Orchid Care with Hydroponics -

Grow Cymbidiums that Bloom!

Cymbidiums boast some of the most dramatic flowers in the orchid kingdom. And you can enjoy their magnificent blooms if you follow a few simple guidelines for growing these plants. We call it Cymbidium Success!

Cymbidium Fairy Rouge Lavender

Cymbidiums are easy growers (and bloomers) in temperate climates such as California, where they're grown outside year round. The warm, sunny days (80-90 degrees) and cool nights (40-50 degrees) are perfect for growing healthy plants that bloom. 

In Northern climates , the best cymbidiums are usually grown in greenhouses. Don't have a greenhouse? Don't worry. Even if you're climate challenged, you can still have Cymbidium Success by growing them outdoors in the summer. 

The Hydroponic Advantage

Cymbidiums are excellent candidates for hydroponics .

Cymbidium Flowers

In nature, these plants grow in rocky soil that doesn't hold moisture and drains quickly. The LECA pebbles in our hydroponic system are and ideal for growing cymbidiums because they closely resemble the growing media these plants find in nature.

LECA pebbles are also great for outdoor growing because they never breakdown or decay, insuring a healthy root system in any weather. They're also a sterile ceramic, so they won't attract insects. 

Related: Repotting Cymbidium Orchids into Hydroponics

How to Grow Cymbidiums

Cymbidium Success can be as easy as 1 - 2 - 3. 

  1. In the spring, move your plants outside for the summer where they get several hours of direct sun. Leave them outside until temperatures reach the 40 degree range (cold temps trigger blooms.)  
  2.  After a good dose of cold weather in the fall, bring your plants back indoors. Flower spikes usually appear Jan-Feb.  Enjoy the magnificent blooms during the winter months - just when you need them.
  3. When warm weather returns, move your plants back outdoors for another growing season.

Note: If you can't move your plants outside during the summer months, growing cymbidium orchids isn't for you.

Related:  Cymbidium Setup for Outdoor Growing with Hydroponics

Plant Care for Growing Cymbidiums

The key to Cymbidium Success is establishing an outdoor growing season in the summer and a blooming season indoors in the winter. Then, simply adjust your plant care to each season. 

Outdoor Growing Season

The growing season begins when you move your plants outdoors in the spring. Check your local weather for the last frost date in your area.

Light:   Cymbidiums need several hours of direct sun outdoors. These plants thrive in sun that would burn most orchids. Leaves are always a good indicator of proper light. They should be light green with a tinge of yellow - dark green means not enough light and your plants probably won't bloom. Too much sun and the leaves will turn yellow or bleached white.
Tip: Give your plants time to acclimate when moving them outdoors. Start with total shade. Then, after a week or so slowly move them into more sun. (Think of your first day at the beach after a long winter.)

Cymbidium setup for outdoor growing. Clear plastic saucer has been cut to a lower profile.

Water + Nutrients for Outdoor Growing:  Cymbidiums don't like wet feet!  In nature these plants grow in rocky soil that holds little moisture. The only nutrition they get is from bird droppings and other decaying material. So be stingy with water and nutrients. "When in doubt, do without" applies here.

Water to only 1/4 on gauge (or about 1/2" in saucer) - no more! This should be easy because anything more should drain away. You can even water with the garden hose! Water in the reservoir at the bottom of the pot should never be more than 1/2" deep. If it is, your saucer is too deep and the roots will stay wet too long. Not good - cut saucer a little lower.

Cymbidiums do not want to be standing in water all the time. Allow enough time between waterings for the plants to sit completely dry for several days between waterings.  

I use and recommend Dyna-Gro "Grow Formula 7-9-5"  (1/2 tsp per gallon) every watering. I also add Dyna-Gro "Mag-Pro 2-15-4"  (1/2 tsp per gallon) to the mix about once a month to give the flowering process a boost.

Clear water from rain showers will flush the system and balance your nutrition program. If your plants are protected from the rain, water thoroughly with plain water every couple of weeks.

Temps:   Cymbidiums require a wide range of temperatures (that's why they're not suited for indoor growing). They enjoy temperatures that reach into the 90's during the day. To initiate a bloom cycle however, temperatures must drop into the low to mid 40's at night. So keep your plants outside in the fall until the thermometer drops to the upper 30's(!). You might even see frost - don't worry - these plants can take it! Damage occurs if temps drop below 30 degrees however. 

Winter Blooming Season Indoors

After weeks of night time temperatures in the high 30's - low 40's, it's time to move indoors. A sunny window is best. Try to keep plants as cool as possible, especially at night, preferably around 55 degrees. Too warm and new flower buds might drop off.

In January things start to get exciting because you can start looking for flower spikes. As the flower spikes mature and the first flowers open, move your plant(s) away from the sun to wherever they look their best. Your plants have stored up all the energy they need to complete their flowering cycle and cooler temperatures will prolong the life of the blooms.   

Cymbidium flower bud

Light - No more sun needed - they've stored up all the energy they need to complete their flowering, so display them where ever they look their best. 

cymbidium in bloom

Water + Nutrients for Indoor Growing:  When your plants move indoors, their metabolism slows, so cut back on the water and stop nutrients altogether. This encourages the bloom cycle to begin. Water sparingly and slowly - when the gauge moves - stop! Don't rewater until bottom of pot is dry, usually about once a week or so. The seasons have changed and these plants don't need much water now.

When the first flower spikes appear (look for them at the base of the plant), start feeding again using a "bloom formula". I use Dyna-Gro "Bloom 3-12-6" to encourage bigger, longer lasting flowers. Continue this all through the bloom cycle.

Note: "Bloom" nutrients won't make your plants bloom - only light and temperature can do that. Bloom nutrients encourage bigger, brighter blooms that last longer.

After the blooms have faded, cymbidiums go dormant, which corresponds to the dry season in their native habitat. Reduce watering even more. Just run water through the pebbles once a week to keep the plant from dehydrating - that's all. No standing water at the base.

Don't expect new growth until plants go outside again in the spring and a new growing season begins. 

For more on Cymbidiums and hydroponics:

Repotting Cymbidiums into Hydroponics

Cymbidium Setup for Outdoor Growing

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