Cymbidium orchids are grown for their flamboyant and colourful flowers. The climate in most capital cities is suited to growing cymbidium orchids in a sheltered, shady area. This sets them apart from many of the more tender, tropical orchids such as slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum) and moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), which need warm or hot house conditions outside the tropics. Cymbidiums are now available in a wide range of spectacular colours and are classified into three sizes (by the width across the top two petals of the flower): standards 100mm up (4″), intermediate 55-90mm (2-3.5″) and miniature up to 55mm (2″)
Common name: Orchids
Botanic name: Cymbidium spp.
Climate: Cymbidium orchids will grow in most mainland capital cities and coastal districts. They will not tolerate cold night temperatures. Cymbidiums are native to Asia and northern Australia.
Due to modern breeding, cymbidiums now come in a variety of colours from white and pink through to oranges, apricots, browns, reds, burgundy, yellows, creams and greens. They will grow in a pot in cymbidium potting mix in a shaded area in the garden or a shadehouse. They do not require a great deal of work. The most commonly grown cymbidium orchids bud in winter and flower from May through August and September to produce stunning long-lasting flowers. Some orchids are capable of producing up to four flower spikes from each bulb and have erect, fleshy leaves. Once in flower the plants can be brought indoors into a bright room where the blooms can be enjoyed for many weeks.
Snails love to eat the flowers and hide under the rim of the pots and come out at night. Use snail bait or check plants and pots thoroughly for snails. Viruses such as mosaic and ring spot will show up as black or brown spots or streaks on the leaves. If you suspect a virus, destroy or isolate the plant.
Potted around the house indoors or outdoors to provide stunning colour and style to indoor spaces, as well as the garden. Orchids will not grow in garden soil but can be made to look as if they are growing in the garden by planting them in orchid potting mix on top of the garden soil. Apply the orchid mix to a depth of at least 30cm (12″). Cymbidiums are also used as cut flowers and in corsages.
Grow in specialist cymbidium orchid potting mix with good drainage. The potting mix is made up of pine bark, peat, coarse sand and polystyrene. Mix in more fine pine bark for even better results. Do not grow these plants in soil in the ground. Maintain moist potting mix by watering once or twice a week, depending on the weather and fertilise with specialist orchid fertiliser, such as Nitrosol and Aquasol (available from most nurseries). Different formulations are available to encourage flowering and growth. Consult the container for recommended rates of application. Keep in a shaded spot such as under deciduous trees, on a well lit veranda or in a shadehouse but make sure that plants receive enough light to flower. Lush green leaves and few flowers indicate that your cymbidiums are too shaded. Divide after flowering when the plant fills the pot and replant segments into new pots with orchid potting mix.
Growing outdoors: Although cymbidium orchids are usually grown in pots they can be grown as garden plants if planted into a mound of orchid mix. Give plants grown outdoors shade from hot sun particularly in summer but expose to more light in autumn and winter to encourage bud formation.
Getting started: Cymbidium orchids and specially formulated potting mixes are available from nurseries throughout Australia or at many of the orchid shows. Prices for intermediate and miniature cymbidium orchids range from $20-$50. Other more exotic varieties are available from specialist orchid nurseries and are more expensive than the cymbidium orchids.
Watch out for local shows between May and September each year. The Australian Orchid Review, a bi-monthly magazine available in newsagents also lists orchid shows and growers throughout Australia.
Our segment was filmed at Mini-world Orchids which is open to the public by appointment only, phone: (02) 9654 1072.