With the recent interest in blue Cattleyas, a number of commercial concerns have begun breeding this long-shelved line. Of course, one cannot overlook the basic reasons for its drop in popularity since Sir Jeremiah Coleman first worked with this color in the early part of the century.
The color itself is the primary reason for this line of breeding having slowed. Whereas along lavender lines, deep rich colors have been developed, in the blue line only strong suggestions of the color are apparent to most observers, and some fail to see even this. Its appearance in Cattleyas is extremely variable, showing strongly under certain conditions, while very weakly under others. Temperature is of primary concern. From numerous observations, the blue color reaches its greatest potential when plants are kept cooler during bud development and the early blooming stage. Relatively high light intensity does not seem to alter color, nor does off-season blooming.
The other major reason is the sterility barrier. For the most part, this is being overcome through the use of embryo culture.
Several break-throughs have occurred prior to this time. Nature has given us Laeliocattleya elegans 'Werkhauserii' and Lc. schilleriana 'coerulea'. Coleman hybridized Cattleya Portia coerulea, C. Ariel coerulea, Lc. Parysatis coerulea and Brassolaeliocattleya Victoria coerulea. In 1959, Lc. Blue Boy made its appearance and now Lc. Mariner and Lc. Poor Paul are beginning to bloom.
At present, Lc. Blue Boy and C. Ariel coerulea are figuring heavily in the breeding. They are being used principally with the larger Cattleyas. With each other, they make Lc. Blue Knight. In most cases, embryo cultures are giving seedlings in large quantities.
Laeliocattleya Parysatis coerulea has long been considered sterile, but several crosses with it as one parent are presently germinating or are out of flask.
Cattleya Portia coerulea is also making its entry. Variety 'Thielsts' is considered the darkest, yet most difficult to breed. Being comparable to C. Ariel coerulea, it will probably be used similarly.
Two recent hybrids on the order of Lc. elegans 'Werkhauserii' are Lc. Schilleriana, Werkhauserii strain, and C. Undine, semicoerulea strain. They are being used with the larger Cattleyas and in making Lc. Blue Boy-type hybrids. They give seed readily and several crosses are ready for reflasking.
Cattleya intermedia var. amethystina has been crossed with C. warneri var. coerulea with excellent germination. A pod is presently forming with it with C. gaskelliana 'Blue Dragon'. Both of these crosses are expected to be on the order of C. Undine. The future for this plant will principally be in the primary crosses and unusuals
Laelia anceps var. veitchiana is the parent for cooler-growing hybrids for growing out-of-doors in Southern California and similar climates. Presently, it has been crossed with Lc. Blue Boy and others with good germination.
The familiar blue hybrids, C. Portia coerulea, C. Ariel coerulea and Lc. Parysatis coerulea are sscheduled for remake, using variety concolor or selected selfings of C. bowringiana var. coerulescens.
The blue forms of C. gaskelliana, C. labiata, C. mossiae and C. warneri are being used with most of the other species and hybrids and among themselves. Two very promising crosses, C. Intertexta and C. Mrs. Myra Peeters, are ready for reflasking.
Though C. trianae 'Blue Bird' is of questionable value as a breeder, it is being used. Second-generation hybrids with it in the background will probably be of greater value than their first-generation predecessors.
Laeliocattleya Jericho is another "sterile" blue being used. Where the blue strain of this hybrid came from is a good questions, but it will figure greatly in future blue breeding.
Cattleya walkeriana var. coerulea has a lovely blue coloring with a lemon-yellow disc on the lip. It is being used primarily for unusuals.
Divisions of C. loddigesii var. azul, L. pumila var. coerulea and a blue form of C. deckeri are still to small for breeding, but seedlings from them are certainly forthcoming.
Time? Ten - twenty years? Perhaps it would be best to summarize by saying blue Cattleya breeding is still in its infancy, much on the order of the other lines fifty years ago.
(American Orchid Society Bulletin, Vol. 35, No. 8, August, 1966, pp. 647-648.)