During the past two hundred years, countless myths have arisen around the Cymbidium orchid with its sprays of exotic blooms. This mythical aura has resulted in the flowers gaining a reputation of being too temperamental to grow successfully and almost impossible to flower.
But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, cymbidiums are as easy to grow and flower as any other potted plant given a few essential requirements.
Light is of great importance for flowering success.
Low summer night temperatures are appreciated, thus summer quarters consisting of an open shade house covered with fifty per cent shade cloth will allow air to circulate, another important requirement as well as the cooler evenings.
To water during summer I run a sprinkler in the shade house for about half an hour every day at noon so the leaves are dry by nightfall.
Once a week I check the compost in a couple of pots and hand-water if they feel dry. Remember like most pot plants more cymbidiums are killed by over-watering than any other single cause. If in doubt whether to water or not, don’t.
When you notice flower spikes beginning to show the orchids must have protection from frost and rain as both can damage or even destroy the spikes.
Covering the roof of the shade house with plastic will give the plants cover from the harsh elements. Alternatively you can grow the cymbidiums in a plastic tunnel-type structure and place the orchids under a shade tree for the summer period before bringing them back indoors for the cooler months to flower.
Before returning the plants to the plastic house, it pays to give them a spray with an insecticide to kill any stray insects or their eggs because these may cause damage to the plants and their flower spikes.
If in doubt whether to water or not, don’t.
Crowded conditions are not favorable to flowering and the rule is to place the pots a pot’s-width apart. This space allows good air circulation, effective watering and less chance of insect infestation or disease.
Various types of composts are used throughout the world to grow cymbidium orchids all of which are equally successful. The pH should ideally be slightly acidic. Some ready-mixed composts also contain an even balance of nutrients.
Cymbidiums should be repotted in early spring or straight after flowering.
Plants only need repotting or dividing up when they have filled the pot with roots or have grown too large for the pot. When repotting, take care not to over-pot as cymbidiums like to be slightly root-bound. The pot should fit around the orchid leaving a space of around two centimetres to accommodate new growth.
To see orchids at their very best, visit the orchid show this weekend at Glenara Lakes Retirement Village, Launceston. But if you can’t get along to this show, don’t despair as the Devonport’s Orchid Society will host a show at the end of this month at Maidstone Park, Spreyton.
September 16, 17: The Launceston Horticultural Society’s Early Spring Show features daffodils and camellias. St Ailbe’s Hall, Margaret Street, Launceston Saturday 10am-5pm and Sunday 10am-4pm. Specialist nurseries, floral art and more. Entry $2.
September 15,16,17: Launceston Orchid Society’s Spring Show, Glenara Lakes Retirement Village, Hobart Road, Youngtown. Friday 2pm-5pm; Saturday 10am-5pm; Sunday 10am-4pm. David Keanelly Nursery orchid sales. Entry $5.
September 23, 24: Blooming Tasmania’s Flower & Garden Festival, Albert Hall, cnr Cimitiere and Tamar streets, Launceston. Saturday 9am-5pm and Sunday 9am-4pm.