CONDITIONS Most people in Tasmania are introduced to orchids via Cymbidiums. They are well suited to our climate as they are native to the cooler, mountainous areas of Asia. Cape York has 3 species though, that do need a warmer growing area. Ideally, Cymbidiums survive and flower regularly with more benign neglect than too much tender loving care. Plants are generally grown in black plastic pots, using a pine bark- based free draining mix. The smaller the pot, the finer the bark, and the bigger pots need a coarser grade bark.
Propagation: Mature plants will need re-potting into new mix every 2 to 3 years. Do not overpot. Place the back of the plant to the edge of the pot allowing enough space at the front for the new bulbs to mature and flower. You can divide the plants in Spring, after flowering. It is suggested that each division should have at least 3 bulbs, preferably 4 to ensure stability and flowering for the next year. The back bulbs that have no leaves, can also create new plants, so pot then in some Sphagnum moss or place them in the back of the mother plant and leave them to strike there. Once there is a good root system, then you can re-pot them with your bark based mix. It usually takes 3 to 4 years to get to flowering size.
Potting Mix: There are endless recipes for potting mixes for Cymbidiums. The one available from the Tasmanian Orchid Society has proved its worth over many years.
Watering: Sometimes, you can be your own worst enemy with a hose in your hand. Watering is important during the warmer months, but take extreme care when cold and frosty. If you are growing your plants under cover, you need to be particularly aware of water needs. The tried and true method is to put your finger into the mix. If it comes out dirty, don’t water, but if it is clean, then water. Cymbidiums like warm sunny days and cool nights to initiate their flower spikes, so on particularly warm nights, water in the evening once the sun sets. Never water during the day when very hot, only early morning or late evening
Fertilizing: Feed fortnightly with a high Nitrogen fertilizer from Spring through to mid January or weekly at half strength. You can use slow release fertilizers like pelleted chicken manure or any 3 to 4 month, evenly balanced granules. Mid January you should switch to a bloom booster which is higher in Phosphorus and Potassium to stimulate flowering. Never fertilise a dry plant. Water the day before, then feed it.
Flowering: Most Cymbidiums flower from late Winter through to late Spring in Hobart and surrounds. Others flower whenever genetically they are ready.
Problems: Watch out for the dreaded aphids when they are in bud
or flowering. Slugs, snails, red spider and scale are always present, hiding under leaves and in the potting mix. Treat with a commercial pesticide or insecticide according to the instructions. Always keep your plants free of leaf debris and ensure that the old flower stems are cut back once the blooms have finished. Clean up the backbulbs of the old leaf husks by peeling back carefully. This makes it so much easier for next season’s flowering and presentation at Shows.
When purchasing plants, check for irregular flecking, streaking or light mosaic patterns in the leaves. There is no cure for plant viruses and they can be spread if using unsterilized cutting tools