler of 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or 15 degrees Celsius. They flower during the summer months.
Sophronitis lilliputana is the smallest of the genus with pseudobulbs barely half an inch, or 1-3 centimeters high. In nature they grow in rock crevasses in lichen or moss in almost direct sunlight, but in cultivation they are generally grown only in high light conditions with filtered light. The single flowers are large for the size of the plant and can measure up to 1.5 inches, or 3 centimeters, and are held just above the height of the plant. This is considered to be a cool growing plant and needs temperatures of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or 12 degrees Celsius, during the night.