BLOOM­ING CHAL­LENGE

EN­JOY THIS BEAU­TI­FUL CYMBIDIUM ORCHID WHICH WILL FLOWER YEAR AF­TER YEAR

Life & Style Weekend - - GARDEN - GREEN THUMB WORDS: MA­REE CUR­RAN

It’s hard to beat a cymbidium orchid in full bloom for a spec­tac­u­lar flow­er­ing pot­ted plant. They flower for ages, and will flower again year af­ter year, with a min­i­mum of fuss. Each in­di­vid­ual bloom can last for 4-12 weeks, and each flower spike has mul­ti­ple flow­ers. A ma­ture plant can pro­duce 6 or more flower spikes, so a cymbidium can be in flower for months. Cym­bid­i­ums have long, strappy fo­liage. Minia­ture forms may be only 30cm tall, and the taller grow­ing va­ri­eties can have fo­liage up to 1m tall. Flow­ers are held on spikes above the fo­liage. 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. An es­tab­lished cymbidium orchid needs plenty of space to be dis­played at its best. Though the pot is usu­ally quite small com­pared to the size of the plant, the fo­liage is long and of­ten spread­ing. Or­chids are beau­ti­ful and ex­otic, but they can also be frus­trat­ing. Cymbidium or­chids 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 they will prob­a­bly not flower, and may well die. A good way to tell whether the light is about right is to check the leaf colour. Yel­low­ing and burn­ing may mean too much sun, deep green can be too lit­tle sun, and bright, light green is just right. Dap­pled light un­der trees is an ideal po­si­tion, or you could keep them un­der 50 per cent 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 once or twice 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 mov­ing your pot­ted or­chids un­der cover, or in­doors, when they are in bloom. Re­mem­ber to fer­tilise for healthy growth. Use a slow re­lease fer­tiliser in spring, and sup­ple­ment this with a liq­uid fer­tiliser from Septem­ber-may. Al­though cym­bid­i­ums do like to be tight in the pot, you will need to re­pot, and pos­si­bly divide, ev­ery cou­ple of years. Do this af­ter flow­er­ing has fin­ished, us­ing a pot­ting mix spe­cially for­mu­lated for cym­bid­i­ums. You can keep them in plas­tic pots, which makes them eas­ier to move about. When they are in flower and you want to bring them in­side, just pop the plas­tic pot in­side some­thing lovely. Cymbidium or­chids make a won­der­ful gift. They make a stun­ning fea­ture in­doors while in bloom, and are a fan­tas­tic pot­ted plant for semi-shaded out­door ar­eas.

Got a gar­den­ing ques­tion? Email ma­[email protected]­nat­by­ron.com.au

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