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Caring for Cymbidiums: ‘The King of Orchids’

Published: Wednesday 12 March 2014

Caring for Cymbidiums: ‘The King of Orchids’

Pronounced “Sim-bid-iums”, the Cymbidium is considered orchid royalty.

Affectionately known in the florist industry as ‘cymbids’, these exotic ‘King of Orchids’ come in an amazing variety of colours, from burnt orange, buttery yellow, gold and rich chocolate, to burgundy, white, rose pink and lime green.

Pricier than most, the cut Cymbidium flower can provide anywhere from two to three weeks of enjoyment, actually making them excellent value (potted plants can last even longer). And as annuals, potted Cymbidium orchids will re-bloom year after year if our simple care instructions are followed.

Now some of you may be reading this who have not had any success in the past getting your Cymbidium orchid to re-flower. But according to the Australian Orchid Nursery, something as simple as moving your plant to a position of higher light can encourage it to come into bloom. [1]

Check out some of these unusual varieties below!

Did you Know?

A healthy well-grown orchid will produce flowers spikes every year and a plant ten years old can produce from 10 to 20 flower spikes. [2]

The Perfect Location

Cymbidiums do not like full sun, heavy winds or direct frost. Ideally, potted Cymbidiums should be positioned in a warm and airy spot that receives bright, but not direct, hot sunlight, and preferably raised off the ground (for example, on a table or feature chair on a covered verandah with a north facing aspect is just right). Set your compasses!

The Australian Orchid Nursery provides these excellent tips to determine the perfect spot:

1. The sun moves higher in the sky in summer so watch shadows to find a suitable position. Hot sun (Over 30c) will scold your leaves.

2. Most of our foul weather comes from either the south-west (cold winds) or the north west (hot winds) so keep this in mind when positioning your plant.

3. Certain trees and shrubs are great for placing your orchids under. Most gums and wattles are fine as are other evergreens as long as the canopy is not too thick. If you place your hand above the foliage and find there is a light shadow then the light is perfect. Evergreen trees that may be great in summer may become too dark in winter, so you may need to relocate plants depending on season.

4. Cold glasshouses, and plastic or fibre glassed roofed shade houses produce the best results. Similar results can also be gained from under the eaves or covered patios but watch your watering, as these tend to be dry positions.

Pink cymbidiums in vase

The Cymbidium orchid does need to be watered year-round. They may survive if left to dry out for a long time, but will not flower well the following year or two.

To gauge when your plant needs water will depend on what the soil looks like in the pot. If the top looks moist, than watering shouldn’t be necessary. If the pot is cold or has moisture on it, you may get away without watering it for another day or so.

Ideally use the following as a guide:

Summer: Two to 3 times per week. Daily or twice daily in hot weather.
Autumn: Once to twice per week. Slightly more often if warmer.
Winter:    Once per week or two if under cover. Possibly not at all if in the rain.
Spring:    As for autumn.

Hot Tip! Bring flowering plants under cover to maximise the flower life, but do not forget to water the plant more often, as flowers use up far more water than the plant would normally use.

If you have a little spare time on your hands, overhead misting with a water spray gun during extra hot spells will help keep the air around your orchids humid and tropical. If you are fortunate enough to have an orchid growing area outside, you could even install an inexpensive polypipe misting system for those very hot days.

 Cymbidium orchids in vase

What to Feed?

For lazy gardeners, apply slow release plant foods in spring (Osmocote plus is recommended). For best results try the addition of liquid fertiliser at recommended strength a few times in warmer months.

For avid gardeners, the best results can be achieved by using any of the following liquid fertilisers following strength: Aquasol, Johnson’s, Thrive, Campbell’s or Peter’s  (1 teaspoon in 5 litres water). This is applied with a watering can weekly during the warmer growing season from September to May. Mark it in your calendar so you don’t forget!

Are you an Autumn or Winter bride? Lucky you! Cymbidium orchids look gorgeous in bouquets, buttonholes and centrepieces…

Scales & Snails

We can’t blame pests for wanting a piece of these babies, given how gorgeous they are! We suggest to use snail bait, particularly after rain and when the flower spikes first protrude. If your plant starts to become limp and lifeless, you may have spider mites. ‘Mavrik’ will keep these 8-legged sap-sucking creatures under control.

Lastly, scale is a difficult pest to kill that sucks the sap from your orchid. These tiny, tick like insects can be removed with the likes of Antiscale, but must be applied to both upper and lower surfaces of the leaves.

Simply stunning. A beautiful example of perfection with these bridal posies featuring Cymbidium orchid blooms…

And Finally…When to Re-Pot?

In nature, Cymbidiums grow as epiphytes with their roots exposed or in decaying timber and leaf litter. To simulate these conditions in pots, a number of specialty potting mixes for orchids are available.

Re-potting should be ideally done every two to four years and is best indicated by the plant bulbs filling the pot or the plant not growing well over the past year. A healthy plant should grow one to two new bulbs each year from each bulb that grew the previous year. When re-potting, the roots should be teased apart to remove old potting mix and then dead roots are to be removed.

A plant has three types of bulbs:

Old back bulbs without leaves: These bulbs are not important to the plant and act as a reserve food supply for

Old bulbs with leaves: These bulbs support the new growth and may produce flowers for a number of years
depending on the variety.

New leads or bulbs: These are the youngest bulbs on the plant and it is from these that the flowers and most new growth comes.

Special Tip: Keep your orchids off the ground. This keeps worms, slaters, slugs and snails out of the potting mix. These creatures break down the mix and cause it to become soggy.

Stay tuned for the arrival of Cymbidium orchids on the Flowers for Everyone website  – the plants make perfect gifts for men and women for any occasion.


The Australian Orchid Nursery


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