Cymbidium orchids: How to Grow and Care for Cymbidium Orchid (Boat Orchid)

How to Grow and Care for Cymbidium Orchid (Boat Orchid)

Common Name Cymbidium orchid, boat orchid
Botanical Name Cymbidium spp.
Family Orchidaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 12-30 in. tall, 12-24 in. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Loamy, moist, well-draining
Soil pH Acidic
Bloom Time Fall, winter, spring
Flower Color Pink, green, yellow, white
Hardiness Zones 10-12 (USDA)
Native Area Asia, Australia

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Cymbidium Orchid Care

Here are the main care and growth requirements for cymbidium:

  • Provide dappled sunlight; direct sun can burn the plant.
  • Plant in loamy, acidic humus-type soil.
  • Keep soil moist; do not allow it to dry out.
  • Tolerates a light frost and has a vast temperature range from 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Give orchid fertilizer bimonthly or plant with slow-release fertilizer pellets.


During the growing season, cymbidium orchids appreciate dappled sunlight. If your orchids are outdoors, ensure they are not in direct sunlight, which can burn the plant. A few hours of morning sunlight paired with shady afternoons should be perfect.

A southeast- or east-facing window is ideal if you are growing your orchids indoors. Under the proper light conditions, the leaves should appear apple green instead of dark green. A dark green plant is likely not receiving enough sunlight to provoke a good bloom.


Cymbidiums are semi-terrestrial orchids. They grow naturally in loamy humus, sending thin roots into the soil. They are ideally suited to conditions easily replicated at home: a rich, loose, organic potting mixture.

Most growers recommend that the best soil for cymbidium orchids is a combination of fir bark, perlite, peat moss, and other loose organic material that will lower cymbidium orchid’s pH. A commercial paphiopedilum orchid mix will usually serve these plants well.


Water these plants frequently during the growing season (i.e., the spring, summer, and fall). You can also use ice cubes, a premeasured way of making sure you don’t overwater your orchid. And remember, the purer the water, the healthier the plants. Accumulated salts from tap water can cause damage, such as leaf-tip dieback, in which the leaf tips turn black and die. So make sure to flush water through the potting mixture.

During the winter bloom, reduce watering. However, don’t let the plant completely dry out. Instead, keep the potting mixture slightly damp to the touch.

Temperature and Humidity

Cymbidiums are considerably more tolerant to cold weather than some other popular orchids. The larger varieties of cymbidiums need an extended cold period to provoke a bloom, while the miniature types aren’t entirely as dependent on cold weather.

Cymbidiums have been known to briefly withstand freezing temperatures, though frost will eventually kill them. Nights with temperatures down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit should be fine. Conversely, cymbidiums can also withstand summer heat without wilting, as they are suited to the temperate regions of Asia, where there is considerable variation in seasonal and day-to-night temperatures.

Outdoors, these orchids can tolerate most humidity levels except for very dry climates. And indoors, they like a humidity level of around 40% to 60%. If you need to raise the humidity, place your plant’s container on a water-filled tray of pebbles. Ensure the bottom of the container isn’t touching the water, as this can lead to root rot.


During the growing season, feed with a weak orchid fertilizer bimonthly. Or scatter slow-release pellets in the ever-increasing media at the beginning of the season. Avoid a high-nitrogen fertilizer, as this can cause rapid foliage growth at the expense of the orchid’s blooms.

Types of Cymbidium Orchids

According to the American Orchid Society, there are about 100 species and hybrids of cymbidium orchids. Some notable species include: 

  • Cymbidium dayanum: Known as Day’s cymbidium or the Phoenix orchid, this species sports white flowers with stripes of burgundy.
  • Cymbidium erythrostylum: This plant is native to Vietnam and features white flowers with red in the center.
  • Cymbidium tracyanum: Known as Tracy’s cymbidium, this orchid has large, fragrant, yellow-green flowers with brown stripes.
  • Cymbidium goeringii: Also called the noble orchid, it’s one of the cold hardiest of cymbidiums, hailing from cooler zones of Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea.
  • C. floribundum: Commonly called the yellow margin orchid, golden leaf-edge orchid, or golden-edged orchid, its petals and sepals are usually red-brown. It has miniature flowers averaging about an inch in size, with about three dozen on a floral spray.
  • Cymbidium aloifolium: The aloe-leafed cymbidium is a species of orchid found in China and southeast Asia from Burma to Sumatra that is rare, featuring pretty yellow, red center flowers on pendant spikes. 
  • Cymbidium ensifolium: Also called the four-season orchid, the golden-thread orchid, spring orchid, burned-apex orchid, and rock orchid, this heat-tolerant orchid features 3-inch blooms with yellow or green petals and sepals with red or brown lines.
  • Cymbidium kanran: Commonly called the cold-growing cymbidium, this winter bloomer produces multiple flowers with slim, pointed petals and has a pleasant, musky fragrance.
  • Cymbidium sinense: Native to China and Northern Vietnam, it produces dark red flowers with a sweet fragrance. In China, it’s called the “New Year’s orchid,” as it generally flowers during the Chinese New Year in February.


After the flowers have faded, using sterilized scissors or pruners, cut the stems down to the base of the plant to encourage it to bloom again next year. Prune away any dead roots emerging from the top of the soil and clip or pinch off any already loose dead, dying, or discolored leaves.

Propagating Cymbidium

Although they can be grown from seeds after many years of patiently waiting, cymbidiums are easiest to propagate by division during repotting in the spring. During the summer, they usually grow quickly, sending up new pseudobulbs (stems) topped with long leaves.

Dividing the roots if they crowd the pot can make the plant healthier; however, cymbidiums flower best when a little root bound. Here’s how to divide cymbidiums:

  1. You’ll need a new pot, moist orchid compost mix, a sterilized knife, heavy-duty scissors, or pruners.
  2. Remove the rootball from the pot by holding your hand over the top of the soil surface and turning over the pot. Healthy roots are thick, whitish-cream-colored rhizome strands. If the roots appear to be one big mess leaving little room for growth, your cymbidium is ready to be divided.
  3. Use a sterile knife, heavy-duty scissors, or pruners to cut through the rhizome strands. Divisions should have three bulbs each. Plant the rhizomes in a pot on top of a bed of damp orchid compost.
  4. Once seated in the center of the pot, top it off and line the sides with the moistened orchid mix. Don’t water the plant for three weeks. Continue to mist the plant over that time.
  5. Begin watering when you notice new growth beginning, usually within three weeks.

How to Grow Cymbidium From Seed

Propagating orchids by seed is notoriously difficult and not recommended because the minuscule seeds need extremely specific conditions that are hard to duplicate; typically, horticulturists use sterile laboratories for germinating and cultivating orchids. Once germination occurs, it can take up to two-plus years to notice leaf growth. After that, plant growth can take up to four to eight years to develop blooms.

Potting and Repotting Cymbidium

They can be grown in containers outside during the spring, summer, and fall and moved inside at the first threat of frost. For best results, start with a store-bought plant and wait until after flowering in the spring to repot it (or put it in the ground).

The best type of pot for a cymbidium orchid is a clay pot since water wicks away from the plant faster. Also, repot when the leading pseudobulb (stem) reaches the pot’s side. When repotting, only go up one size; cymbidiums bloom best when a little pot bound.


Cymbidiums are not frost-tolerant, so when frost is expected, bring it indoors. Place it in a bright, cool section of your home, preferably in a south or east-facing window. It will continue to need moderate to high humidity.

Common Pests & Diseases

A well-grown cymbidium should be resistant to most insects and diseases. But as with all orchids, there is some risk of aphids, spider mites, scale, and other insects. Try treatment with natural neem or horticultural oil before using chemical insecticides, and follow label directions.

How to Get Cymbidium to Bloom

Cymbidiums naturally bloom during the winter, which is ideal if your plants are indoors for display. Cymbidium orchids like bright light and cool evening temps to bloom. A combination of falling temperatures and reduced water triggers the bloom. Cymbidium flower spikes are heavy and will need support.

Bloom Months

Cymbidiums can bloom from October through May, depending on the species or hybrid and your climate and environmental conditions.

How Long Does Cymbidium Bloom?

Cymbidiums can bloom from one to three months, although six to eight weeks is more likely.

What Do Cymbidium Flowers Look and Smell Like?

Cymbidium scents vary based on the species, ranging from bright notes of citrus, apple blossom, sandalwood, vanilla, musk, jasmine, and lily of the valley. Some may have no fragrance.

The flowers vary in size, color, and shape. All flowers develop on long sprays (inflorescences) of abundant flowers. There are also hybrid and miniature types—flowers range from 1/2 inch to 4 inches in diameter. Some petals are long strands or wisps, while others are broader and showy.

How to Encourage More Blooms

To potentially get cymbidiums to rebloom, prune the flowering spike. The flowering spike stem needs to appear still healthy and green. Look at the lowest node or bump on the orchid spike (where a flower didn’t already bloom from) and trim to 1 inch above that node, or bump, on the orchid spike. Then, move the plant to a cool spot from 40 F to 60 F, simulating winter. Withhold water for longer stretches (every 10 days or so), and only occasionally mist the plant so it has at least 40% humidity.

Feed every two weeks from autumn to spring with a balanced liquid fertilizer at quarter to half strength to encourage blooms for the coming season. To promote flowering to start, switch fertilizer to tomato fertilizer, feeding every week in August and September at quarter to half strength.

Caring for Cymbidium After it Blooms

After your cymbidium orchids have flowered, cut the stems down to the base of the plant to get it to bloom again next year. Or, if you’re attempting to rebloom, read the notes above (How to Encourage More Blooms).

Deadheading Cymbidium Flowers

Allow the flower to wither and the flowering stem to brown, then cut the stem to the base.

Common Problems With Cymbidium

Cymbidiums are wonderful orchids to grow in temperate regions. They are also among the easiest and most reliable houseplants to grow.

Blackening Leaves

To revive a dying cymbidium, check the water, light levels, and soil. Insufficient water is usually the main culprit. Blackening leaves or black leaf tips signify a cymbidium dying or dying back. Eventually, the blackening moves down to the rest of the leaves.

Cymbidiums prefer moist soil. Too much light will cause blanching of the leaves, then browning. Give the plant afternoon shade or move the plant to a partially shaded spot. Over time, fertilizer salts build up and leave a crust on the surface of the planting mix; remove 1/4-inch of the top layer and add fresh orchid mix or flush with water once a month to remove the salts and improve the soil.

Failure to Bloom

Insufficient light and improper temperature control are the two biggest reasons a cymbidium fails to bloom. Cymbidiums need dappled light or bright, indirect light and a 20-degree temperature swing at night.

Leaf color is a good indicator if they are getting the right light. Leaves should be yellowish-green. Dark green leaves indicate insufficient light, while bleached or scorched leaves mean it’s getting too much light. Temperatures should ideally be about 80 F during the day, dropping to 60 F at night.

If the plant has had sufficient light, correct temps, regular fertilizer, and a reduction of water, then when cool temperatures arrive, such as 60 F during the day and 40 F at night, a flowering spike should grow. Once the plant reaches freezing temperatures at night, bring it inside or move it to a non-freezing location.

Brown Spots

Yellow to brown spots on your cymbidium orchid can indicate a lack of water. To avoid that condition, never allow the soil to get dry. Also, don’t get the soil too moist or soggy since that can lead to mushy root rot. Increase watering if the soil isn’t consistently moist. Any water remaining in the bottom tray should remain lower than the pot’s base to avoid root rot.

Brown spots can also signify several viral infections, such as cymbidium mosaic virus, botrytis, or ringspot virus. Plants rarely recover from these viruses. It’s best to destroy those plants.


  • It’s best to buy cymbidiums already in bloom. Although you can find them year-round, cymbidiums usually bloom from mid-autumn to mid-spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Peak bloom time is winter when you most find cymbidiums for sale.

  • Cymbidiums are one of the longest-living species of orchids. Orchids have the reputation of being able to live up to 100 years. However, that’s in their ideal climate and natural habitat. Expect cymbidium orchids to live up to 15 to 20 years as a houseplant with proper care. Orchids planted in the ground in the correct zone have a longer life expectancy.

  • As far as blooms go, cymbidium flowers last long. You can expect a potted or in-ground cymbidium to bloom for one to three months. A cut cymbidium can last up to 6 weeks in a vase of fresh water.

  • In most cases, cymbidium orchids will bloom only once from one stem. The plant should rebloom the following growing season. You can force a rebloom on the same stem after flowering if you “trick” the plant into thinking winter has arrived by lowering temperatures, withholding water, and pruning the flowering stem to just above a healthy, unbloomed node along the stem.

Cymbidium Orchid Care

Cymbidium are native to the foothills of the Himalayas and are accustomed to cool conditions. Their tall spikes bloom with 10 to 25 flowers, ranging from 2.5″ to 6″ wide and can last from one to three months. Many of these flowers have the added appeal of fragrance! Their popular flower types and elegant long leaves make Cymbidium orchids attractive as indoor plants.

Light and Shade

When growing Cymbidium outdoors, place the plant where it receives bright but diffuse light, such as through a pine tree or shrub in early morning or afternoon. Be careful not to exposure these orchids to prolonged direct sunlight, as the leaves will burn and produce black spotting. Indoors, the light will be much more filtered, so give them as much light as you can by growing in south, east or west-facing windows.

Temperature and Humidity

While these orchids can be cultured successfully indoors, Cymbidium benefit tremendously from growing outdoors between May to early October. In late summer and early fall, night temperatures that fall below 58°F (15°F) initiate the development of flower spikes. Keep in mind, these are not frost-tolerant plants, and should not be exposed to temperatures below 35°F (2°C). When bringing Cymbidium indoors in the fall, place them in a bright, cool section of your home, preferably in a south or east-facing window. Like most orchids, Cymbidium benefit from high humidity. This can be achieved at home with the use of a humidifier or a humidity tray. Just make sure that the plant is not standing in water or the roots will rot.


These orchids enjoy a moist growing medium at all times. The media should never go “bone dry”. A fine spray over the foliage, in addition to pot watering, is beneficial during sunny weather. Cymbidium orchids undergo active growth from spring to early fall. During this time, Cymbidium should be watered frequently and heavily. From fall through winter, less sun results in growth pausing. For this period of time, watering can be reduced. The goal during the winter is to water the root system only as necessary, without over-watering and leading to root rot.

When repotting your Cymbidium during the active growing season, do not water the media for at least 3 days. This allows cuts and breaks in the roots to callous and avoid rotting upon being watered.

We always recommend watering in the morning, as this gives the leaves time to dry and avoid bacterial growth overnight. If possible, use water low in alkalinity, such as rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water. If you have a dehumidifier in your home, the water that collects in the tray is excellent for watering orchids.


We highly recommend Green Jungle Orchid Food, specially formulated to provide orchids with the nutrients they would naturally encounter in their wild habitats. This is the fertilizer that we developed to use on our own plants in production, with excellent results for decades! This formula works best with water low in alkalinity (such as rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water). However, you may use tap water, keeping in mind that mineral buildup will require repotting more frequently, on the order of every 1 to 2 years.

If potting in bark mix, fertilize every time you water during the summer growing season, flushing with non-softened water once a month. This rinses the media of salt and mineral buildup. In winter, fertilize every other watering, as Cymbidium are not in a state of active growth during this season. If potting in sphagnum moss, fertilize every 3rd watering year round.


Cymbidium thrive in a light, porous medium, capable of holding moisture while draining thoroughly upon watering. At Orchids Limited, we recommend potting these plants in New Zealand Sphagnum Moss or the Medium grade of our Traditional Orchid Bark Mix.

These orchids do best when the root system is left undisturbed, so repot only when the medium has broken down. When plants need to be divided and repotted, do so in the spring after the plants have finished blooming.  

Cymbidium produce an extensive root system and may be “over-potted” more readily than other orchids. Select a pot which, once the plant has been placed in the center, allows space for at least two years’ growth. Remove all dead or dying roots from the plant, carefully taking off the old compost without causing damage to the live roots. Should you wish to divide your plant at this time, each section should have three or four green bulbs in addition to any new leads. Old leafless pseudobulbs should be removed if the procedure will cause no damage to the rest of the plant. You can watch our video on dividing orchids here.

To avoid the transfer of orchid diseases, it is standard procedure to sterilize all cutting and potting instruments before using them on a plant. This can be done by flaming pruning shears with a butane torch, or by spraying with rubbing alcohol and wiping with a clean paper towel. 

Pest Control

These plants have long thin leaves what are prone to tiny, almost invisible spider mites on the undersides. To avoid getting the mites, take the plant into the shower once a month and spray the foliage lightly with room temperature water. If you have spider mites, insecticidal soap sprayed 3 times, one week apart, should control them. 


Cymbidium Orchid – home care, transplanting, growing cymbidium orchids, photo and video


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Cymbidium is one of the most beautiful orchids. The place of growth of this culture extends from Japan to Australia. Through China, India, Burma, Malaysia and even the Philippines. Known varieties have tall, curving arrows of tall flowers of delicate coloration, which are a wonderful spectacle of shades of yellow, green, pink and white, pure or slightly mixed. The plant itself looks charming, thanks to its herbaceous foliage. The flowers of this orchid last for six weeks, and sometimes three months. The clear beauty of flowers betrays their charm. Their oval and pointed petals (sepals and petals) are almost the same size, shape and color. The upper sepal is often slightly curved forward above the lip. The lip is fleshy, with the lateral lobes standing straight on the sides of the column, while the anterior lobe curves down in the form of a tongue. The genus name comes from a lip slightly resembling a boat. Cymbidium means boat in Greek. The lip is usually decorated with spots and lines, scallops, sometimes fluffy. Species form from one to thirty flowers in a brush.

Most cymbidiums grown today are hybrids. All of them are almost cold-loving. Graceful, miniature Cymbidiums from China and Japan thrive in warmer conditions. A new direction in the hybridization of Cymbidiums has been opened in order to obtain more diverse and beautiful miniature hybrids, as well as to cross them with large-flowered plants to expand the temperature range of the latter. Cymbidiums are evergreen plants with numerous fleshy roots. The size of the pseudobulb varies in different species from huge, fist-sized, to thin, almost imperceptible thickenings of the stem. The leaves remain green for several years, and when they fall, their bases remain attached to the pseudobulbs. Plants are compact and occupy a rounded area. The leaves are narrow, leathery, not very fleshy. New growths form laterally at the base of a mature pseudobulb. Accurate arrows appear from July to October, according to the habits of the plant. The peduncle at first looks like a vegetative shoot, but when it reaches 12 centimeters in length, its signs become obvious, the peduncles are rounded, with pointed tops, covered with covering leaves. When the peduncle reaches half its normal length, the buds emerge from the last covering leaf.

One type produces flower stalks from an immature pseudobulb, while the other produces flower stalks only from fully mature bulbs.

In the first type, new growth begins in late winter or early spring. This growth is not yet fully mature, when in late summer or early autumn, a peduncle begins to develop from it. It continues to grow and mature simultaneously with the development of the peduncle. In the second type, new growth begins to develop in the summer, shortly before the development of the peduncle begins from the same bulb. They sometimes develop so closely in time, but the peduncle soon overtakes the vegetative growth, which develops more slowly in autumn and winter. In the spring they grow quickly, by mid-summer they fully mature. Shortly thereafter, flower stalks begin to develop.

Plants of both types must reach exactly the right stage of development by the end of summer in order for flower clusters to begin development. As the end of flowering approaches, put the plants into a state of rapid vegetative growth, increase fertilization and watering, give full sun and set the night temperature to around +12 degrees.

Cymbidium Orchid Home Growing

Temperature. Cymbidiums bloom best in areas with cool summer nights, mostly close to +12g. c, where at the same time they get a good bright sun. If the plant gets the cool nights it needs during the summer, flowering should take place; fall and winter temperatures are less of a problem. The ideal night temperature is + 10gr. With. The winter daily temperature stays around + 15°C in cloudy weather, and + 18°C ​​on bright days. The goal is to stretch the flowering season into autumn as early as possible. Early flowering plants should be kept as cool as possible.

Landing. At home, the choice of substrate for cymbidiums is a matter of taste. The main thing is that the substrate holds water well and provides good drainage. Substrate types range from pure ground bark to various intermediate mixtures. Dry cut sphagnum, peat moss. In equal proportions (50:50:50). Cymbidiums do not like to be disturbed often, preferably no more than once every 2-3 years. Mature plants should therefore be planted in pots large enough so that they can form many new growths. The plant needs to be transplanted when its pseudobulbs thicken at the edge of the dish. This usually happens before the substrate becomes unusable. However, if the plant is in poor condition, remove it from the pot, determine the cause, and plant in a fresh mix. The plant should be transplanted into a fresh mixture immediately after flowering has ended. Try, as far as possible, to disturb the roots as little as possible. A plant that cannot be divided can be moved to a new pot with very little disturbance to the roots. Prepare a new pot with plenty of drainage (shards) and lay a layer of substrate on top of the shards. Remove the plant from the pot, shake off the old substrate and cut off any dead roots. Put enough pre-moistened substrate in the pot. Working between the roots with your fingers and tapping the pot against the rack, compact the substrate. Then add the substrate and press it into place until the pot is full. With your thumbs, press the substrate around the edges of the pot, in a circle.

Watering: Cymbidiums should not be allowed to dry out. Depending on the substrate used, water them so often that the substrate is always very moist. In clear, hot weather with abundant foliage that quickly evaporates water, daily watering may be required. Large plants that have filled the pot with roots will use more water than newly transplanted ones. During the cold days of winter, there is no need for such frequent watering.

Top dressing: There are many systems for fertilizing cymbidiums. For plants growing in a substrate containing a good proportion of organic matter, a 10:10:10 fertilizer applied every other watering is sufficient. For plants grown in bark or a mixture with a large amount of bark, a high nitrogen content in each watering is necessary. If organic substances, such as bone meal, are added to the substrate, then there is no need to duplicate the corresponding components in a chemical fertilizer applied with water. Many growers fertilize from spring to early fall, but some throughout the year. Some apply the same fertilizer throughout the year, while others lower the nitrogen content from August. Also stopping top dressing while the flower shoots are forming and resuming top dressing when they begin to develop. If fertilizers are applied in autumn and winter, the concentration or frequency of fertilizing should be reduced, as plants do not need as much nutrients on short, cool winter days as they do on warmer, longer summer days. Fertilizers applied in winter should not have a high nitrogen content.

Light: In summer, cymbidiums should receive a lot of light. It is better to expose the plants to the open air. With the movement of fresh air, the plant can often take in more light than in a greenhouse. During winter, plants should also receive good light. Plants that have flowers in shades of pink and red will have richer colors in bright light. However, greens and yellows need to be given some shade as they approach the opening stage, as these colors tend to fade in bright light.

If you don’t know where to buy a Cymbidium orchid, come to us.