Cymbidium Orchid Plant Profile

cymbidium orchid plant

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Cymbidium orchids (Cymbidium spp.) are much more cold-tolerant than many common species of orchids. They feature sprays of large blooms in the dead of winter on flower spikes that can last for around one to three months. Plus, their long, thin leaves also add an attractive touch to the plant. For best results, start with a store-bought plant and wait until after it's done flowering in the spring to repot it (or put it in the ground). A new seedling can take several years before it flowers.

Botanical Name Cymbidium
Common Name Cymbidium orchid, boat orchid
Plant Type Evergreen flower
Mature Size Around 2 feet tall
Sun Exposure Partial sun
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-draining
Soil pH 5.5 to 6.5
Bloom Time Mid-autumn to mid-spring
Flower Color Pink, green, yellow, white
Hardiness Zones 10 to 12
Native Area Asia and Australia
closeup of cymbidium orchids
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
closeup of cymbidium orchid
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida
cymbidium orchid buds
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

How to Grow Cymbidium Orchids

Cymbidiums are wonderful orchids to grow in temperate regions. They can be grown in containers outside during the spring, summer, and fall and moved inside at the first threat of frost. Cymbidiums can be easily divided during repotting in the spring. And during the summer, they will grow quickly, sending up new pseudobulbs topped with long leaves.

Their natural bloom season is during the winter, which is ideal if your plants are indoors for display. The bloom is triggered by a combination of falling temperatures and reduced water.

Light

During the growing season, cymbidium orchids appreciate dappled sunlight. If your orchids are outdoors, make sure they are not in direct sunlight, as this can cause burning on the plant. A few hours of morning sunlight paired with shady afternoons should be perfect.

If you are growing your orchids indoors, a southeast- or east-facing window is ideal. Under the proper light conditions, the leaves should appear apple green as opposed to dark green. A dark green plant is likely not receiving enough sunlight to provoke a good bloom.

Soil

Cymbidiums are semi-terrestrial orchids. They naturally grow in loamy humus, sending thin roots into the soil. Thus, they are perfectly suited to conditions that are easily replicated at home: a rich, loose, organic potting mixture.

Most growers recommend using a combination of fir bark, perlite, peat moss, and other loose organic material for cymbidium orchids. A commercial paphiopedilum orchid mix will usually serve these plants well.

Water

Water these plants frequently during the growing season (i.e., the spring, summer, and fall). And remember the purer the water, the healthier the plants. Accumulated salts from tap water can cause damage, such as leaf-tip dieback, a condition in which the leaf tips turn black and die. So make sure to flush water all the way through the potting mixture.

During the winter bloom, reduce watering. However, don't let the plant completely dry out. Instead, keep the potting mixture slightly damp to the touch.

Temperature and Humidity

Cymbidiums are considerably more tolerant to cold weather than some other popular orchids. The larger varieties of cymbidiums need an extended period of cold to provoke a bloom, while the miniature varieties aren't quite as dependent on cold weather.

Cymbidiums have been known to briefly withstand freezing temperatures, though frost will eventually kill them. Nights with temperatures down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit should be fine. On the other side, cymbidiums can also withstand summer heat without wilting, as they are suited to the temperate regions of Asia where there is considerable variation in seasonal and day-to-night temperatures.

Outdoors, these orchids can tolerate most humidity levels except for very dry climates. And indoors, they like a humidity level of around 40% to 60%. If you need to raise the humidity, you can place your plant's container on a tray of pebbles filled with water. Just make sure the bottom of the container isn't touching the water, as this can lead to root rot.

Fertilizer

During the growing season, feed with a weak orchid fertilizer bimonthly. Or scatter slow-release pellets in the growing media at the beginning of the season. Be careful to avoid a high-nitrogen fertilizer, as this can cause rapid foliage growth at the expense of the orchid's blooms.

Common Pests and Diseases

A well-grown cymbidium should be resistant to most insects and diseases. But as with all orchids, there is some risk of aphids, scale, and other insects. Treat as soon as possible with insecticide products, following label directions.

Varieties of Cymbidium Orchids

There are numerous species and hybrids of cymbidium orchids. They include: 

  • Cymbidium dayanum: Known as Day’s cymbidium or the phoenix orchid, this species sports white flowers with stripes of burgundy.
  • Cymbidium erythrostylum: This plant is native to Vietnam and features white flowers with red in the center.
  • Cymbidium tracyanum: Known as Tracy's cymbidium, this orchid has large, fragrant, yellow-green flowers with brown stripes.
Article Sources
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  1. Cymbidium Culture Sheet. American Orchid Society Website