Orchid Wise

Buying your first Cymbidium Orchid

Starting your collection can be an exciting time. So how do you select your first Cymbidium? Do you choose miniature, intermediate or standard size flowers? Do you choose a modern hybrid or a more traditional species cultivar?

Selecting the plants to start a collection can be difficult.  Too often a newcomer just purchases plants without thinking very much about how they might care for them after flowering finishes.  One of your first decisions could be to decide how much room you have available, and how many plants you would like to grow.  It isn’t difficult to amass a lot of plants in a short period!

Individual plants can flower for several months.  The main flowering season is from late Autumn until late Spring during which time it is relatively easy to purchase good quality plants to suit your needs. It is actually possible to have plants in flower for most of the year by careful selection of varieties, but the quality and quantity of plants outside the main season is sometimes limited. 

Cym Darch Primary
Cym. Darch Primary (Cym iridioides ‘Lansdale’ x munronianum) has small flowers about 50-60mm across and is a relatively compact plant

Many growers select plants to show, hopefully to win prizes and to recognise their growing skills.  Others grow them just for enjoyment, and never bother showing them.  Most clubs have plant competitions at monthly meetings, and they also have a Winter show and a Spring show.  A newcomer might wish to acquire particular plants to flower in time for the various shows.

The flowers on our cymbidiums vary greatly in size. They can be less than 20 millimetres in diameter, or more than 150 millimetres. In Cymbidium Club circles, we refer to the size of the flowers as miniatures, intermediates, small standards or large standards

Miniatures have flowers less than 60 millimetres across, intermediates are from 60 to 85 millimetres in diameter, small standards from 85 to 100 millimetres across, and large standards are more than 100 millimetres in diameter. 

The plant itself will also vary greatly in size.  We can have a small growing plant with multiple flower spikes growing in a 100 millimetre diameter pot.  A large growing variety could require a huge pot, and a very strong person to lift it.

A newcomer should give lots of thought as to what they want to achieve in growing orchids.  It is time to give some serious thought to avoid wasting time, effort and money.  Research and talking to other successful growers is key.  Find yourself a mentor, who you can trust to provide unbiased advice.  Don’t be afraid to ask many questions.  Start collecting quality plants and be patient, but thorough.  Collecting Cymbidium orchids can become addictive, so if you start out right, you will have a great collection!

Visit the various orchid shows and take photographs of the varieties that interest you.  Ask questions and try to contact the owner of any plants you like.  Plants in most shows have a label with the plant name and also the owner’s show number.  Note the label details, and seek out the owner of the plant. Club officials will usually assist in making contact with the owner.

A very useful tool is a list.  Produce a wish list of plants that interest you, with as many details as possible.  Once you get hold of it, keep a track of where you purchased the plant, the size and the price as they are often forgotten later, but are very useful.  The colour, spike habit, ease of growth, number of flowers and when it is repotted or divided are all of great use later, when you might need to decide whether to cull a plant, to make room for new varieties.  Update the information continually, or at least annually.  A computer database is relatively easy to set up. Don’t be afraid to try it.

Starting a collection can be an exciting time, so enjoy it!

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