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Eight steps to beautiful, happy orchids

With nearly 30,000 species growing on six continents, orchids have become one of the world’s most fashionable plants, used for their incredible beauty in homes, offices, hotels and other living spaces.

The Cymbidium orchid, well known as the “easy orchid” is also one of the most beautiful and widely-grown in South Africa. It has lovely blooms and requires relatively low maintenance, thriving as both an outdoor and indoor pot plant.

Here are a few tips on how to keep your Cymbidium orchids looking their best;

  1. Lots of light. Cymbidiums must be given as much sun as possible without scorching the foliage – in most growing areas, about 40 per cent shade is sufficient. Look out for light green or yellowing leaves as this indicates that the plant is not receiving enough light.
  2. Well drained soil: Good drainage is essential for Cymbidiums. Use plastic pots and fill the lower 2cm with small stones, then add coarse pine-bark pieces topped with a layer of aerated potting mix. Farmyard Organics’ Potting Mix is made up of 50% compost and 50% large particles of composted bark, making it fluffy enough to provide excellent drainage. It is also a good idea to drill additional holes in the plastic just above the stone level to allow excess water to drain out.
  3. Watering tips: Cymbidiums need to be watered about once a week in winter, and twice a week in the summer, depending on the temperatures. As a rule, the potting mix should never be allowed to dry out between watering.
  4. Ice cubes: Let’s just dispel this rumour right now: orchids are tropical plants which means that watering them with ice cubes is not just counter-intuitive, it’s a sure fire way to shorten your orchid’s life
  5. Air: Cymbidiums like plenty of space and light. Importantly, they like FRESH air and as much of it as possible. Place your orchid plant near an open window or draughty area in the house.
  6. Temperature: Cymbidiums, like most other orchids do well in warm, humid conditions, but should be moved indoors or to a cooler area if temperatures exceed 30˚C.  In summer, the night temperature should be at least 7˚C lower than the day temperature to induce flowering. Cymbidiums will tolerate temperatures as low as -2 ˚C but if your garden receives heavy frost, it is best to protect the plant by taking it indoors.
  7. Pests: Outdoors, keep your Cymbidiums off the ground, as slugs and snails are their worst enemies. Regular use of snail bait (a small quantity around the plants every two weeks in the flowering season) gives good control.
  8. Repotting: Repotting is essential and should be done every two years when root growth activity is increasing – usually in the early summer.  Remove the plant from the pot and wash off all the old potting mix. Then break the plant into three and four bulb divisions and cut away the old and broken roots with sterilised secateurs.  Select a new container that will allow the plants at least two years growth and replant it with a fresh batch of either potting mix or Orchid mix.