Seagrove Orchids Catasetum Care Sheet
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Pronounced (kat-uh-SEE-tum) comes from a Greek preposition cata, meaning downward direction and from the Latin seta meaning bristles.
From the smell of redwood to a heady fragrance of perfume, they are different from any other orchid and have fabulous flowers. Their lack of popularity could be due to the flowers typically only lasting a couple of weeks or to the unknown culture requirements. Catasetums can have inflorescences that bear male or female flowers and sometimes both types. The male flowers are showier and not as long lived as the female resupinate (upside down) flowers. Most female flowers look remarkably similar from species to species. These plants are incredibly interesting.
For general care:
Catasetums have a growing season and a dormant season. While growing, your Catasetum will carry around six leaves from its pseudobulb and the bloom spike will emerge from the base or occasionally higher up the side. The pseudobulb will be plump and the plant full of vigor. After flowering your plant will start to lose its leaves from the flowered pseudobulb and this is a sign that your plant is deciding to go into its rest/dormant stage. After the last leave falls, water sparingly, maybe only once every three weeks. No fertilizer. Water enough so that the pseudobulb does not shrivel up, but not so much water that it starts to rot. The roots cannot utilize very much water at this time.
Catasetums are very resentful of broken down mixes and make sure your plant is in a very open medium and that the medium is not holding moisture. You may unpot your plant at this time and remove from all medium, place in a slatted basket without medium, or just repot into a fresh open mix. If you choose the slatted basket, be sure to secure your plant in place with a tie down. If you choose to unpot your plant and just leave with no medium during this period in a clay pot, don't forget about him. It does need a little water. Remember these plants are epiphytic and would prefer their roots be crawling about a tree.
Once new growth emerges and roots are starting to form, check the medium again and make sure it is still fresh and not holding any moisture. Get the unpotted plant out of its clay pot and pot it up. Check for the oldest pseudobulbs being mushy and without substance. If there are any, just remove them with a twist or a knife and discard. Now, begin watering again. Water throughly and allow your plant to almost dry before watering again. Fertilize every third watering with a high nitrogen formula that has full trace elements. Catasetums are known to be heavy feeders when they are in active growth. If your plant is in a basket, you will be very busy watering it in the summer for it could take water every day that the sun is shining.
Temperature: Most Catasetums will do well for as long as your night time temperature does not drop below 65 degrees nor go above 95 for a daytime high. Certain species are sensitive to cold and cannot be cultivated expertly unless they are maintained above 70 degrees as a night time low. I do not offer these species.
Light: Catasetums require good light for strong healthy growths. As the pseudobulb matures, thought should be given to the outcome of male or female flowers and which is desired. Bright light promotes female flowers and shadier conditions promote male.
If your decision was for male flowers be sure to move your plant back into the higher light situation once the flowers have been initiated.
If you would like to learn more about Catasetums, I highly recommend the book 'The World of Catasetums' by Arthur W. Holst. It is my bible for their care and culture and has aided me multiple times with identification of species. Everything I have learned about Catasetums has been through this easy to read book and by growing them.