Catasetum Orchid Culture

The Catasetum alliance includes the genera Catasetum, Clowesia, Cycnoches and Mormodes, all of which require similar growing conditions.  Plants from the alliance are widespread in the lowland tropics of South and Central America up to elevations of about 1200 - 1500 msl. They have a peculiar habit of producing either male or female flowers both of which do not resemble each other.  They are also very fragrant. 


Catasetums love plenty of light and can be grown under nets that allow 50-75% light to pass through.  Catasetums are known to produce male or female flowers based on the amount of light and humidity they are subject to.  High light and low moisture tend to induce production of female flowers while low light and high humidity produce male flowers. 


Catasetums require plenty of water during their growth phase.  This starts in spring when new growths appear with the onset of the pre-monsoon showers.  Watering should be gradually increased and they should be mature by the end of the monsoon.  Once the pseudobulbs are mature, watering should be reduced in autumn and tapered down until they start dropping their leaves which is an indication that water should be withheld completely except occasionally to prevent shrinking of their pseudobulbs.  It is at this time that they will come into bloom.


They require high humidity during growth and low humidity when in dormancy.  Leaves of this genus are susceptible to spider mite damage and can be controlled by increasing the humidity.  Be careful to control the watering of the plants when they are in dormancy as this is the most common reason for the death of a Catasetum.


Being tropical lowland plants they can tolerate high temperatures.  None of the species are found where frost sets in and therefore they should be taken indoors in regions where it gets very cold as they can suffer from frost damage. 

Potting and Fertilizer

They can be grown in a variety of epiphytic media that are used for the other genera like Cattleya and Dendrobium.  The medium should be fine and compact, should be capable of retaining moisture to a certain extent. Once they start shedding their leaves, reduce the watering to once a month so as to prevent rot from setting in during dormancy.  They should preferably be kept hanging or on raised benches so that they have a lot of air movement around them.  They do well in pots rather than being mounted.  Some people prefer to re-pot their plants every year at the beginning of the growth period for best results.

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