Friday, March 8, 2013

How about an orchid with a few freckles and some lipstick?

With considerable restraint—nothing makes me lose my mind faster than the sweet, humid air of a greenhouse—I took only one orchid home from the UNC Charlotte orchid sale I told you about a few weeks ago. It was this miniature Laeliocattleya. 

I don't know if I even read the plant's tag until I got home, but this is what it says: Lc. Loog Tone 'S.D.' I had no idea what it meant.

I found out that "Lc." means Laeliocattleya, which is the genus, unless you go by the synonym, Cattlianthe. (:P) "Loog Tone" could be the name of the hybridizer, and "'S.D.'" is the cultivar name, which might have been chosen for the location where the hybrid was created. Nothing was confirmed; if you can clarify anything, please comment below. The parentage of the plant is a mess to decipher, too—cross after cross after cross, a little of this, a little of that, some kitchen sink and perhaps a milkman.

A little clearer was care recommendation, which is based on the majority percentage of Cattleya genes the plant has: Keep it warm (above 68 degrees F.). Keep the humidity high(40% or more). Keep it in shredded fir bark.  Water about once a week. Fertilize with orchid fertilizer during active growth. Repot in spring, or when new roots are evident. There's nothing too intimidating there—so far, so good!

However this little orchid came to be, its spotted gold blooms with the stunning red lip have remained perfect for almost a month in my bright window. Sunny and warm, they are especially nice during these last winter days of a cooler than average March.


The trickiest of the orchid's care requirements to address in a warm house in winter, is the humidity. Here's an easy and inexpensive solution: Put the plants on fish tank gravel in a disposable "crystal" plate, then fill with water just to the top of the rocks. I have to redistribute the rocks occasionally to keep the pots out of the water, but otherwise the plants can manage well this way until summer when they move to the porch, or a protected area outside.

If you want, you can get creative with the color of the fish gravel since it comes in all colors. I've used black and white. Black is pretty and it doesn't show dirt or leaf litter much, but white adds some light underneath the plant which is good when light levels are low in the winter.