Cymbidium hybrids

Cymbidium grows naturally in the Far East, Australia and India. About 50 species exist, but it is for the over 2000 different hybrid forms that it is best known.

The name, from a Greek word kymbe (a boat), refers to the boat-shaped lip of the dramatic flower.

Visible above the compost are thickened stem bases called pseudo-bulbs. They are enclosed by long strap-like green leaves which at first grow upright, then arch outwards.

Flowers and flowering

The flowers are particularly attractive which is why they are often used in elegant special-occasion corsages and bouquets. The flower spikes grow from the pseudo-bulbs in spring and carry 25-30 blooms. The range of colour is enormous. Flowers may be spotted or plain and in any colour except blue. Some hybrids have a delicate fragrance.

The flowers will remain on the plant for 6-8 weeks before fading. For a continuous flowering season cut the flower spike.Cymbidium hybrids

Cymbidium flowers for several weeks in spring. Over 2000 hybrids are available. The flowers vary greatly in colour and markings. The plant is so dramatic when it is in flower that it is best grown in single specimen displays.

After about 3 weeks and keep it in water as a cut flower. Removing one flowering stem in this way often encourages others to grow.

Large hybrids that produce flower stems 1.2-1.5m (4— 5ft) long are usually too big to use as house plants. Luckily commercial orchid growers have produced miniature hybrids that can easily be grown in the living room or on a windowsill. The leaves of the miniature forms are 30-38cm (12-15in) long.

Varieties

Worth obtaining is Cymbidium deyonianum, a species from which many hybrids are derived. It has yellow-green flowers marked with purple and a purple-red lip. ‘Peter Pan’ is a hybrid with a greenyyellow flower and a deep brown lip. ‘Will Stutley’ has dramatic yellow and reddish-pink flowers.

Propagation

1. Take the plant out of the pot and clean off the old compost under running water. Cut through the root system with a sharp knife.

2. Each division should have 3 healthy-looking psuedo-bulbs and some foliage.

3. Place a layer of charcoal or gravel in the bottom of the pot for drainage. Then pot up each division, using a commercial orchid compost. For a few weeks keep newly divided plants just moist and mist daily to keep up the humidity.

Pests And Diseases

Brown leaf tips are usually caused by scorching in direct hot sun but may also be due to water that is too hard.

Treatment: Move the plant to a shadier spot and use soft, tepid water.

111 Pseudo-bulbs and neck of the plant shows signs of rot. This is due to over-watering in the winter rest period.

Prevention: Water just enough to moisten the compost and stop the pseudo-bulbs shrivelling.

PLANT CARE

This is one of the simplest orchids to care for. The mini-hybrids need a rest in the winter when they are not growing and blooming.

  • Potting: Repot every second year after flowering. At this stage you can also divide overcrowded plants. Use a commercial orchid compost. To improve drainage add a layer of charcoal or gravel to the base of the pot.
  • During the growing and flowering season water thoroughly but make sure the compost is well-drained. In winter water sparingly to keep the compost just moist. If temperatures are over 18°C (65°F) mist daily.
  • Feeding: In spring and summer use a standard fertilizer every second week and in autumn and winter use a low-nitrogen orchid fertilizer at half strength.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Cymbidium needs plenty of bright filtered light. Strong direct sun will scorch it.
  • Temperature: Normal room temperature is generally adequate for much-of the year, provided you mist the plant to increase humidity if temperatures are high. Do not mist flowers. In summer 21— 27°C (70-80°F) is ideal. In winter rest the plant at about 15°C (60°F).

Buying Tips

  • Cymbidium is usually available in the spring from specialist growers or through mail order.
  • The plant should have green, healthy leaves and fat juicy looking pseudo-bulbs. Avoid any plant with signs of mildew at the base.
  • Each pseudo-bulb blooms only once, but the clump as a whole will live for many years.

Whether it is a large plant or a miniature, Cymbidium is an excellent house plant, making no special demands and producing spectacular and long-lasting blooms.

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