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, but they were growing spectacular plants in their back yard, mostly by accident, because the climate was perfect.

But they couldn’t grow cymbidiums! Without cold weather ( 30-40 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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