Published February 6, 2024


For me, there is no doubt that Cycnoches are the most elegant of the Catasetinae tribe. They have so many redeeming qualities: impressive displays of large, striking flowers; strong, sweet fragrance; vertical growth habit, and minimal care required during their few months of winter dormancy.

Potting: Mine are all in sphagnum, with some granite rocks at the bottom of the pot. I tried the PET potting method with Cyc. cooperi this past year (2023), and it seemed to do very well. It’s amazing how much moisture these plants will absorb if you provide it.

Water: As with any other Catasetinae, I do not water the new growths until the roots can be seen reaching deep into the pot, even waiting until they are at the bottom. I usually spray the top of the medium more and more frequently over the course of a few weeks until the moss has gone from crispy to soft and moist all the way through. From that point, I drench the plants regularly, doing my best to keep the moss moist throughout the rest of the growing season. I let the plants dry slightly between watering to allow air to reach the roots, but the moss stays moist and spongy, never crispy. In autumn, after blooms have faded and the bulbs have fattened up completely, I will start becoming more sporadic with my water. As Fred Clarke suggests in his Catasetinae culture guide, I use New Year’s Day as the cutoff for all watering to these plants. One thing that I have found with Cycnoches is that they need water while they are growing out their spikes. If you start cutting back on the irrigation before the plant has bloomed, it may drop its buds, or simply produce fewer of them.

Fertilizer: I have read countless times that Catasetinae can take fertilizer at ‘normal’ application rates, rather than the classic 1/4 tsp per gallon that seems to be the standard for orchids. I have been fairly cautious about this, but still have seen good results. This past year (2023) I used my regular 100 ppm N per week regimen that all my plants receive, but I also added a sprinkling of Osmocote 19-19-19 pellets to the Catasetinae. I got good results again, so maybe I’ll push even more fertilizer at them this year. Fred Clarke, in an interview with Stephen Van Kampen-Lewis, said that he pushes fertilizer levels to their highest, 200 ppm N with every watering, in July and August.

Dormancy: Treatment for the plants during this period is pretty straightforward. Basically, keep everything the same except the amount of water they receive. Warm days and cooler nights, humidity of around 60% or higher, bright light, and good air movement—this should be very similar to the growing season conditions. You just don’t water them. In my conditions, the day and night temperatures do decrease a few degrees in winter, to an average high of around 24°C and a low of 17°C, and it’s possible that this helps trigger dormancy. I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that my plants have never had any issues during this period. They drop their leaves, and I leave them alone until spring.