The genus Laelia includes about 60 species of showy orchids closely related to Cattleya and distinguished from Cattleya botanically by having 8 pollinia instead of 4. Horticulturally, the two are comparable and are equally showy and cross-hybridize freely, contributing much to each other’s vigor,
fullness of form, color variation, blooming season, and cold-hardiness.
The two main localities for Laelia species are northern-central America and southeastern Brazil. The Laelias of Mexico are primarily from areas of higher elevation, 3000-9000 feet (except for L. rubescens). This gives them generally broad temperature
tolerance, from freezing or below to the warmest of growing extremes.
Brazilian Laelias from the south-east are inhabitants of the Brazilian plateau and the sub-tropical southern coast. Hot, humid
summers are characteristic of nearly all
habitats, while winter freezes sometimes occur in some areas, thus giving much temperature tolerance to this group.
Among the great times for Laelias are the Santa Barbara Orchid Fair held each year in July, when hundreds of blooming Laelia purpuratas are to be seen, and our Fall Open House, when Laelia anceps are on parade!
Their variation and beauty combined with ease of culture make Laelias one of the most popular of orchid genera.
Day temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s (F) are perfect, but even higher temperatures up to and over 100 are not harmful. Night temperatures 55-60F are fine, though only a few require it. Most all are able to drop down to freezing and a number of them can tolerate to the mid to low 20’s for a few hours.
This plant likes bright, filtered light and/or direct
morning light. Avoid prolonged periods of direct
afternoon light, or deep shade.
Watering, as with all orchids, is done as needed. Under our conditions, watering once a week with occasional wetting down during warm times is sufficient. Mounted plants are wet down daily on sunny summer days, reducing down to weekly waterings during the winter. The time of growth corresponds to the natural warm rainy season, while the dormant period corresponds to the dry season from where the plants come. Some laelias, such as L. speciosa and many of the rupiculous species of Brazil, benefit from dryness during the
Regular feeding promotes good growth. Use a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) or one a little higher in Nitrogen (10-5-5).
Many of the laelias are great choices for mounting on cork slabs or trees (see our L. anceps brochure for mounting instructions.) For potted plants, you may not need to repot much, if at all. We start divisions in the pot size that just fits the root ball, with 1-2 year’s room to grow; when it begins to outgrow that pot, simply set the whole plant, pot and all, in another empty, slightly larger pot, letting the roots curl around in the space between pots and the plant grow over the rim. Our largest specimens are in their original small pot, set in several successively larger empty pots! Repotting may be necessary, however, if the plant is declining because of decomposed mix or failing roots. Select a pot which has good drainage and a well draining potting medium such as medium-size fir bark or rock.