They are widely known for their large, showy flowers, and were used extensively in hybridization for the cut-flower trade until quite recently. This genus and the numerous hybrids come close, through their beauty, to the idealized picture we have of the orchids. The flowers of the hybrids can vary in size from 5 cm to 15 cm or more. They occur in all colors except true blue and black. Species of this genus usually have 4 pollinas.
The typical flower has three rather narrow petals : two are fringed, and the third is the conspicuous lip with a fringed margin and various markings and specks. At the base, the fringed margins are folded into a tube. Each flower stalk originates from a pseudobulb. The number of flowers varies; it can be just one or two, or sometimes up to ten.
The genus can be separated into two categories monofoliates and bifoliates. Monofoliate plants have a single leaf and bears 1 to 4 large flowers which last 15 to 20 days. Bifoliates have two or more leaves, many small flowers and a slim stem.
Originally, the concept Cattleya included a requirement that the pollinarium contain only four pollinia. Starting some time after December, 2000, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) began re-organizing the generic boundaries with respect to hybrid registration. This has led to multiple senses of the term Cattleya, not only with respect to species, but also with respect to hybrids.
Cattleyas usually tolerate intermediate to warm conditions and can be grown in medium size fir bark. Plant prefers drying periods between watering and bright light is recommended. Lengthen drying period a bit in the winter.
The genus was named in 1824 by John Lindley after Sir William Cattley, who received and successfully cultivated specimens of Cattleya labiata that were used as packing material in a shipment of other orchids and tropical plants. The genus is usually called "the queen of flowers"