It’s hard not to be fascinated by cymbidium orchids. They have, after all, conquered every continent on earth, except for the Arctic and Antarctic.
With such variety available, there’s a cymbidium orchid for every taste and environment. Cymbidium orchids, unlike other tropical orchids, like a cooler climate, making them a wonderful and surprisingly hardy perennial pick for a Sydney garden.
Like all orchids, cymbidiums need a constant supply of fresh air and sufficient light, so finding the right spot for your cymbidium orchid is important. While they need plenty of light to flower, the flowers can easily burn in hot sun over 30 degrees Celsius, so dappled or indirect sunlight is often the best way to go. Growing your cymbidium orchid under the light shade of an evergreen tree or shrub is a good idea. Under eaves or on a sunny but covered verandah or patio also works well.
Keep your cymbidium orchid moist year round and increase watering from spring to autumn, while the plant is actively growing. Adjust your watering depending on the environment, so the roots don’t rot. During hot weather, you may need to water at least three times a week, but if the weather is cool, you may only need to water once or twice. As a general rule, if the potting mix looks or feels moist, it doesn’t need a drink.
Growing cymbidium orchids in containers
Cymbidiums are best grown in containers and kept off the ground because it increases airflow and helps keep slugs, snails and other bugs out. The roots are designed to grow on trees and in leaf litter so plenty of air around the roots is important. Cymbidiums won’t grow well in normal soil or potting mixes. You need to use a well-draining, specialty potting medium for orchids made up of a mixture of course bark, charcoal, perlite and foam. You can find speciality potting mix at Flower Power. If you need to repot your plant, do it in early October, when flowering has finished.
From October through to late March, cymbidiums should be fed with a high-nitrogen food to promote good leaf growth. From late March through to early October, feed with a high potassium food. This will promote flowering.
With a little TLC, you will be romanced by cymbidium orchid’s elegant flowers for 4 to 12 weeks between winter and spring. Cymbidium blooms come in a huge array of colours and a healthy cymbidium will reward you with flower spikes year after year, for many years.
As a cut flower, cymbidiums can last an incredible 2 to 3 weeks. To assist with the next flowering period, don’t let the flower spikes (the part that grows out of the main stems) die on the plant. Cut and transfer to a vase to encourage the cymbidium to concentrate its energy into new growth.
Before pruning, ensure all of the flowers have fallen off and the entire stem has turned brown. At that point, you can cut the stem at its base, a few centimeters above the soil. You can also add a high nitrogen fertilizer during this growing phase, to support the leaves.
Pests & diseases
If you notice snails and slugs, use animal-friendly snail bait as per product instructions. If your plant looks limp and lifeless, it may be under attack from spider mites. Tiny tick-like scale is another pest that can suck the sap (and life) out of your orchid. Spider mites and scale can be combated with a spray of eco-oil.