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Help identifying Laelia Orchid

Posted by gardenbench zone 6 CT (My Page) on
Sat, Mar 20, 10 at 16:12

My attention was recently drawn to Orchids and I began doing a little research on them. I had thought they were difficult to grow but when I learned that some could actually be grown quite successfully in the home I got excited. Learning about and growing new flowers is one of the great pleasures of my life so I immediately began learning more. But the information out there is so vast that unless you know something about what you are looking for it can be difficult to find the information you need. So I went to e-bay to get a little feel for what was out there in the way of orchids and which varieties would draw my attention. While I was looking around I came upon this Laelia purpurata. It was, and still is, the most beautiful orchid I have come across, and it's growing requirements seem to make it a good choice for my situation. But when I did a little research using the names the seller gave for this orchid I found that his picture did not match his description or the variety he said it was. I was very disappointed, so I came here hoping that maybe someone would know just what variety it is and where I might be able to find one. Or maybe one of you have one that you would be willing to trade. ( :
beautiful Laelia
I know I shouldn't get an orchid just because I fall in love with a picture of it, so maybe someone can give me a little further help in narrowing this vast field of orchid varieties to what I really need and can grow. I am looking to grow orchids on a south facing windowsill or on an area near the window, so something with a flowering stem of probably no more than about 1 foot would be best. More than one bloom time per year would be wonderful and a bloom in late winter/early spring would be nice. However, I am most particular about the look of the bloom and will sacrifice other details to get just what I want. I haven't got much room and will probably only be able to grow maybe three orchids so I want to get something that I really, really like. I am particularly drawn to the look of the Laelia purpurata family with it's dark throat and light petals, and the shape of the blossom, but any variety with similar looks would be fine. So basicly, what varieties should I research to find an orchid that looks like this and thats bloom stems are about a foot tall (making the whole plant about 1 1/2 feet)? Thank you so much to anyone who can give a few minutes to setting me on the right path to finding my dream orchid!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

Talking the talk. Laelia purpurata is a species orchid. ie an orchid that grows/grew in the wild. There are varieties of this orchid other than the type form, one example being Laelia purpurata variety carnea where the colour in the lip (labellum) is pink.

There are superior forms of Laelia pururata around as a result of line breeding with plants that have "superior" shape or colour in the flowers.

If Laelia purpurata is crossed with another orchid in the Laeliinae sub-tribe you will have a Hybrid.

As for whether Laelia purpurata is a good candidate for windowsill culture i'm leaving that to the locals.

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

I don't know if you can bloom a purpurata in a sunny window in CT or not but it would be worth a try. It is a gorgeous species and my favorite out of all of the cattleya family.

Sorry to report it will only bloom once a year, late spring. They produce growths right after flowering, produce their sheath and then hold them for months.

Here are a couple of mine showing the variation within the family. This is purpurata v. Werkhauseri Free Image Hosting at This is the purpurata v. flamea Free Image Hosting at This is purpurata v. aleata Free Image Hosting at

Good luck I hope you can grow it.


RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

Laelia purpurata is what jumped into my head when I saw the picture. There are different color forms as has been pointed out. Grow yours in good health.

I have a couple of them but this is my favorite. Not because it is "superior" but because I loved the plant and flowers when I saw it. There was no deciding if I had a place for it or it it was a good idea to buy because of the price or did I really need another large orchid plant in my crowded greenhouse.

No, I just pulled out the wallet an brought it home.

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

I know Laelia pumila is a do-able on CT windowsills. I'm in western PA and it blooms very nicely. I've never bothered with the Laelia purpurata gang - they are lovely but I just don't have the space. Remember, your not just fitting a plant and pot on your windowsill, but future blooms - and some blooms can take up quite a bit of space!

Also remember that the hybridizers have some great mini/small space Catts out there that really perform great - and you can get more on a windowsill (even more with the addition of a small shelf too!).

Try Hausermann's and/or Carter and Holmes for something to fit on your windows and give you the flowers you want. Places such as these make their living from repeat customers so making you happy is good business for them (who can stop at a few??).

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

If you buy a plant that is not in bloom, make sure you read the label. If you are indeed looking for the species, L. purpurata, they are quite common on the market. There a a number of color forms: tipo (typical lavender), semi-alba (white with dark purple lip), carnea (pink forms), werkhauserii (violet blue lip forms), sanguinea (dark, reddish color overall) and striata (a striped form) and caerulea (blue-like) forms. Now, what you have pictured seems more like a hybrid: like Lc. Canhanamiana: a classic and very early hybrid. As with all cattleya type orchids (and now purpurata falls into the cattleya family) all need moderately high light requirements to bloom. They don't tolerate heavy shade. If you do grow them in the home, have the plant in a South facing window. And in the summer, take it outside in a shade house, or under the shade of a tree that doesn't produce dense shade: a locust tree has fne leaves. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves. But too much shade will give you limp and small new growths. Again, ideally, a shade or lath house is best.

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

Thank you all for your help and advise. I really appreciate your taking the time to give me hand. I'll just keep looking around till I find the perfect one. Thanks again.

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

If you like purpurata, take a look at Laelia tenebrosa. I believe it used to be classified as L. purpurata. Its like purpurata, but bronze instead of white.

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

Thank you so much toyo for your response. I think you are right about this one being a Lc. Canhanamiana. That clue really helped narrow my searches! But I can't find much specific information about them. Do you know how tall of a plant I could expect this to become?
Thanks also for the growing tips. I hadn't thought about taking them outside for the summer.

RE: Help identifying Laelia Orchid

Brooke, I like your flamea pic!


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