Cymbidium orchids make great houseplants due to their low care requirements. Phalaenopsis orchids are the most commonly available at grocery or big box stores, yet they can be fussier that what cymbidiums require, and aren’t quite as magnificent. While I was able to locate some cymbidium orchids at my local grocery store (my sister can attest I let out an audible gasp when I saw them), you can just as easily order them online. Most listings will probably tell you they will not ship in bloom, which is preferred, so you get maximum enjoyment from the spikes. Blooming from late fall to spring, with proper care you can enjoy the blooms for months. Here’s a quick rundown for caring for this glorious orchid.
Place your orchid in indirect light in a north- or south-facing room to avoid the extremes of the morning or afternoon soon. They can tolerate morning sun more than the hotter mid-day sun and need 12 hours of light daily. The color of the leaves are a great indicator of how happy they are about the light they’re getting: dark green means not enough light, green with some yellow means the correct amount.
Cymbidium orchids’ temperature requirements change with the seasons. They can tolerate summer heat, so if you are gone during the day and don’t keep your A/C low, they won’t crumble. The same goes for the fall and winter, they can tolerate a cooler home because they need a period of cooler temps (50-65°) to encourage them to flower.
They like to slightly dry out between waterings. Plan to water once weekly. I like to move my orchids to my kitchen sink and just drench them and allow to drain. Depending on the heat in your home, either from forced air, or minimal or no A/C on a hot day, watering may need to be twice weekly. Do not allow to sit in water or rot will occur.
At an orchid show, I learned the phrase, “fertilize orchids weekly, weakly.” If you really dig into orchid fertilization requirements as stated by professionals, it can get pretty stringent. If you’re an amateur who just hopes to enjoy a plant for as long as you can keep it alive, I recommend watering with a diluted orchid fertilizer (half of recommended formula on the box I linked below) and apply after your weekly watering session in the sink. Don’t apply fertilizer to dry roots.
Orchids do not like being repotted, but sometimes their root system which already enjoy being tightly compacted, must be allowed some extra space for new growth. You can expect to repot every 2-3 years in the spring after flowering. Shake out all of the old growing medium from the roots. Use a fine bark orchid mix to repot into a larger pot with a little room for growth. Place some growing medium in the pot, set the orchid over the medium, and fill in more medium on top of the roots, tamping down firmly.
The shorter days, and cooler nighttime temperatures of fall signify to the orchid to bloom again, so replicating these conditions in your home encourages re-bloom. Cymbidiums will never re-bloom on the same spike, so in the spring after blooming, cut the spent spike with sterile snips. After a season of vegetative growth over the spring and summer, the pseudobulbs will store up energy to generate new spikes for the following season which will emerge over that season and finally bloom in the fall.