Aside from being spectacularly beautiful, Cymbidium orchids are a fantastic plant as they require very little from you when they are not in flower. That makes them a great house plant, and an even better gift.
The Cymbidium orchid is sometimes known as the Boat Orchid, and has 52 evergreen species. They generally live in tropical and subtropical regions of Northern Australia, as well as Asia, Borneo, the Phillipines, Malaysia, Northern India, and Japan. The climate in most Australian capital cities is suited to growing cymbidium orchids in a sheltered, shady area. This differs from many of the more tender tropical species of orchids such as the slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), which need warmer/humid climates or hot house conditions outside the tropics.
Their blooms have a diameter between 5 and 10cm, and generally bud and bloom throughout the winter months from May, through til September. Each flower spike can have 15 or more flowers, and are available in a variety of shades including; white, cream, green, yellow, brown, pink, red, orange and even black. Flowers are incredibly long lasting, so whilst they can seem a tad expensive per piece, they do provide great value for money, with them lasting up to ten weeks. Some orchids produce up to four flower spikes from each bulb and have erect, fleshy leaves, and once they are in flower the plants can be brought indoors into a bright room where the blooms can be enjoyed for many weeks.
Some varieties of Cymbidium orchids are fragrant, (some of my favourites) and often these are cultivated varieties from China.
Cymbidium orchids are what some believe to be one of the easiest orchids to grow but sometimes they need a little encouragement to flower. I was always told in my floristry training, that Cymbidiums are best being neglected throughout the year until flowering time came, perhaps sitting them under the canopy of other plants to provide some shelter. This is somewhat true as Cymbidiums do not want hot harsh sun to burn their leaves, but rather filtered light throughout the day. Light is in fact the most important factor to getting your orchids to reflower; too little sunlight will reduce flowering.
Once the plant has ceased flowering, you should begin your fertilising program. Ideally use something like Dynamic Lifter pellets, and simply feed your plant with a light sprinkling approximately every 6 weeks. In the summer months you should switch to a flower promoter, and apply every fortnight. You can also divide your plant throughout spring, so that the plant is not over crowded. Be careful not to split the plant into too many small sections as it takes longer for smaller clumps to reflower.
Keep an eye on your plants foliage. Ideally your Cymbidium should have a light apple green foliage. And whilst lush dark green foliage may look attractive, it is usually a sign that the plant is getting to much shade.
Avoid positions where the plant will be ravanged by the elements, battered in strong winds or being in very exposed positions.
Cymbidiums hate having wet or cold roots, so whilst the plant is in flower (throughout the winter months) you should reduce your watering. Poke a pencil into the pot and if the pencil appears damp when you remove it, the plant does not require watering. Cymbidiums are often tree dwelling, with thick water absorbing rots that help them survive. They should be planted in a coarse orchid mix making sure that the plant has plenty of drainage.
Whilst we are already in the throes of winter, it is not too late to invest in one of these beauties and enjoy their large, bright blooms and lush foliage.