... Help!

ituttonApril 21, 2010

Though I've always dreamt of it, I've never owned an orchid before for fear of not being able to care for them properly.

Fast forward to Administrative Professional's Day (today) and my boss gave me this GIANT pot of what the label says is a three pack of Cymbidium orchids. It's like three feet tall and there are big leaves all over the place! There are three beautiful, purple blooming stalks of flowers. I'm used to seeing them individually, in little pots with hardly any of these huge leaves.

So my question is... help! Where do I begin caring for it? I know they like indirect sun. That's about it. The pot seems waaay too small for all that it's holding. I would also love to both simultaneously take it home and leave it in the office. Could I split it up?

I've included a picture. Sorry for the quality, all I had was my blackberry! Any help would be SO appreciated!


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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

It certainly is a Cymbidium orchid.....easy to grow in some places and a bit more difficult in other places.

Where do you live in the USA? And what sort of growing conditions can you provide ie do you have a balcony, a yard and so on.

Yes, you could split it up, but that would set it back years, better to pot it on to a slightly bigger pot (after the flowers finish) or leave it for another year. Then divide the plant.

But, in any case you need advice from the locals.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:22PM
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Thanks for the quick response, I'm here at my desk eyeing it suspiciously... lol

I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of North Texas. It gets hot. Hot hot hot. I have a covered, south facing patio at home where I grow hydrangeas, daisies, snapdragons, strawberries, peppers, and onions all in containers (it's an apartment). I have no idea if it would do well there or not. At the office, the only option would be inside near a west facing window that lets a decent amount of sun in.

Also, I think it may have some sort of... bug? I watered it a tiny bit and it all drained out the bottom into a plastic saucer it was in and later I looked and there was a little... catterpillar/worm looking thing. And some of the leaves have brown splotches on the ends and some are just plain brown. Do I need a fungicide or insecticide or something?

If I were to pot it into a slightly smaller pot, would you recommend any particular medium? And I've read a lot about them liking humidity?

Sorry for the thousands of questions! Let me know if I go overboard! :)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:31PM
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Also, here are pictures of some things I think might be issues:

Quite a few leaves look like this. I'm sure that's not good, right?

Is the stalk supposed to be brown like that? That's probably a dumb question but I am literally the most novice orchid owner out there.

A few leaves were like this. Problem, or just torn off?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 2:48PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

The stalk is fine, some orchid nurseries remove those dead sheaths when they market in-bloom plants.

Here are some notes written for a climate similar to San Diego, but relating to Southern Hemisphere so the months are out by six. Try to find similar for Texas.

CYMBIDIUM Culture Notes

These notes cover Hybrid Cymbidiums ( Standard, Intermediate and Miniature). Cymbidiums are the most commonly grown orchids grown in the Sydney area. To grow them successfully they require three important factors, fertilizer (food) water and light.

Cymbidiums should be grown under 50% shadecloth or under the shade of a tree that provides broken or filtered light. If you notice that the foliage of your plants have a tinge of yellow that is a indication that your plants are receiving the correct amount of sunlight. This combined with your watering and fertilizing program should give you flowers in the winter months. However, if the foliage is a bright green that is an indication that the plant is receiving too much shade and should receive more light. The more sunlight hours your plant receives the greater the flowering prospects.
Use Aquasol as recommended by the maker and apply from spring through to mid winter. Or, if you are able to procure Campbells Orchid Fertilizer use the Blue Powder (high in Nitrogen) from about August through to the middle of December. The high Nitrogen content of the fertilizer promotes plant growth. On ceasing to apply the blue powder then switch to Campbells Yellow Powder (high in Potassium). The high Potassium content initiates and promotes flower formation and growth. It is essential that the makers recommendations be followed. Ensure regular fertilizing, about every week. Before fertilizing your plants give them a thorough watering and about one-hour later apply you fertilizer.
This is the most difficult aspect of orchid growing. It is dependent on many factors  growing media and prevailing weather conditions. Generally the plants should have a slight element of moisture but not wet all the year round. It will be a general rule that in the winter months watering should be done about once a week and as the weather starts to warm up through Spring and into Summer the frequency of watering should be increased to a maximum of daily watering in the height of summer.

Water early in the day so that your plants will be dry by nightfall. If the weather is overcast, refrain from watering.

Plants should never be allowed to sit on the ground as the drain hole of the pot will soon get clogged up and retain excess amounts of water which will lead to root and rot. Place your plants on a brick, or on a bench.

Buy a good quality potting mixture from a reputable orchid nursery or garden centre. The mixture should be open and allow water to drain through freely. Generally a potting mixture should last two years.
Chose a pot size appropriate to the size of your Cymbidium. It is important that the roots just fit into the pot. If the pot is too large, the mixture will not dry out between watering, the roots will remain constantly wet and the plant will be lost.
This should be undertaken in September/October, after flowering when the new growth commences. When dividing the plant it is recommended that about four green bulbs form each new division. Should smaller divisions be used you will setback the growth program and not have flowers in the next season. Cut off all dead roots and try to save as many live roots as possible, though new roots will develop and replace those that have died. DonÂt bury the bulbs of the division in the compost, but ensure that the bulbs are firmly placed in the compost. A shaky plant will not develop roots and growth. Do not water your new division for a few days. Keep the plant out of direct sun and mist the foliage. You may apply some Nutricote (3-4 month) to the top of the pot. A dessert spoon of this is adequate.

Like most things orchids are prone to pests and diseases.
Some plants which have yellow spotting or markings on their foliage may be infected with virus  a common virus is Cymbidium Mosaic Virus (abbreviated as CyMV). There is no cure for this virus and could spread through your entire collection. If you have doubts you could consult with any orchid society by taking the plant or infected foliage (closed in a plastic bag) to them. Viruses are spread through cutting instruments. It is essential that all cutting tools be sterilised by flaming them after each cutting operation.
Pests cause damage by sucking the sap from the cells of the plant tissue or by attacking the foliage.
The under side often leaves become speckled and silvered. Flowers become deformed and spotted. A fine webbing develops when infestations are very heavy. Pale yellow/green minute mites with a prominent dark spot on each side of the body. Mites turn red in winter. They are present all the year round. Warm dry conditions promote infestations.
Small fluffy sucking insects which often hide in crevices at the base of the foliage on the inside of the developing new growth. They are present all the year round.
A small soft or hardened sucking insect which clings to under surface of the foliage.
Plants have black areas on the leaves

Consult with a garden centre or an orchid society. When using chemicals exercise extreme caution and follow the manufacturerÂs instructions.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 3:27PM
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dragon_kite(z6 NYC)

Congrats on your cym, it's a beauty!

Arthur's got great advice there.

I would only add that your biggest problem in Texas would be getting temperatures cool enough to produce flower spikes. I'm not sure about the breeding in your cym but most cyms need a couple of weeks with night temps in the 40s or 50s to get blooms.

There are a few growers from Texas on the forum, maybe they can add their growing tips.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 8:09PM
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arthurm(Sydney, NSW AUST)

Yes, the plant does look healthy and there is a problem particularly with the large Standard Types with the summer night temps. Too close to the gulf coast and the summer night temps will be too warm for some to "decide" to bloom.

But yours looks like an "intermediate" in size so it might not be that fussy.

Hopefully, the locals will add to this.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 8:27PM
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orchid126(z6, NJ)

If you are worried about insects there are a couple of things you can do without resorting to insecticides. The next time you water your plant, put it in a bucket of water all the way up to the rim. You may need to put stones or something to weigh down the medium. After an hour or so the insects may decide to abondon ship.

Another thing you can do is spray the plant with soapy water (1 tablespoon of dish liquid to a quart or so of water). Bugs don't like soap. You can sprinkle some hot pepper powder and garlic in for good measure.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 3:38PM
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