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Laeliocattleya, also known as Laeliinae nothogenera, is an orchid hybrid made by combining the Laelia and Cattleya orchid cultivars. The plant produces a few fleshy, thick, spike-like leaves, and one or more long branches with flowers at the end. Flowers generally have a large, showy, intricate shape with two or three oval-shaped petals interspersed with thinner sepals. The inner lip is prominent and may have contrasting colors or spots. Orchids were originally native to tropical rain forests and humid Pacific islands, but have been cultivated and hybridized for centuries.
Some laeliocattleya orchids are fragrant, but most have no scent. Flowers may be a single color or may have stripes, spots, or contrasting eyes; the outer petals are often purple, yellow, white or magenta, with a contrasting inner petal that protrudes from the center of the flower. The flowers are unusually long lasting, and a plant may only bloom twice a year. Since the new blooms will appear on the same spike, the faded flowers can be removed but the spike can remain in place.
Orchid hybrids grow best in bright, indirect sunlight and rich soil with regular fertilization. As a tropical plant, most varieties like higher moisture and will thrive with frequent watering and occasional misting, but waterlogged soil will cause the roots to rot. Plants should be watered as soon as the soil is dry to the touch. Laeliocattleya is not easy to propagate, but the patient gardener can try to grow new ones from seeds. More often, new plants are produced from bulb offsets growing next to the parent plant.
In the wild, orchids often live on tree branches and trunks, or in poor, loose soil. Their roots are exposed to air to absorb the moisture. To retain optimum conditions when growing laeliocattleya in pots or in a tropical garden, the soil should contain higher concentrations of bark compost fragments or coarsely chopped bark and sphagnum moss.
Laeliocattleya can be grown outdoors when temperatures remain between 50 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit (10-35 degrees Celsius). Indoors, orchids will thrive in normal household temperatures; great fluctuations in temperature, however, will damage the plants. The plants do best in a humid environment and bright indirect sunlight, but a few months of lower light will spur a cycle of dormancy and re-flowering. A weak, balanced fertilizer solution can be used each time the plant is watered, but the orchid’s soil should be flushed out occasionally with plain water.
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