Enjoying Cymbidiums

With their big, colorful blooms, cymbidiums are one of my favorites. And I like them even more because they can’t be grown in the tropics, where orchids seem to grow without ant help at all.

Let me explain.

For many years I traveled to Florida buying (and growing) tropical plants for our corporate interior plant business. Being interested in orchids, I visited hobby growers whenever I could.  I saw people who didn’t know all that much about orchids, growing spectacular plants in their back yard, mostly by accident, just because the climate was perfect. The same plants we struggle with because we don’t have a perfect climate.

But they couldn’t grow cymbidiums. Without cold weather ( temperatures in the 40-50 degree range) cymbidiums simply won’t bloom. As I sit here in New Jersey, in the middle of winter, and look at my cymbidiums in bloom, I get a little extra pleasure from those flowers.

Caring for Cymbidiums This Time of Year

I’ve been getting questions like, “Holly cow!, My cymbidium is blooming! Now what do I do?”

One of the biggest challenges for hobbyists is ” over doing it”.  And this applies to cymbidum care this time of year.

It’s only normal that you want to give your plants a little extra push with more water and nutrients to help those blooms along.

And that’s exactly the wrong thing to do!

There’s a rhythm to growing orchids. During the growing season they want more water and nutrients. When the bloom cycle begins and the first couple of flowers open, they’ve done their work and actually start coasting into a (well deserved) resting period.

Here’s how I mange my cymbidiums through their blooming cycle. .

  1. When I see a flower spike emerge I still keep the plant in it’s growing area. I start watering a little less – to only 1/4 on gauge – with a “Bloom” fertilzer. I always wait until the system is completey dry before rewatering. (Use the water gauge as a handle and lift inner pot to check for dryness at the bottom.)
  2. .After the first flowers open move the plant from its growing area and display it wherever it looks its best. It has all the energy it needs to complete the bloom cycle and no longer needs sun. In fact, cool temps away from sun prolongs the blooms.
  3. Cut back even more on the water. Simply pour nutrient solution over the pebbles until the little red indicator in the water gauge moves – then stop.

Sit back and enjoy the blooms!

 

After the Blooms Are Gone

Cymbidiums take a well deserved rest after blooming so don’t expect much until the new growing season begins next spring.

  1. Cut the flower spikes all the way back to the bottom of the plant.
  2. Move the plant to a cool spot were it will get good light.
  3. Water even less with no nutrients – just wet the stones every week or so. Nothing shows on the water gauge.

Next spring we’ll move them outdoors again for another season of growing.

That’s the rhythm of growing cymbidiumss.

What If My Plants Didn’t Bloom?

I feel your dissapointment! After trying to get everything right – and waited all year for blooms – you get nothing!

If your cymbidiums didn’t bloom it’s usually because 1) they didn’t get enough sun last summer or 2) they didn’t get enough cool temperatures in the fall to initiate a bloom cycle.

It’s like what Cubs fans used to say when I was growing up in Illinois, “there’s always next year”.

Grower Tip: If your plant(s) are growing in traditional media, this is a good time to think about transfering to hydroponics. I have several videos describing this at

 

 

 

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How To Get Your Amaryllis to Bloom Again Next Year (it’s easy!)

I hope you’ve enjoyed your amaryllis this winter as much as we have! Their big, colorful blooms never fail to brighten up dreary winter days.

Unfortunatley, this is the time when most Amaryllis blooms fade away.

 

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Most people think of Amaryllis as “disposable” and discard them after blooming.

But wait a minute!!!

I want to show you how easy it is to regrow Amaryllis year after year. The plants actually get better every year because every year the bulbs get bigger and produce more flower stems than the year before –  with even more flowers! And it’s sooo easy with hydroponics.

 

 

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Amaryllis “Red Lion” from Home Depot after 2 years.

 

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Grower Tip: If your amaryllis are in soil, now is a good time to transfer them to hydroponic growing. You’ll be glad you did! See more here.

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Step 1 – After Blooms Have Faded

 

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After all the blooms have faded, carefully cut the flower stalk all the way back to the top of the bulb. Be careful – don’t cut the leaves.

 

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Your plant might look a little disheveled but no worries it’s ready to begin a new growing season for next year’s blooms.

Move your plant to a sunny window. Find the sunniest spot possible – you can’t over do it. Don’t wory about floppy leaves and repotting isn’t necessary    . . .    if you’re growing in LECA pebbles.

Start watering to 1/2 on gauge with a light dose of fertilizer.  Wait until system is completely dry before rewatering. I use and recommend Dyna-Gro “Grow” 7-9-5 or Orchid-Pro 8-9-6 at half strength (1/4 tsp per gallon).

Step 2 – When Spring Arrives – Move Plant Outdoors

When warm weather arrives move your plant outdoors. This is when it really gets a boost! Choose a spot that gets some sun but protect it from hot midday sun. Don’t worry if some leaves wither and die.

Proper setup for outdoor growing is important. If your setup is right, the bulb will practically take care of itself all summer. See www.hydro-orchids.com/orchid-care-outdoor-setup.html for details. Simply substitute “amaryllis” for “orchid” in directions and you’ll be all set.

Leave the plant outdoors until temperatures drop into the high 40’s for a several nights. As the leaves turn brown cut them off. Your plant has stored up all the energy it needs to rebloom and it’s going dormant.

About a month before bringing it back indoors  start cutting back on water and fertlizer  – sometime around early September.  Water just enough to keep the plant from dehydrating – no fertlizer. Just pour water through pebbles until it runs out the bottom – then stop. No standing water at the base.

Step 3 – “Preparing” Bulb For a New Blooming Season

“Preparing” the bulb for a new blooming season is easy. Simply store it in a cool dark place (40-50 degrees if possible) for at least 6 weeks. Basements are perfect for this. I like to take the bulb out of its pot and store it in a paper bag tomake sure it’s not affected by light.

In a week or so, a new shoot will appear at the top of the bulb which means it’s waking up. Gradually increase the water to 1/4 on gauge and apply a “Bloom Formula” nutrient (Dyna-Gro Bloom 3-12-6 is a goood choice). In another 6 weeks (or so) your plant will start blooming all over again.

After the 6 week dormant period, repot the bulb into fresh pebbles and place it where it gets direct sun and warmer temperatures again. Moisture and sunlight will bring it back to life. Be careful with the water at first – pour water over the pebbes until the red indicator in the water gauge moves – then stop.

 

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That’s it! I said it would be easy.