Follow these steps to meet orchid's blooming challenge
It's hard to beat a cymbidium orchid in full bloom for a spectacular flowering potted plant. They flower for ages, and will flower again year after year, with a minimum of fuss. Each individual bloom can last for 4-12 weeks, and each flower spike has multiple flowers. A mature plant can produce 6 or more flower spikes, so a cymbidium can be in flower for months.
Cymbidiums have long, strappy foliage. Miniature forms may be only 30cm tall, and the taller growing varieties can have foliage up to 1m tall. Flowers are held on spikes above the foliage.
The cymbidiums we grow now are bred from wild orchids found in the mountains of India and South-East Asia. The range of colour size, growth habit and shape is now very different from the original species. Colours vary from rich chocolate browns, through reds, pinks, white, yellow and greens.
An established cymbidium orchid needs plenty of space to be displayed at its best. Though the pot is usually quite small compared to the size of the plant, the foliage is long and often spreading.
Orchids are beautiful and exotic, but they can also be frustrating. Cymbidium orchids need a few hours of sun, especially from about March onwards, in order to stimulate flowering. We tend to put them into shady places where they will probably not flower, and may well die. A good way to tell whether the light is about right is to check the leaf colour. Yellowing and burning may mean too much sun, deep green can be too little sun, and bright, light green is just right. Dappled light under trees is an ideal position, or you could keep them under 50 per cent shade cloth. Although they are cold-tolerant, you should keep them out of direct frost and protected from strong winds.
You will need to water once or twice a week in summer, less in the cooler weather. If the flower spikes get wet, the flowers may not last as long as they should, so consider moving your potted orchids under cover, or indoors, when they are in bloom.
Remember to fertilise for healthy growth. Use a slow release fertiliser in spring, and supplement this with a liquid fertiliser from September-May.
Although cymbidiums do like to be tight in the pot, you will need to repot, and possibly divide, every couple of years. Do this after flowering has finished, using a potting mix specially formulated for cymbidiums. You can keep them in plastic pots, which makes them easier to move about. When they are in flower and you want to bring them inside, just pop the plastic pot inside something lovely.
Cymbidium orchids make a wonderful gift. They make a stunning feature indoors while in bloom, and are a fantastic potted plant for semi-shaded outdoor areas.
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