Alphabetical Plant Listing

Cymbidium (Boat Orchids)

Boat Orchids


Among the oldest horticultural orchids in the world, Cymbidiums have been grown and revered in China for thousands of years. Prized for their incredibly decorative flower spikes, used especially as cut flowers or for corsages in the spring, they are among the most popular orchids in cultivation today.

Cymbidium is a genus of 50 orchid species found in nature from India to Southeast Asia, China, Japan, Indonesia, and Australia. These orchids have been nicknamed Boat Orchids because of the shape of their lip.

Boat Orchids are epiphytic (growing on trees), lithophytic (growing on rocks) or terrestrial orchids with ovoid or elongate pseudobulbs, linear or strap-shaped evergreen leaves and fleshy white roots.

These ravishing orchids usually produce long-lasting showy flowers with a distinctive 3-lobed lip. Borne on erect or arching flower spikes from the bases of the pseudobulbs, their blossoms come in a wide variety of colors, including white, orange, pink and yellow.

As an added bonus, some species and hybrids are sweetly fragrant.

Most Cymbidiums are easily grown. They are one of the least demanding indoor orchids. They can also be grown in the garden. In Australia, New Zealand, parts of the United States, Cymbridium hybrids are grown outdoors. To flower well, Cymbidiums need a distinct difference between day and night temperatures in late summer.

Cymbidiums can be divided into 3 groups as regards cultivation.

Large-flowered cymbidiums: they are big, cool-growing cymbidiums with large flowers, about 4 to 5 in. wide (10-12 cm), usually produced in winter and early spring. Ideal for growing outside in cool and temperate climates, they require good light in summer and warm humid conditions. Night temperatures should not exceed 50-60°F (10-15°C) and can fall as low as 41°F (5°C). Day temperatures should not exceed 85°F (29°C). They also require ample water and fertilizer since summer is when the flower buds are initiated. In winter, these Boat Orchids need bright, cool and dry conditions.

Miniature tropical and sub-tropical cymbidiums: native to India, southern China, Malaysia and Australia, these species bloom in summer and require day temperatures of about 86°F (30°C) and night temperatures of 65-68°F (18-20°C). They also require ample water and fertilizer. In winter, these Boat Orchids need good light and less water.

Miniature temperate cymbidiums: native to Japan, China and the Himalayas, these species require cool, moist conditions. Some are hardy in sheltered, cool-temperate gardens but are better grown in a cool glasshouse.

Guide Information

Hardiness 10 - 12
Plant Type Orchids
Plant Family Cymbidium - Boat Orchids
Exposure Partial Sun
Height 1' - 4' (30cm - 120cm)
Spread 1' - 3' (30cm - 90cm)
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy, Evergreen
Landscaping Ideas Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers

Nick Pecker, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 10 - 12
Plant Type Orchids
Plant Family Cymbidium - Boat Orchids
Exposure Partial Sun
Height 1' - 4' (30cm - 120cm)
Spread 1' - 3' (30cm - 90cm)
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Cut Flowers, Fragrant, Showy, Evergreen
Landscaping Ideas Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
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