Nearly everybody has a cymbidium somewhere. These were the orchids that led the way in orchid culture in the 1950-60’s in Sydney with the large Town Hall shows. The large sprays of colourful flowers are what most of us think of when orchids are mentioned.
Originally all large or “standard” cymbidiums flowering around late winter/spring, these orchids now have a flowering range of nearly nine months. The colour range is from white to yellow, green, orange, brown, pink, red and to almost black. While the standards can grow into quite large plants, the miniature and intermediate cymbidiums have compact growth more suited to the small back yard or balcony. Many of these also have a most attractive pendulous habit and are grown in hanging pots.
From the questions asked by the public at our shows, many people have trouble getting their cymbidium to flower after a year or two. This is often because it is relegated to a corner of the garden or patio to fend for itself with no food, poor light, some water and crowded conditions. We wouldn’t feel too much like flowering in those circumstances either. Like all orchids they need half-strength fertiliser regularly, up to weekly when they are growing rapidly in spring/summer. Water every few days to weekly when it’s hot, less so when it is cold and not at all when raining. Their roots must not be waterlogged so the potting mix should drain readily or root rot follows rapidly. When the bulbs reach the rim of the pot, it’s time to move to the next size up, repotting into a good orchid mix. If the centre has died off the plant can be broken up and repotted in to the same pot with the back bulbs potted separately. These may grow on to give a new plant. Cymbidiums like dappled light to full sunlight but avoiding harsh summer westerly sun which burns the leaves. If you find the right place for them, they will flower year after year with only a minimum of care.
The Eastern Suburbs Orchid Society has an orchid show on the third Monday of every month at 8pm, St Luke’s Church Hall, Varna Street, Clovelly. Visitors are always welcome.