Laelia esalqueana is one of the star-shaped Laelias known as “Rupicolus Laelias” due to their unique habitat growing in almost full sun in rocky mountainous terrain, sometimes on the rocks themselves in pockets of poor soil. This species was named in 1973 after the Escola Superior de Agricultura in Brazil where it is found in the state of Sao Paulo.
As may be expected their culture is determined by this habitat. They need a lot of sun, good humidity, and a dry winter rest with only occasional misting and intermediate temperatures with 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or 13 degree Centrigrade, at night and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or 21 degrees Centigrade, during the day. In their native habitat they will endure much cooler temperatures at night without harm.
These plants are true miniatures, growing to only 3 inches or 8 centimeters high. The two to five bright yellow-gold flowers are held just above the plant on a stout inflorescence for a nice presentation. The plant itself has squat, fat pseudobulbs with thick fleshy leaves all of which provide storage for water in a dry environment. They need a rest after flowering until the new growth starts when watering should be resumed. A drop of temperature at night is almost a requirement to get these little plants to bloom well. Some growers recommend temperatures in the 50 degree Fahrenheit, or 10 degrees Centigrade if normal intermediate temperatures do not induce blooming.
As may be noted from the description of their native habitat, these orchids need high light to flower. They require 2500 to 3500 foot candles of light for at least several hours each day. If you are growing under lights, place them close to the middle of fluorescent lights and only about 4 inches below the lights. The middle of the lights provides the brightest light at the highest intensity.
Laelias are closly related to Cattleyas and they have been extensively interbred with them to produce smaller plants and bright flowers, especially in the yellow flower range. This particular species is one of the parents of a very well known mini-catt called Lc. Jungle Elf ((L. esalqueana x C. aclandiae) and figures in the background of more than 80 hybrids. The small size as well as the nice number of flowers have made this one of the species used extensively in the new breeding for smaller size orchids in the Cattleya alliance.