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Cymbidium Orchid Care Guide – Pro Tips!

Cymbidium Orchid Care Guide – Pro Tips!

Cymbidium orchids are truly spectacular plants with the most beautiful long-lived blooms.

If you’re looking to bring a bit of exotic color into your home, orchids are an amazing option. However, they do require a bit of attention and care. 

The great thing about Cymbidium orchids is that they are one of the more resilient varieties of orchids.

They are much more tolerant to cooler climates and lower humidity but still have their peculiarities. 

Follow along with this article to learn about the building blocks of Cymbidium orchid care, so you can enjoy these beautiful flowers in your home. 

 


 

Cymbidium Orchid Care

Proper care for Cymbidium orchids means using a coarse orchid-specific potting mix, giving as much indirect or filtered light as possible, watering deeply when the medium begins to dry out, and fertilizing regularly. They grow well in humidity between 40 – 60%. Ideal summer temperatures are between 75°F to 85°F (24-29 °C). Once you understand the basics, spend some time going over the different temperatures they prefer throughout the year to mimic their natural habitats. 

 

Soil

In their natural habitat, Cymbidium orchids grow as epiphytes. This means they grow off of other plants without being rooted in soil.

When planting your orchid, it’s important to keep this in mind so you understand why using a special orchid mix is important. 

Always use an orchid-specific substrate when potting up your Cymbidium orchid. This is because they have aerial roots that need excellent air circulation and the best drainage.

Potting medium such as Orchid bark is optimal as it allows for proper airflow to the roots. This helps to keep the mix well aerated and gives space for the roots to grow. 

In addition to the large chunks of organic matter, orchid mixes also have peat or sphagnum moss which help retain water and slightly acidify the soil.

Cymbidium orchids do well in neutral and slightly alkaline soils but prefer slightly acidic. 

Lastly, many orchid mixes contain vermiculite or perlite to encourage good drainage. These three elements of large chunks for air, moss for water retention, and perlite for drainage will help prevent issues caused by under- or over-watering. 

Many orchid growers prefer to make their own soil mix because you can adapt the mix depending on your climate and how mature your orchid is. 

For example, seedling orchids will benefit from tighter mediums than matured orchids who need more space for their roots to grow. You can also match up the correct potting mix based on your climate and temperatures.

Dry and hot regions should have more water retention ingredients than cooler and/or more humid areas. 

If you decide to make your own orchid potting soil mixes, make sure to take note of the recipe and track how the orchids respond. This way you can find which mix works best for you. You can also learn more about orchid soil mixes in our in-depth article on the topic. 

 

Watering 

Proper watering is one of the cornerstones of Cymbidium orchid care. They like more frequent watering during the summer months and slightly reduced water in the winter.

But don’t let the soil get completely bone dry. The only exception to this is when you’ve just repotted or divided your orchid.  

As a general rule of thumb, it is better to water thoroughly less frequently than to water just a little bit very often. It’s also a good idea to water the orchids with filtered water or collected rainwater.

Keep in mind that you will have to water them more regularly during the summer than in the winter. 

The best way to check whether your plant needs to be watered or not is to stick your finger into the top inch of soil.

If the soil is only slightly damp underneath it’s time to water again. I like to give them a good soak to make sure the medium gets nicely watered and then let the excess water drain away. 

I learned how to water my orchids from my friend’s mother who has the most beautiful collection of orchids.

She brings her orchids to the kitchen sink and uses the filtered water spout to thoroughly water at the base of the plant.

This ensures that no water gets on the leaves and that the soil gets evenly wet. 

When the water is flowing freely out of the drainage holes she taps the sides with a wooden spoon to let any extra water flow out.

She then puts the orchids back in their spots and repeats the process every few days in the summer and once a week in the winter. 
 

Light 

Cymbidium orchids love lots of bright indirect light. So try and give them the most amount of light possible.

East-facing windows are great but the perfect place is a south-facing window with a shear shade to shield it from direct light.

If they get direct light, they will burn in a couple of hours (displaying brown spots on the leaves). Cymbidium orchids can recover from mild sunburns but being left in direct light can prove to be fatal. 

If possible, put them outside in the summer to encourage blooming due to the temperature changes between day and night.

Just make sure to place them in the area with filtered light or late afternoon and don’t change their setting abruptly.

Slowly harden them off by leaving them outside for a little bit longer each day.

Cymbidium orchids will tell you if they’re happy with their light conditions or not. In optimal light conditions, their leaves will be yellowish-green.

If they get too much light they’ll turn yellow and not enough light will turn them a dark green. 

If you don’t get enough light naturally then you will have to give your orchid additional artificial light. This isn’t a plant for homes with low light conditions. 

 

Temperature  

Cymbidium orchids are perfect for cooler regions because they are not so sensitive to cold temperatures as other varieties.

You must take care with the temperatures they’re exposed to though because they need warmer temperatures during the day and cooler temps at night.  

In the summer, place your orchid someplace that has a day temperature between 75°F to 85°F (24-29 °C).

The temperature at night should decrease to about 50°F to 60°F (10-16°C). This change in temperature of about 20°F will push the plant to develop flower spikes. 

As soon as the flower buds begin to appear you can place it someplace warmer. Think about it this way.

In the spring, nighttime temperatures usually drop indicating to the plant that it’s spring and it’s time to bloom.

Then as the weeks roll by and the temperature also gets warmer at night the change in temperature isn’t so intense. 

Try and replicate these conditions in your home or move your orchids outside in the summer. The gradual change in temperature will happen naturally so you don’t have to adjust the entire temperature of your house to accommodate one type of plant. 

Keep in mind though, that if temperatures get too hot the blooms won’t last. In your home, this means that you should regulate airflow and provide some protection during the hottest hours.

If kept outside, this could implicate putting them in a cooler microclimate in the garden (under a tree, for example). 
 

Humidity

All orchids require conditions with high humidity. Like with temperature, Cymbidium orchids are actually more tolerant than other orchid varieties.

While other orchid varieties enjoy humidity between 50 to 70%, Cymbidium orchids thrive in 40 – 60% humidity. 

The best way to keep humidity high for your Cymbidium orchid is to place a humidifier near your plant. They aren’t very expensive and they are by far the most reliable way to keep high humidity.

It’s also pretty hard to mess up with a humidifier. They’ll keep the area around your orchid nice and humid without needing constant supervision and care. 

If you don’t want to invest in a humidifier to start off, you can use a humidifying tray. This is basically just a tray filled with clay pebbles and the orchid pots sit above the pebbles (usually on some sort of platform).

As the water evaporates from the tray, it’ll maintain the high humidity around the plants. 

Using a humidifying tray works great as long as you make sure to keep the base of the pot out of the water. If the roots are touching the water they will quickly begin to rot.

Also, be sure to thoroughly clean the pebbles every few months to remove any bacteria that might be growing. Use a diluted bleach solution and rinse very well with fresh water before putting them back. Any remnants of bleach will harm your plant. 

You may have heard that misting your orchids with a spray bottle helps keep the humidity up. I wouldn’t recommend this because it’s high maintenance, not very effective, and can actually promote disease. 

In order to maintain high humidity with a spray bottle, you’d need to mist the area around your orchid at least once to several times a day.

Although you may already have a spray bottle at home, I recommend looking into the other two options for maintaining high humidity. If you do decide to mist your orchid, make sure no water droplets stay on the leaves since this will enable disease. 

 

Fertilizer 

Orchids need to be fed regularly because their potting mediums don’t normally have any fertilizer. Use a balanced fertilizer at a quarter to half the recommended suggestion from the manufacturer. 

In the summer, when it’s hot and the orchids are putting out new growth and buds fertilize once a week. Then in the fall and winter switch to only fertilizing every two weeks or even once a month. 

Never fertilize your Cymbidium orchid when the soil is completely dry because it will damage the delicate roots.  This normally only happens after you’ve repotted or divided your orchid. 

 

Repotting 

Orchids like to fill up their pots, so wait to repot until you get the feeling that the pot will simply burst open. This will happen about every two to three years depending on the growing conditions.

It is very important to repot during the right time – after the blooms have faded and before new growth begins. 

When you repot your Cymbidium orchid upgrade to a slightly larger pot. If it has too much root it will overwhelm the roots and growth will be much slower.

Cymbidium orchids don’t need their roots exposed to light like other varieties, so you don’t need to keep them in clear plastic containers.

I recommend using a clay pot because it evaporates water much more easily. This makes it harder to accidentally overwater the soil. 

When you go to repot the orchid, carefully untangle the roots, remove as much of the original growing medium as possible, and cut off any dead or damaged areas.

Once your roots are nice and tidy you can plant them in the new pot with a fresh growing medium like discussed in the soil section of this article. 

Once repotted, don’t water immediately like you would with other houseplants. Give your plant a few weeks for the roots to recover before giving it water again.

Start by watering less than you normally would and then gradually increase as the roots fill out the new pot. 

During the repoting process, you can also divide the root clusters, which are made up of tubers called pseudobulbs, to make new plants. We’ll talk more about this in the propagation section. 

 

Pruning 

Cymbidium orchids will benefit from some pruning maintenance. Since the blooms only flower once a year, it’s good practice to cut back the flower spikes when the flowers fade. 

Your orchid will also benefit from you pruning back any damaged roots that are dark in color. The roots enjoy plenty of airflow so pruning back dead and damaged roots will leave more space between them as well. 

 

Propagating 

Cymbidium orchids have tubers called pseudobulbs which form at the base of the plant under the soil. The pseudobulbs around the outside support the foliage and the ones in the center are dormant.

You can split these pseudobulbs into different pots to propagate your Cymbidium orchid. 

Propagate your Cymbidium orchid when the flowers have died off in the late spring. To divide the pseudobulbs, start by taking that orchid out of its pot.

Then carefully remove as much of the potting mix from the roots and untangle them a bit making sure not to damage any of them. 

Once the root cluster is cleared up, use a sharp sterilized knife to cut the pseudobulbs apart. First divide the pseudobulbs with foliage growing out of them in groups of three or four.

Then divide the inner backbulbs without any growth into individual bulbs. 

Pot up the divided plants with growth on them into separate pots with a mix of four parts bark chips to one part perlite. Mist daily until they have established new roots.

Then water very little for the next six weeks until roots fully develop. 

Plant the inner pseudobulbs in smaller containers only a couple of inches larger than they are.

Keep the backbulbs in a moist and shady place.

New growth will begin to appear anytime between 3 months and in a couple of years, this backbulb will grow into a new plant. 

Or you can place them in a cool, dark, and humid area and wait for them to put out some growth.

It usually takes a few months for new growth to begin appearing, but once it does you can pot them up like you did the outer pseudobulbs.

Once it has grown a second pseudobulb, repot it into a slightly larger pot.

Don’t be surprised if your propagated orchids don’t bloom in the first year. It can take a couple of years for the root system to develop enough for them to bloom.

But be patient and you’ll be able to fill your home with these stunning plants. 

 

Blooms 

The whole reason people buy orchids is for the blooms. Most houseplants don’t produce flowers when kept indoors so it can be quite refreshing to come across a plant that not only blooms indoors but actually blooms for 6 weeks or more! 

Bunches of orchid flowers bloom from what is called an orchid flower spike. These spikes become very heavy for the thin stems.

So give them some support with a cane when the flower spike starts to form. 

They bloom when temperatures are warm during the day and cold at night. This causes them to bloom in early spring mostly, but it can also happen in early fall.

Avoid buds from dropping by keeping the temperature below 59 °F (16 °C). 

Cymbidium orchid’s colorful blooms will be sure to brighten up any room. Proper care can keep the flowers blooming for up to 10 weeks.

Check out our article on possible reasons why your orchid might be wilting to preempt any issues. 

 

Common Problems with Cymbidium Orchids 

 

Sunburn 

Orchids benefit from very specific light – they need as much light as possible without catching direct rays. This can make it complicated to find just the right spot for them. 

If they don’t get enough light the leaves will turn very dark green. If they’re getting too much light they will turn more yellow.

Both of these issues can be corrected, but sunburned damage caused by direct rays won’t heal. You’ll either have to cut off the affected foliage or make peace with the cosmetic damages. 

 

Root rot   

If you overwater your Cymbidium orchid or accidentally leave it submerged in the humidity tray, the roots will surely develop root rot. Once root rot sets in it’s extremely difficult to recuperate the plant.

You can try to save it by unopotting the orchid and checking to see if there are any healthy pseudobulbs. If there are any parts that are unaffected, cut them away with a sharp sterilized knife. Then continue like you would if you were diving the plant for propagation. 
 

Pests such as mealybugs, spider mites, and aphids 

Orchids are pretty resistant to pests but it’s not unheard of. If your orchid becomes plagued with any of these insects you can simply wipe them off with a paper towel dipped in isopropyl alcohol.

On soft-bodied pests such as aphids, you can spray them down with a diluted natural detergent solution. 

 

Frequently asked questions about Cymbidium Orchids

 

Where should I place my Cymbidium orchid?

A south-facing window is the best place to put your Cymbidium orchid because it receives the most sun. Just make sure you’re using a sheer shade or curtain or the direct rays will burn the leaf. 

 

How long do Cymbidium orchid flowers last?

With proper care, they can last around eight weeks (and up to ten weeks!). But if temperatures get too hot it will cause the flowers to wither. So be attentive to temperature, fertilizing, and watering to provide optimum conditions and ensure the longest blooming time. 

 

What is the best soil for Cymbidium orchids? 

Use a potting mix that is specific for orchids or make your own. Orchid soil is very different from your common potting soil because it contains substantial pieces of tree bark to enable plenty of room in the pot. This is unusual for other house plants which prefer to have the soil firmly around their roots. 


 

Conclusion 

If you’re looking for an elegant flowering plant to brighten up a sunny room even more, look no further than the Cymbidium orchid.

They’re also one of the more tolerant orchid varieties, so it’s a great place to start.

These tropical plants put out beautiful blooms which last for a couple of months. 

If you find a spot with plenty of indirect light, water correctly, fertilize regularly and use a coarse orchid-specific potting mix you’ll be rewarded with the most stunning flowers. 

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