Growing Catasetinae Orchids

Catasetinae is a group of orchids consisting of 8 genera. These resilient plants grow on branches, stumps and lamp posts. They go dormant in winter by shedding all their leaves and explode with growth in summer, the botanical equivalent of being a Sleeping Beauty. 

Some growers tend to trim away roots and leaves to force them to go into hibernation for a better show the following year. However, I find this unnecessary since the local weather is humid with sunshine year round. In fact, there may be no noticeable dormant-growth passive-active phases. 

They are way hardier than other family of orchids and almost impossible to kill. A small fragment which I broke off grew into one sturdy plant this year and may flower the next. Keeping my fingers crossed. 

Here are some ideas on growth culture, based on my past three years of keeping them. 

Potting mix

Inorganic media which allow water to flow through freely yet retain some moisture work really well. A mix of pumice, volcanic rock, clay pellets and charcoal is good. I simply use whatever media I have. During the growth phase, I may add a thin layer of moss on top of the medium.  

Spagnum moss tends to rot easily in our tropical weather, becoming a soggy mess. As such, care must be taken not to overwater the plants.

Another grower I know use coconut chips. It works really well for him. 

There is no hard-and-fast rule for choosing the potting mix. The trick is to get a medium or a mix of media which meets the water requirements of a plant and fits how often the caregiver likes to water. 


I used to like clay pots for growing my catasetinae orchids. They do grow well. 

However, I find that the plants grow even better in a semi-hydroponic manner. 

Many of them have huge pseudobulbs!

The plastic pots come from halved bottles. Holes are melted in with a soldering iron though they could be formed with any cutting tool.

There are no holes at the bottom of the plastic pot. This ensures that there is a very thin layer of water at the bottom of the pot. It is important that there are holes at the sides of the pot at the bottom to ensure that the layer of water is very thin and mosquitoes do not breed in the pot.


I tend to use a variety of slow release pellets and top up as and when I remember to. Every now and then, every green creature gets a heavily diluted fertiliser solution - a few drops to a large bucket of water. 

Sometimes, the plants remind me to fertilise them when they push out new growths and flower spikes.

I would have to say that the plants thrive with my benign neglect. When I was working from home, I killed a number of plants - not Catasetinae - by spraying Baygon on them to get rid of imaginary pests.   

Pest Control

Small conical snails tend to be attracted to the fleshy roots. The bright pink snail pellets work but are incredibly toxic. I find that Mr Garrick's organic snail powder - it smells like coffee residues - is much more effective.

Ants are drawn toward the nectar produced by new growths and flower spikes and can be poisoned off with ant gel.

(Also, they didn't pay me to advertise their products.)


Here are some photos of past blooms:

Have fun gardening!


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