Easy and Spectacular Houseplants
Cymbidiums are possibly one of the easiest Orchids to grow as houseplants. I manage to do it!
They even have foliage that is not quite ugly. Most Orchids are somewhat unattractive when they are not in bloom; looking a lot like dead leafless sticks. Cymbidiums, have long, rather stiff, grass like leaves all year round. I would never keep a Cymbidium just for its foliage as we do for many of our houseplants but at least it is not seasonally ugly. The amazing bloom stalks in mid winter certainly make up for any lack of interest in the foliage.
Where Do I Keep Them? In my part of the world,
USDA zone 4-5, Cdn zone 5-6,
Cymbidium Orchids are part time houseplants. They wander outside in early May and stay until October and then rush back inside before the first really hard frost. They will actually tolerate a slight frost or two in the autumn. Summer is the season of rapid growth and they require considerable sunlight and regular feeding. The leaves are very good indicators of the light quality. If they are a rich good looking green colour then the plants are not getting enough light. They should be a nice bright yellowy green. If they get too yellow and start showing brown spotting then the light is too bright and hot for them. I keep mine against a south facing wall but there is a large tree that starts to shade them by mid afternoon. They seem to grow quite well so I must be doing something right.
Water and Fertilizer? During the hot summer months they are watered 2 -3 times a week. I use rain water when I can because they are a bit sensitive to the salts in tap water. They get really unhappy with softened water. They get a feed of 20-20-20 liquid fertilizer whenever I can remember to do it. Usually every week or so. By late August the watering starts to slow down and the fertilizer switches to something with much less Nitrogen, like 5-15-15, that will help induce flower initiation.
Flowering? My Cymbidiums start to flower by late February and will stay in flower for up to 3 months. Tall spikes carrying up to 20 blooms emerge from the pseudobulbs, (fattened bases of the leaf clusters,) and grow above the foliage. The secret is knowing when that flowering is initiated. 8 -10 weeks of very cool nights are required to start them thinking about flowering. That is why I leave them outside as late in the fall as possible. I have a friend who stuffs her Orchids into the garage, (to prevent hard freezes,) until early December before she brings them into the house. Don’t be in a hurry to call them back into the house. During this time and particularly when they finally make it into the house be less than generous with the water.
Where In The House? As much light as possible and as cool as possible are the things to keep in mind. My Cymbidium Orchids sit in the solarium which gets them lots of light and relatively cool nights. After the new year start snooping around the base of the plant and you will eventually be rewarded with an emerging flower stalk or two. By midwinter it’s time to call in your friends to show them how clever you are. The flowers are quite worth the effort.
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