The stem is concealed in a forest of soft green leaves. The flower stems quickly almost become top-heavy with flowers. A cymbidium flowers for weeks like a torch with red, purple, pink, orange, yellow, green or bicolored flowers that sometimes have a light, pleasant scent. Its imposing size and presence explain why the plant is known as the King of the Orchids. It’s a desirable, strongly seasonal plant that is only available from fall through late winter.
Cymbidiums look tropical but are actually cool characters! These orchids are accustomed to surviving on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. Some are epiphytes, but most grow on rocks or even in soil (unusual for an orchid). Even on that rocky, nutrient-poor soil, in cold nights and in bright light, this semi-terrestrial orchid is able to produce its mysterious, elegant flowers. That makes it a very strong houseplant that can cope well with indoor conditions.
Cymbidiums come in many colors, from creamy white to green and brown to red, yellow, pink and white.
The petals can be evenly colored but can also have stripes or spots. The lip color also varies, but the anther cap is always white.
Cymbidiums grow slowly: from a seedling to a flowering plant takes some five years on average. That makes it a very valuable, strong orchid. This houseplant is offered in minis and large-flowered varieties and as a hanging plant.
Cymbidiums also make excellent cut flowers and are one of the main orchids used by florists, not only for bouquets, but also for corsages and boutonnieres.
What to Look for When Buying a Cymbidium
- Cymbidium are generally offered when there’s an R in the month, from September to March.
- Check the pot size, the number of flower stems per plant, the number of flowers and buds per stem and the color and markings of the flowers as well the lip color. A plant mostly in bud will provide the longest display, but do look for a few open flowers so you can see exactly what you are buying.
- Cymbidiums should be able to stand on their own in a pot that offers sufficient counterweight to the floral display above, as some varieties can become top-heavy.
- Damaged flowers or leaves are usually the result of shipping or storage: the stems may thereby be staked to prevent breakage. You can remove the stakes at home if you want a more natural look.
- The flower can sometimes suffer from botrytis (gray mold) or cold damage, particularly in winter. The flowers then become glazed or discolored. Also check the plant for pests such as red spider mite, mealybug and scale insects.
- While they are in bloom, cymbidiums prefer to be in a spot with bright indirect light.
- Keep the air humidity at 40 to 60 percent if possible.
- Unlike many other orchids, cymbidiums have a true root ball. To water, immerse it in tepid water once every two weeks, leaving to stand for half an hour, then allow it to drain.
- Fertilizer can be added to the immersion water once a month throughout the year.
- Once your cymbidium has finished flowering, cut off the flower stem. Put it in a well-lit and cool spot. If possible, move it outdoors for the summer, in full sun in cool climates, but partial shade where summers are hot.
- Very cool temperatures (50 to 60 ˚F/10 to 15 ˚C) are needed to initiate flowering. Therefore, leave your cymbidium outdoors well into the fall, bringing it in only when night temperatures drop below 40 ˚F (5 ˚C). Although most will tolerate some frost, it is best to avoid it, as freezing can damage tender flower stalks.
- Every three years or so, repot in spring into very fine orchid mix or add 20% perlite and peat moss to standard orchid blend. Special cymbidium mixes are also available from orchid suppliers.
Cymbidium is a showy plant available in trendy autumn colors. It’s often large enough for a floor display, or combine it with foliage plants to attract a lot of attention. If your budget allows, buy several and display them in various sizes and heights. And enjoy the long flowering period: most will bloom for at least 4 to 6 weeks!
Cymbidiums are truly special orchids: once you’ve grown one, you’ll soon find yourself buying more!
Text and photos adapted from a press release by Thejoyofplants.co.uk.
Styling by Elize Eveleens, Klimprodukties