Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Miniature is defined as less than 6 inches high. A great deal of work has gone into the breeding and hybridizing for miniature size recently because these plants are ideal for growing under lights or by a window inside due to their small size. Some have smaller flowers (but just as beautiful) and others are bred for large flowers on a small plant.
These little plants are ideal for home culture for a number of reasons. They have been bred to be easy to grow, require less light than older Cattleyas, and often will flower two or three times per year. In general, they will bloom in a 2 1/2 inch or 3 inch pot and are also less expensive to purchase than the larger Catts. Flower size ranges from 1 1/2 inches, or 4 centimeters, all the way up to 4 inches, or 10 centimeters, and flower size is one of the areas where breeding is making a huge difference.
Two breeding programs are those from Carter and Holmes and Gold Country Orchids. Both breeders are working for small, easy growing plants with large flowers for the size of the plant, multiple blooming and an amazing variety of color choices.
These little plants produce flowers which are shaped just like the larger Cattleyas. New breeding has produced nice flat rounded flowers which are very attractive. The background of many of these smaller plants is derived from Sophronitis which introduces nice bright colors in red, yellow, and orange colors which are very bright and eye catching. There are, of course, the normal purples and whites available also.
In order to make them easier to grow in home conditions, one of the new trends is to introduce warmer-growing hybrids into the mix so that there is less need to provide the cooler growing conditions required by the Sophronitis influence.
They grow best on a bright windowsill with good light, but no direct sun. Humidity trays will give them a boost. Indoors, watering should be done about once a week with a very weak fertilizer solution (one-half to one-quarter recommended strength) with each watering. In order to encourage consistent growth, turn the plants 90 degrees each week so that they will not grow all in one direction and become lop sided.
Give several of these little gems a try to brighten up your growing area and bring some color into your life!