A Cymbidium orchid is an orchid in the genus Cymbidium. These orchids are among the oldest orchids in cultivation, with evidence suggesting that they have been grown in China for thousands of years. Cymbidiums or “Cyms” as they are sometimes known are extremely popular among commercial orchid growers and hobbyists all over the world. Many nurseries carry these orchids, and orchid growers also actively engage in trading and hybridizing with each other to create and distribute unique varieties.
These orchids are native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. In nature, they are epiphytic, growing on trees and plants, although people usually cultivate them in soil mixes. Cymbidium orchids are famous for having very narrow, slightly leathery leaves, and huge sprays of showy flowers which can last up to three months on healthy, well-maintained plants.
People sometimes refer to the Cymbidium orchid as the “boat orchid,” referencing the distinctive shape of the flower. These orchids can be found in an array of colors, including white, peach, yellow, and orange, and many are variegated or spotted with distinctive highlights in contrasting colors. In addition to coming in an assortment of hues, Cymbidium orchids also come in two sizes: standard and miniature.
Growing a Cymbidium orchid is relatively easy. The orchid needs cool nights, lots of bright indirect light, and cool temperatures in the spring which warm up in the summer months. In temperate climates, Cymbidiums can be grown outdoors, although many people prefer to cultivate them indoors to protect them from radical temperature swings. The flowers should be grown in acidic, well-drained soil such as an orchid mix, and they need to be lightly watered with clean, filtered water in cool weather, and more heavily watered in warm weather. These orchids also require regular fertilization.
Some growers repot Cymbidiums after every flowering. Repotting should take place at least once every two years, as a Cymbidium orchid can rapidly exhaust its soil, even with proper fertilizer, and the orchid's roots can start to snarl and rot in the pot, which is very undesirable. While repotting, it is also important to separate the plants to give them more room to grow and develop.
In addition to being striking in the pot, the blooms of a Cymbidium orchid can also do very well as cut flowers. As long as they are kept in fresh, clear water, they can last for several days, remaining crisp and very slightly fragrant. Cut flowers can also be kept alive with small applications of orchid food designed specifically for cut blooms, a product available from many florists and nurseries.