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Caring for Lycaste and Anguloa Orchids

The group containing Lycaste and Anguloa are native to very tropical regions of Central and South America. Cloud cover, high humidity and moderate to cool temperatures are normal. The heavy, almost waxy blooms are very unique with a range of colors and intense scents. In the greenhouse, they require some shading to prevent their thin leaves from burning. In the home, however, they need bright filtered light. They are happiest with night temperatures of 55 to 60 degrees and daytime temperatures in the mid 80’s or below. Flowers for many species and hybrids will appear in late spring and early summer, though some are free flowering. In late winter, before blooming season older bulbs may have leaves that turn yellow or drop completely. This is normal and new growth will emerge in spring and early summer.

Generally watering is done when the plants are almost but not quite dry through the center of the pot. It is best to soak the potting mix thoroughly when you do water. In warm weather this can be as often as every 2-3 days and in the winter as little as once every 7-10 days.

Plants in this group should be given a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer about once a month during the growing months. Do not feed plants when dormant (after leaves drop) until new growth is visible. It is best to under-fertilize rather than to over-fertilize. With the lower light and drier conditions in the home, orchids cannot use as much fertilizer as they can use in the greenhouse. Some growers like to increase the humidity around their orchids in the home by using "humidity trays" or trays of wet gravel around or under the plants. Pots should not touch the surface of the water.

We have had good luck with the following growing media:

  • Three parts long fibered New Zealand or Chilean sphagnum moss
    (Soak for at least 24 hours, drain and squeeze out excess water)
  • One part volcanic or ‘Dyna’ rock, rinsed (1/4” to ˝”)
  • One part #3 perlite (sponge rock)
  • One part loose medium tree fern

We pot the plants loosely to allow for good drainage and air flow around the roots.  Always make sure the newest growth is touching or slightly below the top of the medium. Unlike epiphytes, plants in this group will not grow ‘air roots’ and in order for the new roots to thrive, they must be in or directly on the growing medium.  Repotting should be done when a new growth is showing and during the temperate seasons, spring or fall.  Depending on how often watering is required and your summer temperatures (temperatures of 85 or higher break the mix down faster) repotting should be done every 12-18 months. Young plants which are growing fast may become root bound much more quickly.  Do not cut off older leafless bulbs if they are still green and firm. Even without leaves they continue to store water and nutrients for the plant.

Note: This guide is only applicable to Lycaste and Anguloa Orchids. For other varieties, please click on one of these links:

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