Cattleya Flowers Meaning And Symbolism

Cattleyas are known as the Queen of the Orchids. With their large, elegant, gorgeously scented flowers, they are undoubtedly regal. Cattleya orchids are popular gifts and are associated with wealth and luxury. But what is the significance of Cattleyas? What do they symbolize?

Cattleyas are the birth orchid for the month of October, symbolizing grace. The Cattleya is the national flower of Colombia where it symbolizes endurance and resilience. In ancient Greece, orchids were symbolic of fertility and virility. Different colored Cattleyas have various meanings as gifts.

Just by looking at them, one can tell that a Cattleya is a special flower. Giving somebody a Cattleya orchid can express a range of meanings and emotions. Let’s look at the cultural significance of these beautiful flowers and their history.

What Is The Meaning And Symbolism Of Cattleya Flowers?

Cattleyas were named after English horticulturist William Cattley in 1817. Cattley was the first person to cultivate these exotic plants in England.

The Victorians revered orchids because they were so rare and exotic. Cattleyas are naturally found in Central and South America, so horticulturalists had to travel great journeys to bring them back to England. As a result, orchids became symbolic of luxury and rare beauty.

There are over 50 different species of Cattleya orchid. Cattleya flowers themselves do not have any particular symbolic meaning linked to them, but orchids have been associated with fertility and virility for centuries.

The word orchid comes from the Greek word “orchis”, meaning testicles. In Greek mythology, orchid bulbs were eaten by men to ensure that they were blessed with a son. If a woman ate the bulb, they were blessed with a daughter.

The oldest writings on orchids come from ancient Chinese and Japanese literature, as early as 700 BC. In Japan, orchids are symbolic of wealth and nobility. Their history in Japan is closely linked to Samurai culture. Courageous warriors would travel great distances to bring these mesmerizing flowers back to the royal court.

In China, orchids are of great cultural significance because of their importance to the Chinese philosopher, Confucius. They inspired many of his poems and literary works. To Confucius, orchids were symbolic of integrity.

Today in China, orchids are still a large part of gifting culture. Chinese people believe that orchids symbolize success, and giving someone an orchid will bring them good fortune.

The Meanings Of Different Cattleya Flower Colors

While particular Cattleya flowers do not have their own meanings attached to them, different colored orchids certainly have their own symbolism in the language of flowers:

  • Red orchids represent love, passion, romance, and desire. They are also symbolic of power and courage.
  • Pink orchids represent femininity, motherhood, gracefulness, and happiness.
  • Orange orchids represent confidence, courage, boldness, enthusiasm, and motivation.
  • Yellow orchids convey sentiments of friendship and happiness. They are also symbolic of enthusiasm for new beginnings.
  • Green orchids are symbolic of nature. They are associated with longevity, good health, blessings, and good fortune in life.
  • White orchids are symbolic of innocence, purity of the heart and soul, beauty, harmony, wisdom, and humility.
  • Lavender orchids are associated with gracefulness, purity, solitude, feminine beauty, and devotion.
  • Purple orchids are associated with nobility. They are a symbol of reverence, admiration, and respect.

Cultural Significance Of Cattleya Flowers

In Colombia, Cattleya trianae or “Flor de Mayo”, is the national flower. It was nominated to be the national flower in 1936 by a botanist called Emilio Robledo. He chose this Cattleya because the colors of the flower, yellow, blue, and red, are the same as the ones on the Colombian flag.

It was an apt choice because Cattleya trianae was named after a Colombian botanist, José Jerónimo Triana. The flower is endemic to Colombia and is a symbol of resilience and endurance.

When To Give Someone Cattleya Flowers

It is clear that Cattleya flowers can convey a wide range of meanings depending on their color. Here are some suggestions for when to gift someone a beautiful potted Cattleya:

  • Pink Cattleyas are a traditional 14th and 28th wedding anniversary flower, so be sure to give one to your spouse when you celebrate these milestones. Pink Cattleyas are also a great Mother’s Day gift, as they symbolize femininity and motherhood.

They can also be given to a sick person as a get-well-soon gift, as they signify healing, friendship, and affection.

  • In modern times, white Cattleyas have become a traditional gift for expecting mothers at their baby shower. They symbolize the birth of a child.
  • Yellow Cattleyas are the perfect gift to give someone who is starting a new chapter of their life. They are perfect for wedding and housewarming gifts. Because yellow is the color of friendship and happiness, they are also a great gift for Friendship Day.
  • Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to gift your significant other with a red Cattleya. You can also give one to your dearly beloved on their birthday or your anniversary. Red Cattleyas are also a gift you can give someone who is going through a difficult time. They symbolize courage and power and will hopefully encourage the person to get through the troubles they are facing.
  • Cattleyas are the birth orchid for the month of October, so they are the perfect birthday gift for a friend who is born in this month.

Medicinal Uses Of Cattleya Flowers

Orchids have played a role in traditional folk medicine for centuries. For example, the ancient Aztecs combined them with chocolate to create an elixir that they believed gave them strength and power.

The ancient Greeks believed that eating an orchid tuber could determine the sex of an unborn child. If a woman ate the tuber, they would bear a daughter, whereas if the man ate the tuber, they would have a son.

Modern research on the medicinal applications of orchids, specifically Cattleyas, is pretty sparse.

In 2011, Japanese researchers studied the fragrant properties of a few different Cattleyas. It was found that the perfumes emitted by these flowers can have a sedative effect on the nervous system and help to promote the recovery of the skin barrier and its functioning.


As enchanting as Cattleyas flowers are, they have not really been assigned any specific meaning or symbolism. They are the national flower of Colombia, where they represent resilience and endurance. Cattleyas are also the birth orchid for the month of October, symbolizing grace.

While Cattleyas themselves do not have that much cultural significance or symbolism, orchids certainly do. Different colored orchids are given as gifts to convey a particular sentiment. Therefore, gifting a person with a red, pink, white, orange, yellow, or purple Cattleya has different meanings.