A Brief Overview of the Genus Cymbidium

Author: Celeste Booth1 Comment


Cymbidium orchids (pronounced sym-BID-ee-um) are the oldest cultivated orchid plants. These plants have become the orchid mainstay in the cut-flower industry. Their spikes of white, green, yellow, rose and red flowers can last up to two months or more in water. The blooms on the plant can stay even longer. These big plants are very easy to grow. If they are given high light and very cool temperatures, they will give any orchid hobbyist true pleasure.

Naming and Distribution

The name Cymbidium is derived from the Greek “kumbos” meaning “hole” or “cavity”, referring to the boat-shaped lip. The genus is often simply referred to as Cym by horticulturalists. There are records of their cultivation as far back as 500 BC in China, one of their native habitats. In China they are called “Lan” and have been depicted throughout Chinese literature, poetry, and art as a symbol of virtuosity.

Cymbidium orchids can be found growing in the wild throughout many parts of Asia as well as northern Australia. They prefer somewhat cool growing conditions, and can be found in tropic, sub-tropic and temperate climates.

Plant Identification

Cymbidium flowers bloom in an array of colors (except purple and true blue) and the flowers usually last 2-3 months. The flowers have a waxy feel to them, and are made up of sepals and petals that are more or less the same size. Their leaves are narrow and long. The lip (inside which the reproductive part of the cymbidium is found) is often a varying hue or color from the petals.

General Care Requirements

LIGHT: Cymbidiums enjoy bright living conditions. If your Cymbidium is getting enough light, it’s leaves will be a golden green color (not a rich dark green).

TEMPERATURE: During the summer, day temperatures of 75-85ºF are tolerated. In late summer to fall, night temperatures need to be between 50-60ºF in order to encourage and initiate blooming. When buds appear on your plant, be sure to keep temperatures between 55-75ºF.

WATER: Cymbidiums should be well watered during their growth period (spring to summer). Reduce watering frequency once the growing period is over, and during the winter months. Never let your Cymbidium’s potting media dry out completely.

POTTING: You can repot your Cymbidium every few years, and it is best if this is done after your plant has finished flowering. Use a potting mix that retains water well and use a pot that will not need to be replaced for another year or two (this does not mean use a large pot, simply that you should choose a pot that won’t immediately lead to overcrowding).


Featured image via: Wikimedia

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One response on “A Brief Overview of the Genus Cymbidium”

  1. Emeline Casas says:

    Great information 🙂

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