Lycaste - Orchids - Cultivation techniques and main species of the Lycaste Orchid

Lycaste - Orchids - Cultivation techniques and main species of the Lycaste Orchid



Cultivation techniques

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In the genre Lycaste we find orchids whose area of ​​origin includes the belt that goes from Cuba, to Peru to Brazil, mainly located in cool climate areas even if there are few species that have coastal areas as their habitat, therefore milder climates.

The genre Lycaste it counts just over 45 species EPIPHITE and to a small extent terrestrial or lithophyte ,provided with pseudobulbs from whose apexes the leaves develop mostly lanceolate and with evident veins. We have deciduous species such as the Aromatic Lycaste and evergreen species such as the Lycaste skinneri.

The pseudobulbs they have an ovoid or conical shape and have the particularity of showing their good state of health in an incredible way, in fact in this case they are very turgid and well swollen.

The inflorescences they are, in almost all species (with some rare exceptions), terminal and consist of 2 to 10 pedunculated flowers which develop at the apex of the stem.

The flower it has a waxy appearance, with a very small lip and is very fragrant (with the exception of some species) with colors varying from green, to pink, to white and yellow.

The orchids Lycaste they are divided into three groups

: DECIDUOUS, MACROPHYLLAE is FIMBRIATAE. Let's see in detail the differences between the three large groups:


All the species belonging to this group are native to the mountainous areas of Mexico and Guatemala and have the particularity (with the exception of Lycaste tricolor) to have pseubobulbs that end with strong, very sharp thorns.

They develop as epiphytes on trees or rocks near watercourses.

In this group we find about ten species: Lycaste crinita, Lycaste cruenta, Lycaste campbelli, Lycaste brevispatha, Lycaste aromatica, Lycaste deppei, Lycaste consobrina, Lycaste Macrobulbon, Lycaste Tricolor, Lycaste Lasioglossa .

As for their development cycle, growth is usually rapid during the rainy season which corresponds roughly from late spring to late autumn (May - November), a period in which the plant emits the new shoots and the flowers at the same time. Subsequently there is a rest period of 2 to 5 months, during which it loses its leaves which in nature corresponds to the dry period, so in this period the plants must not be watered.


This group includes several species, very widespread both as species and as hybrids, originating in Guatemala and Bolivia, in areas with mild temperatures.

They are easy to grow orchids as they do not require special precautions and attention and are therefore ideal for beginners.

The recognized species in this group are:Lycaste skinneri, Lycaste dowiana, Lycaste xytriophora, Lycaste powellii, Lycaste leucantha, Lycaste neglecta


In this group we find about ten species originating from the Andean areas of central-South America and in particular from Colombia, Ecuardor and Peru located both at sea level and up to 1500 meters above sea level.

Their habitat of origin are the areas with limited thermal excursions and constant humidity.

The species included in this group are: Lycaste barringtonia, Lycaste ciliata, Lycaste denningiana, Lycaste fulvescens, Lycaste linguella, Lycaste locusta, Lycaste longipetala, Lycaste longiscapa and Lycaste mesochlaena.


The Lycaste they are not tropical plants as their places of origin are cool and mid-mountain places (with some exceptions). Consequently, the cultivation temperatures must not be excessive. Although there are differences between the different species, in general it can be said that average temperatures around 13 ° C at night and 25 ° C during the day can be good for most species.

For orchids Lycaste air circulation is very important and must always and in any case be guaranteed.

(For more information on temperature and ventilation see the article: «Temperature and ventilation of orchids»).


The Lycaste they are orchids that do not want too bright a light. A good indicator of the lighting conditions are the leaves: if these appear weak and bend easily it means that the lighting is not enough vice versa if brown spots appear on the leaves it means that the light is excessive. Ultimately, good lighting but don't overdo it. It should in fact be kept in mind that the leaves of this genus are not very thick and almost leathery as for example those of the Cattleya so it is necessary to always keep an eye on them and adjust accordingly.

(For more information on light, see the article: "Orchid needs for light").


There Lycaste they should be watered according to the phase of their vegetative cycle.

All starting from autumn and throughout the winter slow down their vegetative activity so in this period the watering must be reduced or suspended completely for deciduous orchids, that is to say for those that lose their leaves (only if you note that the pseudobulbs begin to wither, the leaves need to be sprayed).

A substrate that is too humid during the dormant period causes the formation of small vesicles in the pseudobulbs very easily.

In spring, when the plant will begin to form the new shoots and at the same time the flowers, it is necessary to start watering generously again and this until autumn.

For these plants it is essential to water carefully and thoroughly in order to clean the substrate from any accumulated mineral salts. Therefore it is essential to drain the watering water well.

The frequency of watering also depends on the type of substrate you have used: small-sized substrates should be watered more frequently as the substrate will dry out more quickly. It also depends on the age and size of the plant: the larger the plant, therefore with a greater foliar and root system, the more the irrigation water will be absorbed and transpired quickly and therefore the more frequent watering must be.

Considering that they are plants that do not like in any way the excess of mineral salts, it is preferable not to use tap water but rain or demineralized water.

Relative humidity for the orchidLycaste it must be moderate: around 50-60%. The higher the temperature (spring - summer), the higher the relative humidity must be. In winter in theory it should be much more moderate but a lot depends on how regulated the radiators are.

It is a good idea, for the health of all our plants, to equip the radiators with a humidifier so as not to allow the air in the room to become too dry.

(For more information on watering see the article: «Watering and humidity of orchids»).


The Lycaste they are orchids that must be fertilized often and little as they do not like the excesses of mineral salts in the substrate.

The logic to follow when administering fertilizers is as follows: at the vegetative restart in spring, the orchid is given a fertilizer with a greater quantity of nitrogen (N) and that is to say the formula 30:10:10 (N: P: K) is used which means: 30 parts of nitrogen, 10 parts of diphosphorus (P ) and 10 parts of potassium (K).

When the flowering period arrives nitrogen is decreased and phosphorus and potassium are increased and therefore the formula 10:30:20 is used.

During the other periods the balanced formula 20:20:20 is used and the frequency must be significantly reduced.

It is essential that fertilizations are carried out with the substrate wet to avoid dangerous concentrations of mineral salts that could damage the roots.

Fertilizers must be dissolved in the irrigation water in a very low percentage, 0.5% once a week. Obviously these indications are relevant to inert substrates, that is to say that they do not bring any nutritional elements to the plant (in this regard see the entry: "Type of substrate and repotting "). Doses will be decreased if a non-inert substrate is used.

It is important never to let the substrate dry completely as there would be an excessive concentration of mineral salts. It would be advisable that after a certain number of fertilizations (4 or 5) watering is carried out without fertilizer in order to rinse the substrate and lower the salt concentration.

Excessive fertilization is immediately signaled by the plant as dry spots are created on the leaves and the tips of the leaves and roots become necrotic.

(For more information on fertilization you can consult the article: "Fertilization of orchids").


For the orchid Lycaste it is essential to repot practically every year as they are plants very sensitive to the deterioration of the growing substrate.

Repotting should be done at the vegetative restart, in spring, when the new shoots have reached a length of 10-15 cm and the roots have fully resumed their activity. It is not advisable to repot at other times of the year unless there is some emergency factor that requires the replacement of the substrate.

The moment of repotting is also the occasion to carry out the division of the plant. In this case, at least three pseudobulbs per plant should be left. Each cutting surface must be done with well-sharpened knives and previously flame-disinfected and the cutting surfaces must be treated with broad spectrum fungicidal powders that you will find from a good nurseryman.

Crucial for this plant is the choice of the pot, which must be small. Large pots contain a greater amount of substrate which takes longer to dry between waterings and therefore tends to rot more quickly. It must also have an adequate number of drainage holes (otherwise equip yourself with suitable tools to increase them). It is important that the container has been previously disinfected either with alcohol or bleach. It would also be advisable that, if you do not use gloves, your hands are also well cleaned before proceeding.

Before repotting, the orchid should be wet well to make the roots more elastic and thus avoid breakage. The roots must be cleaned of all the material that remains attached to them and the dead ones must be removed with shears that you will have first disinfected well over the flame.

As far as the type of substrate to use is concerned, this species is not particularly demanding, the only characteristic must be that of guaranteeing excellent drainage, which allows good aeration of the roots and which has the ability to retain humidity.

A mixture could be composed of half of fir bark (medium and small size) and the other half of charcoal and various inert materials such as polystyrene. The larger pieces should be placed on the bottom of the vase. For the Deciduosae group it is preferable to use a substrate made up of small pieces that dry much more quickly, this to ensure a rapid drying of the substrate during the vegetative rest period.

Before repotting, wash the substrate thoroughly by leaving it immersed for a few days in water in order to eliminate the dust present, remove the impurities that end up on the bottom of the container and thus ensure their perfect hydration.

If the roots adhere to the pot at the time of flaring, it is advisable to immerse the pot for about 30 minutes in just warm water. If this technique doesn't work, then cut the pot. Do not force the roots which could be damaged.

After the orchid is repotted, leave it dry and away from direct light and temperature changes for about seven days to allow the cut parts to heal. Therefore watering must be resumed very gradually. Once the root activity has resumed, resume feeding the fertilizer.

(For more information on repotting you can consult the article: «Type of substrate and repotting of orchids»).

The Lycaste they bloom in spring but to be able to bloom it is necessary to ensure, during autumn, a significant temperature range between day and night.

There Lycaste it gives us precise signals about the quantity and quality of flowering: if the pseudobulbs appear very plump and stout it means that we will have an excellent flowering.

In fact the Lycaste it is a plant that shows us very generously that it has appreciated the care we give it by presenting pseudobulbs that are the envy of any other orchid.

The flowers last for several weeks.


As for the diseases of the Lycaste see the chapter: «Diseases and treatments of orchids».


The first Lycaste, the Lycaste locust (photo below), was discovered by the Spaniards in Peru in 1700.

There Lycaste skinneri alba (photo below) (Monja Blanca) from 11 February 1934 was declared the national flower of Guatemala.


See: «Orchids - The language of flowers and plants».

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