Secret of growing cymbidium orchids
ONE of my absolute favourite flowering plants for indoors is a cymbidium orchid.
Even though the initial investment is a bit steep, it's actually much more economical than buying a bunch of cut flowers every week, thanks to their long flowering time.
And they will flower again year after year, with a minimum of fuss.
So that initial investment starts to look a bit less frightening…..
Without a doubt, orchids are one of the most beautiful and exotic of flowers, but they can also be frustrating.
I had killed several cymbidiums before I learned the simple secret. Driving through Byron Bay one morning several years ago, I noticed a house with pots of cymbidiums sitting on the patio, in full morning sun, and in full flower.
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, if they don't just rot away, they certainly never flower.
A flowering cymbidium orchid makes a stunning indoor feature. Cymbidiums are also a fantastic pot plant for outdoor areas, ideally in a well lit position in morning sun.
Each individual flower can last for four to 12 weeks, and each flower spike has multiple flowers.
Since each plant can produce multiple flower spikes, a cymbidium can be in flower for several months.
They are a perfect gift.
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.
Cymbidiums have long, strappy, grass-like 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.
As a cut flower, cymbidiums can last up to three weeks.
They are normally grown in pots, but can also be grown in the ground if the drainage is excellent. (Plant them in cymbidium potting mix if your soil is a bit heavy.)
I know of several gardeners in Byron Bay who have cymbidiums planted in the ground in free draining sandy soil.
These clumps can grow very large, and have 12 or more flower spikes.
They are absolutely sensational throughout winter.
You will need to water a couple of times a week in summer, less in the cooler weather.
If the flower spikes get wet, they flowers may not last as long as they should, so consider moving your potted orchids under cover, or indoors, when they are in flower.
Don't forget to fertilise for healthy growth.
Use a slow release fertiliser in spring, and supplement this with a liquid fertiliser from September-May.
I use Eco-Aminogo and Eco-Cweed as my general liquid fertiliser.
I mix it up and spray it on everything, usually with Eco-Oil and Eco-Neem added to increase effectiveness and to control sucking and chewing insects at the same time.
I'm hearing really good reports about the Neutrog product called Strike Back for Orchids.
It's an organic based slow release pelletise fertiliser, with added trace elements, and gardeners who are using this are getting great results.
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.
Use a potting mix specially formulated for cymbidiums or bromeliads, which is a lot coarser than normal potting mix.
If you are really serious about growing orchids, consider joining one of the local orchid clubs, where you will be able to tap into the specialist knowledge accumulated by dedicated growers.