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Growing Cymbidium Orchids

Cymbidium Orchid Cultivation

Cymbidium Orchid flowers
A beautiful Cymbidium Orchid

Cymbidium orchid species are not widely cultivated, but hybrids of Cymbidium orchids lend themselves to cultivation. They make excellent pot plants and cut flowers and as such the Cymbidium orchids (both the species and the hybrids) are very popular. Incidentally their flowering period coincides with the Winter Christmas season in the Northern hemisphere. These Cymbidium orchids make great gifts for loved ones. These semi-terrestrial orchids have narrow, fleshy, and leathery, strap shaped leaves and the flowers have irregular, waxy, almost translucent petals with entire margins. Center is often a contrasting color.

Cymbidium orchids are the best known and most widely grown of all orchids and orchid hybrid types which will survive in almost any place. They contain around 44 species; the large flowered types which come from the higher regions of the Himalayas and the Orient require cool conditions to flower well.

The Cymbidium orchid flower is very showy and there can be as many as 20-30 blooms or more on a single spike. The blooms vary in size and this reflects their labeling. Standard cymbidium orchids have large flowers and the miniature cymbidium orchid varieties have smaller flowers. The Cymbidium orchids come in Pink, White, Yellow, Orange, Red, Purple Light Green, and variations in-between.

Temperature

Temperature requirements for Cymbidium orchids range from cool to medium, but they prefer moderate light. A temperature of between 10 and 30 degrees Celsius (that is 50 to 85 °F) is ideal. One should however take care not to stress the Cymbidium orchids by exposing it to temperatures beyond this range. However, in the latter part of summer it may be wise to have the temperature drop at night to force Cymbidium orchids into bloom. This temperature drop is required to maximize flowering else the buds will turn yellow and drop down if it is too hot at night in summer. (Tip: Keep the orchids cool until the flowers have opened.)

Light

Cymbidium orchids tolerate most light levels well. This may be in the form of good morning sun or bright, "dappled" afternoon shade. If you have the Cymbidium orchid indoors you need to take care that it is not placed in a location that catches direct light, but rather place it in a location where they will get enough shade so as to protect the leaves from being scorched. Cymbidium orchids are phototropic and good light will ensure that the stems develop strong and firm which will further reward you with many flower heads that the orchid plant will be able to carry. A lanky long stem will not be able to carry the heavy Cymbidium orchid flower heads.

Moisture and humidity

Cymbidium orchids require frequent watering. You should thus water it thoroughly; keep the soil evenly moist to touch (not saturated or soggy wet). You certainly do not want to sit with Cymbidium orchids that are inflicted with root rot. Never allow water to collect around the bulbs, and never allow the plants to stand in water.

Humidity will prevent crinkled leaves. Air movement around Cymbidium orchids is also a requirement that should not be overlooked. The bigger the area around the plants, the more air movement (not draught) there will be and the sooner the Cymbidium orchid plant will dry out.

Feeding

White Cymbidium Orchid flowers
White Cymbidium Orchid flowers
Pink Cymbidium Orchid flowers
Pink Cymbidium Orchid flowers

The Cymbidium orchid plant is known as a hungry plant. They will not flower very well if not fed adequately. Cymbidium orchids should be fed just after every third watering (or about once every two weeks). Remember, Cymbidium orchids are watered frequently. Use a high nitrogen fertilizer such as 30:10:10 in spring to ensure that you get new growth. In summer this orchid fertilizer should be changed to a more general balanced 18:18:18 feed. In the following fall season you need to feed the Cymbidium orchids with a high potash-based fertilizer, a blossom booster, - say a 10:30:20 feed. And in winter you must change the feed to half strength general feed at least once a week. Heavy watering once every month is necessary to leach accumulated fertilizer salts from the potting medium. You do not want a build-up of un-dissolved fertilizer in the potting medium. This can cause the Cymbidium orchid roots to burn and result in root rot.

Pests and Diseases

  • Mealybugs are a real problem for the Cymbidium orchid cultivator: Wash with soapy water or wipe off with alcohol using cotton swab.
  • Red spider mite can also cause problems. Do mist the top and underside of the leaves regularly.
  • Scale insects: Scrape off. Isolate. If severe, dispose of the Cymbidium orchid plants that are affected and infected.
  • The Cymbidium mosaic virus: Purple ring spots and lines and patterns on the leaves. There is no control for the Cymbidium mosaic virus. Do not take cuttings from infected orchid plants. Destroy the infected orchid plants.

Potting mix and Repotting

The potting mix for the Cymbidium orchids should contain Osmunda, fir tree bark, or even coconut fiber. These will help to keep the plant stable in the pot and allow a free flow of water and air through the pot. Also quite popular to use as potting mixture for Cymbidium orchids, is a mixture of equal parts of medium-grade bark and perlite. The perlite is a white mineral substance that will provide aeration for the Cymbidium orchid. The bark-based compost will reduce any risk of rotting. Do not allow them to dry-out completely between watering.

Cymbidium orchids should be repotted every other year in the spring. Flower spikes may have to be removed in order to repot before summer. Do ensure that the new container have enough space to allow two years growth (based on mature bulb size). The pseudobulbs should rest just at the top of the mix and not be buried under the potting mix.

General tips for Cymbidium Orchid care

  • Select sturdy, shapely orchid plants with healthy foliage and bright, clear colored flowers.
  • Check leaf axils for insects.
  • Avoid plants with disease or insect damage.
  • After flowering you should put the Cymbidium orchid plant in bright light.
  • To get the Cymbidium orchids to re-flower you must expose the orchid plant to temperatures below 10° Celsius or 55° Fahrenheit for three weeks with twelve hours or more of darkness nightly. Then raise temperature and give full sun.
  • If your Cymbidium orchid fails to bloom, place it in brighter location. Cymbidium orchids are not difficult to grow if the necessary requirements are provided to them. It is propagated by rhizome division and is well grown in bright indirect light. Without enough light many Cymbidium orchids will not bloom.
  • The Cymbidium orchid needs high humidity.
  • Fertilize your Cymbidium orchids until they are through blooming.
  • When new growth appears, fertilize with a bloom-booster fertilizer.
  • Cymbidium orchids can be repotted every alternate year or more frequently if the plant has deteriorated due to fungal infections or if rotting has occurred with over watering. A Cymbidium orchid plant may sometimes become fairly large and it may be divided or split. However larger the orchid plant, the more flower spikes you can expect.