Cymbidium orchids bloom in winter and spring and are often kept as indoor potted plants and patio plants. Cymbidium orchids have flowers that can last two to three months from the time they open. Cymbidium orchids are very easy to grow, although they do best when their care routine involves fertilization.
Cymbidiums & Fertilizer
Cymbidiums are very heavy feeders. They require frequent fertilization to grow and generate their spectacular blossoms. Fertilization of cymbidiums can be tricky because they generally grow best in fast-draining growing media. The fertilizer has a tendency to wash out with subsequent waterings, resulting in the need for more frequent fertilizer applications than for other plant types.
Fertilization Time and Frequency
The cymbidium has two seasons--the growing season, generally from February through August, and the flowering season. Different fertilizers are needed for the two seasons. When using a water-soluble fertilizer, fertilize every two to four weeks. Some people have good results with slow-release fertilizer tablets, which reduce the fertilization frequency to three, four or six months, depending on the tablet.
Types of Fertilizers
If you are not using a purpose-made commercial orchid fertilizer, cut the strength of your fertilizer in half. Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season, but cut back on the nitrogen during the flowering season. Nitrogen encourages green leaf growth at the expense of flowers and can reduce the size and number of flower spikes on your cymbidium orchid.
Watering and Fertilization
Although the frequent watering that these orchids require can wash out fertilizers, it can also help to prevent harmful buildups of salts. Cymbidium need to be constantly moist but not wet. Use rainwater or demineralized water to avoid adding harmful salts in harder urban or rural water supplies.
By using dilute fertilizers, or specifically made orchid fertilizers, and watering regularly, you should be able to avoid most common problems with cymbidium orchids. However, if you use tapwater from an area that has high salt content and do not dilute your fertilizers, your orchid could die from excessive salt. Avoid fertilizers that use urea as a nitrogen source. Urea requires bacteria to convert to a form usable by the orchid. This takes time, and the urea is often washed out through waterings before it has time to be converted.