Cattleya Alliance

The Cattleya Alliance family, includes Cattleya, Brassavola and Laelia. They are easy plants to grow in the Brisbane area and have the largest range of colour, shape and size in their genera. Requiring between 50-75% shade, they grow well under shade cloth. Cattleya’s live epiphytically (on trees) in nature therefore the potting mix should almost dry out between watering. Water approx. three times a week in summer and once a week in winter. Grow Cattleya’s in open bark and charcoal mix, use a high nitrogen fertilizer in the flowering season. High humidity needs to be maintained at all times by keeping the floor of the bush house damp. Watch Catteyas closely for pests and diseases, if found use the appropriate spray.


These are commonly called Slipper Orchids. More than 50 species are found in nature from the hills of northern India and China to the lowlands in the Philippines. The flowers are characterized by a cup like lip called a pouch and by a predominate dorsal sepal. Primarily terrestrial, they grow In leaf litter on the forest floor. Slippers are best grown in a fine bark and charcoal mix. As Slippers do not have pseudobulbs, they should never be allowed to dry out. The mix should be kept moist but not wet. They should be fertilized regularly with half strength fertilizer. They should be grown close to the floor of the bush house and maintain high humidity under 75% shade cloth. Air movement should be maintained at all times but avoid cold drafts.

Hardcane Dendrobiums

Hardcanes (the Cooktown Orchid is one) flower in autumn. In the warmer months new growths will develop, lengthen and produce roots. Water 2-3 times per week and in spring using a high nitrogen fertilizer. After Christmas change to a high phosphorus fertilizer to produce good flowering. In winter very little water is required and no fertilizer is needed. In Brisbane they are best grown under cover in winter.

Softcane Dendrobiums

Softcanes are mainly spring flowering. In the warmer months new green leafy growths develop, lengthen and produce roots. New growths may need staking. In the cooler months some lose their leaves. Flowers are produced along the canes. Water sparingly in winter and no fertilizer is needed. Softcanes grow well in Brisbane under shade cloth.


These are commonly called the Moth orchid. Phalaenopsis are native to the hot steamy, low light jungles of the Pacific region, from India, south east Asia to Cape York. Growing epiphytically high up in the trees where they enjoy constant air movement. They require constant air movement and high humidity in summer between 40-70%. Temperature in summer should not exceed 30 and in winter not below 10 with 15 being the optimum. Heat may be required in the Brisbane area. As phalaenopsis do not have pseudobulbs water and fertilise regularly in summer. Never allow them to dry out. Ensure water dries off the leaves before dark in winter. Phalaenopsis thrive in shady conditions approx 70% shade. This light intensity reaching the plants should keep the leaves firm, succulent and dark.

Vanda Alliance

Vandas and allied species come from the tropics of Asia, India, Burma and Thailand to New Guinea. Vandas have a monpodial habit (one foot), growing continuously throughout the year. Some of the terete Vandas can be grown outdoors in full sun while the strap leafed type like light shade, approx 30-50%. Air movement and high humidity should be maintained at all times but avoid drafts in winter. Vandas should be grown in a very open mix of bark and charcoal, preferring hanging baskets culture. This allows their roots to grow out of the basket. Vandas need daily watering in summer as well as misting several times a day. Water less in winter but never allow them to dry out. Being robust plants Vandas are heavy feeders so fertilise regularly.

Certrobium Dendrobium

These are commonly called Antelope Dendrobiums because of their straight twisted petals. They come for Northern Australia, New Guinea through to the Philippines where they grow in hot, humid lowland jungles. They are usually large evergreen plants. They require warm nights in winter and will grow better under cover during this period. In summer water at east every two days and fertilise once a week with a high nitrogen fertilizer. As the days get cooler reduce the amount of water and change to a high phosphorus fertilizer for good flowering. In winter little water is required and no fertilizer. Air movement and high humidity should be maintained at all times. Repot in spring when new growths are 2-3 inches high.


The common dancing lady is an Oncidium. They are widely distributed throughout tropical America to southern Brazil. There are many cultural types while blooming periods run throughout the year. Most Oncidium flowers are yellow and brown while miniature equitant Oncidiums can be any colour. Most Oncidiums will grow under 50-70% shade cloth. Good air movement and high humidity is essential. Minature equitant Oncidium can be grown on cork slabs. Oncidiums should be watered abundantly in the growing and flowering season. Water early in the morning to allow potting mix to dry before nightfall to avoid the fine roots rotting if the mix is too wet. Half strength fertilizer should be used weekly.


Most of the Cymbidiums grown today are hybrids from less than a dozen species from northern India and Burma and are called standards. Three Australian species have been bred with the modern hybrid to give the Miniature and Intermediate classed. Standards are hard to flower in Brisbane as the night temperature is not cold enough to initiate flowering. Miniature and Intermediate do grow well here. They should be grown under 30% shade sloth. There are many commercial potting mixes available – Choose one that drains well. During the growing seasons water Cymbidiums frequently and heavily but reduce in winter. Good air movement is essential in summer. As the flower spikes emerge place plants under cover and whites and pinks under heavy shade. Cymbidium flowers are very long lived and ideal for cut flowers.

Australian Natives

Australian native Dendrobiums are growing in popularity following the work done by the hybridisers. They have used many natives to improve the colour range and life of the flowers. They are easy to grow providing care is taken with their culture. Pot natives in smaller pots using a bark and charcoal mix that will allow them to dry out quickly. Water regularly in summer – allow time for plants to dry out between watering. In winter only water enough to stop dehydration. Fertilise in summer with half strength fertilizer. Grow natives under 75% shade cloth allowing good air movement and high humidity. Dendrobium caniculatum or similar types may need shelter in winter. Repot in spring after flowering.