Friday, May 18, 2012

Grow Like a Pro no. 1: Cymbidium Orchids

Few plants can boast as devout a following as the Orchid, and with so many different types and such incredible variation between them it’s easy to see why. Every major city in Australia has a number of Orchid Societies, and any green thumb will tell you that Orchids are, for many, very serious business. This can be, for the more casual gardener, pretty intimidating; enough  to put you off growing Orchids altogether.

While it’s true that some species require a great deal of attention in order to perform, confounding any casual gardener’s attempts to get them flowering, there is one species that’s so eager to please that many gardeners claim they actually thrive on neglect: Cymbidiums. In this post, the first of the brand new “Grow Like a Pro” collection, I’ll show you how easy it is to care for Cymbidium Orchids, and how to ensure you get as many of their amazing flowers as possible.

The first thing to remember is to keep your Cymbidiums in pots: they will live in the ground but they will not flower. Orchids love being all cramped up (it’s how they grow in the wild), thus the “thrive on neglect” comment earlier. You must use an Orchid Potting Mix, which has a higher bark quantity than normal mix: Orchids may like being squashed but they do need a small amount of air around their roots. Four Seasons Nursery has a variety of suitable potting mixes available, include a range endorsed by the Orchid Society of Australia.

The right amount of light is crucial for good flowering. Cymbidiums are tolerant of cooler areas but their origin is tropical, and it’s important to bare this in mind when selecting a position for them. Filtered light all day or morning sun with late afternoon shade is perfect. Full sun all day will burn the leaves, full shade all day will cause the foliage to be a lovely deep green but you won’t get any flowers.

When watering the key is to keep your Orchids moist but not wet. During summer this means a drink every couple of days, and only once or twice a week in winter. A friend of mine, whose Cymbidiums produce some of the most spectacular floral displays I’ve ever seen every year, swears by using your washing machine’s grey water instead of normal tap water; I’ve never tried this but it is something to consider. Using a specialised Cymbidium potting mix, with its higher bark content, will ensure the orchid stays moist but is never flooded.

And that’s it! Cymbidiums are generally pest free, though they may get scale and snails do like to eat the flowers. Both of these pests are, however, very easy to deal with. Feed your Cymbidiums with an orchid specific fertiliser, such as “Strike Back For Orchids” or "Feather and Fins" (available at Four Seasons Nursery), every 3-6 months and you’ll be smothered in flowers come winter. The flowers last 6-7 weeks and come in an incredible variety of colours. The stems can be cut for brilliant indoor arrangements, or left on the plant to brighten your winter garden. Four Seasons Nursery will be carrying a heap of Cymbidiums all winter; come in to see them, and our friendly (and extremely knowledgeable) staff, any time.

-Mike P.

1 comment: