A pink and white evergreen cymbidium clarisse orchid flower in bloom.
A pink and white evergreen cymbidium clarisse orchid flower in bloom. Teenoo

Orchid will spike interest

ONE of the nicest things about running a garden centre is that I get the opportunity to go plant shopping on a commercial scale. So this afternoon I've just spent an hour buying cymbidium orchids, dozens of them. What a delightful job!

It's hard to beat a cymbidium orchid in full bloom for a spectacular flowering potted plant. Each individual flower can last for four to 12 weeks, and each flower spike has as many as 50 flowers. Since each plant can produce numerous flower spikes, a cymbidium can be in flower for several months. They are a perfect gift. You can bring them inside while they are in bloom, or keep them in a brightly lit or morning sun position outdoors.

Even though the initial investment is a bit steep, it's actually much more economical than buying a bunch of cut flowers every week, thanks to their long flowering time. And they will flower again year after year, with a minimum of fuss.

The cymbidiums we grow now are bred from wild orchids found in the mountains of India and South-East Asia. The range of colour size, growth habit and shape is now very different from the original species. Colours vary from rich chocolate browns, through reds, pinks, white, yellow and greens.

Cymbidiums have long, strappy foliage. Miniature forms may be only 30cm tall, and the taller growing varieties can have foliage up to 1m tall. They need a few hours of sun, especially from about March onwards, in order to stimulate flowering. We tend to put them into shady places where, if they don't just rot away, they certainly never flower. A good way to tell whether the light is about right is to check the leaf colour. They should be a bright, light green. Yellowing may mean too much sun, and deep green can be too little. Dappled light under trees is an ideal position, or you could put them under 50% shade cloth. Although they are cold-tolerant, you should keep them out of direct frost and protected from strong winds.

You will need to water a couple of times a week in summer, less in the cooler weather. If the flower spikes get wet, the flowers may not last as long as they should, so consider putting your pots under cover, or indoors, when they are in flower.

Remember to fertilise for healthy growth. Use an organic-based slow release fertiliser in spring, and supplement this with a liquid fertiliser from September-May.

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