Caring for Cymbidium Orchids

While Cymbidium orchids look tropical, they are actually native to the cooler mountain areas of Australia and Asia. Cymbidium sprays may contain up to 30 flowers and provide striking cut flower arrangements. Individual flowers, which measure from 4 to 6 inches across, are popular in corsages. Cymbidium orchids are long lasting, as well, lasting up to eight weeks or more on the plant and from four to six weeks when cut.

Soil

Although most Cymbidium orchids are terrestrial growers in nature, hybridizers typically use lithophytic species -- those that grow on rocks. For this reason, the Cymbidium, above all else, requires a loose, airy, well-drained planting medium. The ideal mix contains 2 parts orchid bark, 2 parts peat moss and 1 part sand. Avoid using a saucer under the orchid’s pot. If that isn’t possible, place a layer of gravel or small pebbles on the bottom of the saucer to elevate the pot above any standing water after it drains.

Light and Temperature

To increase your chances of success with the Cymbidium, provide it with conditions similar to those found in its natural habitat. Daytime temperatures are unimportant, as long as they remain above 28 degrees Fahrenheit. Nighttime temperatures are more important and must remain between 45 and 55 degrees F, especially during August. The National Gardening Association suggests placing ice chunks on the soil at sunset to cool it down. Place the orchid outside during fall to experience the cool temperatures. Bring it back indoors before the first frost. Cymbidiums thrive in bright light -- at least 2,500 to 3,500 foot-candles. This amount of sunlight can be achieved by placing the plant close to a south-facing window.

Water and Fertilizer

Never allow the planting medium to remain soggy, but water the Cymbidium enough to keep it consistently moist. When the weather begins to cool, allow the medium to dry slightly before watering. Add 20-10-20 liquid fertilizer to the irrigation water, and feed the plant with the solution every third watering, or once every two weeks, from March to May. Switch to a 20-20-20 fertilizer from June through September, and then use 6-30-30 from October until February. Leach the planting medium once a month by running clear water over it. Allow it to drain, and repeat the procedure two more times.

Repotting

Cymbidium orchids bloom best when they are a bit cramped in the pot. When the pseudobulbs -- the bulbs that sit on the soil, from which the leaves emerge -- begin to encroach on the edge of the pot, it’s time to repot the orchid. This typically occurs every other year. Plan to repot the orchid after it blooms. Choose a pot that is large enough so that you won’t need to repot for another two years, and plant the Cymbidium so that the pseudobulbs sit on top of the planting medium.

Disease

One of the most common Cymbidium diseases is the aptly named Cymbidium mosaic virus. Although it strikes other orchid species, Cymbidiums are particularly susceptible. Symptoms of the virus include elongated black or brown spots on the orchid’s foliage, brown spots or streaks on the flowers, and yellowing of new foliage. If you are unsure of the diagnosis, isolate the plant from other orchids and take a foliage sample to the cooperative extension office in your area. There is no cure for the virus, and to keep it from spreading, the plant should be destroyed

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