Cymbidium hybrids

Cymbidium orchid in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

I think that many of us gardeners have languishing away somewhere a bedraggled pot of what was once a beautiful flowering cymbidium orchid (Cymbidium, Large-flowered Hybrids) that we may have been given as a gift. Usually, they never bloom again but we hold onto the pot in the hope that maybe one day it will.

There are a number of keys to success. They do need fortnightly fertilising with proper orchid food throughout the year. There are two sorts of food: one for growth after flowering and a different one from January onwards as the flower spikes are initiated. Regular watering is also important, especially in the warmer months; avoid overwatering in winter.

Cymbidium orchid in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

Plenty of sun is also very important, though avoid direct sunlight on hot summer afternoons. Some people put them in a part-shaded position from September to May (such as under deciduous trees) and then full sun the rest of the year. The colour of the leaves may be a sign of whether they are getting enough sun: they should appear yellow-green, rather than deep green, which is a sign of too much shade. Leaves which are too yellow, however, indicate that too much sunlight may be being received.

Divide the plants every two to three years, after flowering. Keeps groups of the bulbs together and puts single ones into a different pot with one another, as these will eventually flower. Throw away any old backbulbs that are black, soggy or empty. Good-quality, free-draining orchid mix should be used for the repotting operation and containers should be around 30cm in diameter. Don't plant the bulbs too deep - they should be almost sitting on top of the potting mix. The plants should be protected from snails and cabbage grubs.

Cymbidium orchid in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

The pots can be grouped under trees or on tables, paving or steps. They can also be brought indoors for short periods when in bloom. As they are in fact epiphytic plants in the wild, I would like to try growing them in the fork of a tree one day. Our climate is perfect for these stunning plants. In very frosty regions, the buds can be damaged, so move pots to a protected area at this time. Picked flowers will last for many weeks in a vase.

For more information, visit the Orchid Society of NSW.

Flowers in July, August, September.