Planting areas: USDA Zones 5 to 10
Size: Up to 3 feet tall.
Bloom season: February through early May.
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Exposure: Partial to full sun.
Pruning needs: None
Water needs: Keep potting medium moist during growing periods, usually March through September. In winter, supply with enough water to prevent bulbs from shriveling. In hot weather, spray foliage early in the day.
Snapshot: Cymbidiums, also known as boat orchids, are cool-climate orchids that have showy, long-lasting flowers.
They are native to high-altitude jungles in southeast Asia and Australia where rainfall is heavy and night-time temperatures are cool. They are usually grown in containers as indoor plants, especially in regions that are too cold to support outdoor growth, but can grow outside in milder climates such as California’s Central Coast.
Cymbidiums have long, narrow, grass-like foliage that forms in sheaths out of short, stout pseudobulbs. Pseudobulbs serve as storage for water and food, allowing cymbidiums to survive seasons of drought.
Flowers grow on erect or arching spikes and may be up to 5 inches across.
They come in almost every imaginable color except blue and red. Petals are thick and waxy and arranged with three on top, two on the bottom and one in the center. The lip contains the reproductive portion of the flower and is usually a contrasting color.
These orchids prefer nighttime temperatures between 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit with daytime temperatures as high as 90 degrees. They’ll briefly withstand temperatures as low as 28 degrees.
When frost threatens, protect plants with covering them or bring them indoors.
Cymbidiums require a planting medium that drains well. Use packaged orchid mix, or blend your own with two parts redwood bark, two parts peat moss and one part sand.
Fertilize cymbidiums every other week in the spring and summer with a high-nitrogen fertilizer (30-10-10). Use low-nitrogen fertilizer August through December.
Cymbidiums prefer to be under-potted. Wait to transplant them until the pseudobulbs seem crowded in their pot.
When dividing plants, keep a minimum of three healthy bulbs with foliage in each division.