8 Catasetum Orchids to Consider Growing

Catasetum orchids create vibrant, unique flowers. Which ones should you consider growing?

Catasetum orchids are a beautiful, vibrant variety that gardeners admire for their versatility and appeal. Once suitable growing conditions have been established, they are easy to grow.

There are roughly 150 species of catasetum orchids, which have distinctive waxy flowers that can be both male or female. They all have several remarkable and unique characteristics.

They demand little attention but need a lot of sunlight and heat. Thus, they are a wonderful plant to grow in a greenhouse or a hot outdoor area.

Catasetum orchids are native to Central and South America. This means that many of the species flourish in a habitat that is similar to their native environment, which is sunny, warm, and humid. 

These orchids usually grow as epiphytes on tree branches and trunks, although some species can be grown on rocks on the grounds, and others grow at the base of palm trees.

1. Ctsm. fimbriatum

This orchid species, also known as fringed catasetum, is most commonly found in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. It grows on palms and other similar trees at elevations less than 2,600 feet above sea level.

It features multiple conical and tapering pseudobulbs that are 8 inches long and 2 inches broad, as well as acute leaves that can grow to be 18 inches long.

In late spring and summer, the fringed catasetum bears 7 to 15 loosely grouped, fleshy, spicy-scented flowers that bloom on a 17-inch long inflorescence.

The flowers vary in color, but the stalk is usually white or another pale color. Inflorescences grow upright at first, then arch and droop to position the blossoms for pollination, which is usually done by bees.

orchid catasetum flower against a black background

2. Ctsm. integerrimum 

The Mexican orchid is found in Mexico, Central America, and Nicaragua. In the Pacific and Caribbean regions, it grows as epiphytes in humid forests, coffee plantations, and even out in the open.

This species is used in traditional medicine and has been over-harvested due to its ornamental and therapeutic properties.

The flowers are mysterious, resembling a praying monk’s yellow-green cloak. The lip serves as the hood, while the column resembles a tie around the monk’s neck.

The flowers are typically yellowish-green with red flecks on the fleshy green sepals.  They may also have richer purple spots or larger purple patches.

3. Ctsm. pileatum 

C. pileatum is stunning even without its flowers. This magnificent species is native to Trinidad and the Negro and Orinoco River basins in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. Until 1921, it was Venezuela’s national flower.

This orchid grows rapidly during the summer and thrives in damp, well-nourished environments.

From March through October, this plant produces several 3-inch, spicy-scented flowers. Male flowers are colorful and variegated, while female flowers are yellow-green and have a consistent pattern. Both male and female flowers can grow up to 5 inches in diameter and produce a noticeable fragrance.

catasetum orchid in a dark background

4. Ctsm. barbatum

The bearded catasetum is a cluster-growing terrestrial orchid that requires a lot of sunshine. It grows in abundance in the Amazon and Brazil, where it is found in open lowland settings that are typically aquatic.

This species produces fleshy, fragrant blossoms on a 1.5-inch-long inflorescence that forms on a mature pseudobulb. 

It blooms under ideal conditions from spring through summer and occasionally in the fall.

guyana orchid in full bloom black background

5. Ctsm. denticulatum 

This orchid, commonly known as the small-toothed catasetum, grows at altitudes ranging from 330 to 980 feet in the Amazonian rain forest of Rondonia, Brazil. 

In late spring and early summer, it produces flowers on an upright, multiple-flowered inflorescence that grows on a new pseudobulb. The color of the blossoms is saturated and vibrant and features black spotting on a cream-colored lip.

Male blooms are 1.5 inches across and have rose-colored sepals speckled with dark red and rose-colored petals with fewer but larger dark red patches. 

closeup picture of denticulatum orchid flower

6. Ctsm. bicolor 

This little, rapidly growing epiphyte is indigenous to Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil. It thrives in hot and warm climates and can survive in partial shade. 

The bracts, petioles, sepals, and petals are all tan with a subtle reddish tinge, with heavy red-brown dotting on the sepals and petals. 

The lip and column are pearly white with red-purple spotting, as are the lip edges. The leaves droop, and the large, fragrant flowers bloom for 18 to 20 days during the summer.

7. Ctsm. gnomus 

This species, known as gnome-like catasetum, grows on lowland trees near bodies of water in the humid mountain ranges of the Amazon, Brazil, and Peru. It thrives in both hot and cold temperatures.

It’s a big, beautiful plant with long-lasting flowers that come in a variety of lip shapes. From spring to fall, this orchid blooms on an arching or loosely erect stem, producing 4 to 12 flowers. 

Male blossoms have more spots than female blossoms. The broad white rim of the uppermost lip is the key to identifying this species. 

8. Ctsm. tenebrosum 

This orchid features dark brown to black flowers with a lovely creamy green lip, making it one of the most valued catasetums available. They are native to the eastern slopes of the Andes, southeastern Ecuador, and eastern Peru, where they grow on trees.

It is a warm-to-cold-growing epiphytic plant that can reach a height of 14 inches. This orchid produces 10 to 18 male flowers when situated in medium partial shade or 3 to 6 green female flowers if in direct sunlight.

Each flower is approximately 1.25 inches in diameter and produces a spicy scent.

closeup of a hybrid catasetum orchid
Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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