Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I love Cattleya walkeriana

I picked up this Cattleya walkeriana semi-alba 'Carmela' as a bag baby at a local Lowe's. Yeah, there are gems to be found in those prepackaged orchids.

I know there's always a lot of discussion on forums about whether it's good or bad to buy orchids from grocery stores and home improvement centers. Every time it gets brought up people tend to fall on the side of them being great, or some turn up their noses because they're from a large scale production company. Sun-Bulb/Better-Gro is actually a very reputable company if you've read anything from or about the growers, or their operation. I watched this exact clone go for $50 on eBay a few weeks ago, there's another one on there now, $65. I got this one for $13 and change, blooming sized, straight off the truck, (no chance for the Lowe's employees to kill it or sit around long enough to acquire a scale infestation.) So go ahead and turn up your noses at this, I'll still go through the bag babies to see if there's anything good when I'm at Lowe's.

I had read that Cattleya walkeriana is considered a more difficult species than most to grow. Until I made a decision about how I wanted to try and grow mine, I just left it in the pot. I took the majority of decaying bark out, left the charcoal and Sponge Rock, then watered it every few days after reading that most people had lost theirs due to rot issues. It has been growing, but it wasn't until buds suddenly appeared from somewhere unexpected that I decided to look into Cattleya walkeriana a bit more.

C. walkerina buds
C. walkeriana is one of only two species of Cattleya that grows it's flower spikes from an independent growth coming from the base of a mature rhizome, not from the top of the pseudobulb. A new pseudobulb or a flower spike will start off looking exactly the same. Until either a leaf or buds grows out the top it's hard to tell which one it's going to be.

In this picture, the short/stubby growth in the middle was a previous bloom.
Here's a 2nd new growth, not sure if it will be another pseudobulb, or a flower spike yet

The whole orchid
It actually opened up it's flowers on my birthday of all days. I took it to a local orchid society meeting earlier this week and it actually placed 3rd in the Cattleya group judging. I was surprised, I almost didn't take it at all because the plant looks so beat up. Really, the group just has a great photographer who takes pictures of all the entries and I wanted a really nice photo of it on the internet. I am terrible at taking pictures. I was offered a copy of the photo, so I'll update with it, or link to the OS page because I have a hard time getting the color right on this bloom.

Once I start to see the fresh roots getting longer I'm going to try this one in a wood slat basket or maybe clay with a lot of holes and some bark, as I've had more than enough issues with rot this summer. Learning to grow in this heat and humidity has been a bit of an adjustment for me and I think I'm finally getting the hang of it. If this species is rot prone in culture and instead of rotting it, I've got flowers. This is all the excuse I need to get some of the other good color variations. C. walkeriana is naturally a solid pink color, then there's the many beautiful semi-alba variations like 'Carmela', coerulea or "blue" colored flowers, perola (rose blushes on the petals or petals and sepals), aquinii (a peloric bloom, some coloration at the tips of the petals similar to the color of the lip), and flammea (petals that have coloration getting stronger/more saturated towards the edges) types as well. For more color variations and types than you can handle, check out this guy's website: C. Walkeriana


  1. A very beautiful plant - well done you! It is obviously happy you saved its life :)

    I similarly have some Sarracenia and VFTs that were being abused at a local harware store in my collection. They are now among my largest and most vigorous plants. It never hurts to have a good heart. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks! My favorite Sarr in my collection, a purpurea ssp. venosa was a hardware store find. Gets better every year without any extra help from me.

  2. Uma bela walkeriana.

  3. Please, what kind of potting medium are you using and how do you water cattleya walkeriana? Thanks. Lenka

    1. Hi Lenka!
      I ended up potting this one up in one of those black plastic hydroponic baskets, and am using large grade fir bark and charcoal chunks as a media. I water this one when dry as long as it's growing and the temperature is above 50 F. In cooler weather I keep it on the dry side, maybe water it once a week to once every other week. Now that it's warm and it's roots are growing again it's back to watering it again when it dries out, which means every 3 or so days. Hope that helps!

    2. Hi Melody,
      it helps a lot! Thank you. I´m beginner and don´t want to "kill" my first orchids.


  4. I have the Carmela orchid, but I can't get it to bloom! I am thinking I have not let it get cool enough, as it seems to be otherwise healthy. What are the low temperatures required to get it to bloom? And how low will kill it?

    1. Hi Lynn, I'm not sure what the "required" low is, but some of my walkeriana are spiking now the the temperatures at night are going down into the 60's and 50's F, but they are still getting good strong morning and afternoon light. So leave them outside in fall if you live somewhere where you can. My walkeriana have all survived into the high 30's F at night here protected from frost, but it also warms up significantly during the day. I'd say don't let them freeze, but 40's are fine for sure.