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Articles About Orchids
Library of Congress Geography and Map Division
   Cymbidiums are commonly grown worldwide, many grow side by side with other flowers in gardens where the temperatures are mild.
   Let's travel to the Far East and find the beautiful Chinese Cymbidiums.
   Chinese Cymbidiums have been very popular and in cultivation for centuries in China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. The Chinese believe it is a great honor to give or receive one of these extraordinary orchids because they are considered symbols of virtuosity and friendship.   These orchids are prized for their fragrant blooms and graceful folage. Confucius called these magnificent plants the "King of Fragrance" around 500 BC, and they are still known by this nickname today.  There is a subgenus of Cymbidiums, which is called Jensoa. The five species that make up this subgenus are:
Cymbidium ensifolium (Jian Lan, shown at right), Cymbidium goeringii (Chun Lan), Cymbidium kanran (Han Lan), Cymbidium sinense (Mo Lan)   and Cymbidium faberi (Hui Lan).
  Orchids, for the most part, are not known for the beauty of their foliage. Chinese Cymbidiums are the exception to this rule. The leaves of these orchids are cherished as much as the blooms. In fact, variegated Cymbidiums are often judged in orchid shows without blooms because the foliage is so beautiful!
   Each species of Chinese Cymbidiums blooms at different times of the year which allows owners of the different species to have at least one of them in bloom almost year round. The flowers tend to be small, but plentiful, sprouting from very tall spikes which can be twice as tall as the plant. In each species, the colors may vary greatly. Different variations of Cymbidium sinense for example, can be pure yellow, red, white or a mixture of colors. The pure colored flowers are the most cherished and thus the most valuable.
   In their natural environment, the Chinese Cymbidiums are found growing in the mountains from the lower elevations (Cymbidium sinese) to the mountaintops (Cymbidium faberi). Most of them require low light, shaded areas and constant moist surroundings. They can be typically found growing under other vegetation that filters out the hot sunshine.
   As always, you should pick a species or hybrid that requires an environment that best matches the one in which you live. I am sure there will be at least one that will be happy in your collection. I suggest you purchase plants with at least three growths. Yes, they may be a little more expensive but, they will adapt to your growing conditions much faster.
   Through the centuries the Asian people have created a very special vase to grow their Cymbidiums. The orchid vases are tall and narrow. Unlike the standard Cymbidiums whose roots tangle and make large masses, the roots of the Chinese Cymbidiums seldom branch and do not tangle. They have very long roots that need to have plenty of room to grow straight down.
   The potting mix needs to drain well which allows the roots to remain cool and moist, but not wet. A good mix can consist of stone, sponge rock, tree fern, fir bark, charcoal, moss or seaweed. The portions and combinations you use will depend on your environment.
Cymbidium ensifolium
   No matter what type of medium you choose, make sure there are no large air pockets in your vase or pot. Generally water every ten days during the winter or "dry" season, September to May. When new growth appears, usually May, water every three to four days until September.
   A balanced fertilizer should be applied during watering weekly for three weeks, then skip one week. Stop fertilizing in September and resume in May. Try to keep a minimum of 50% humidity for lush growth and beautiful flowers.
   The leaves will tell you if the light is right, they should be a dark green color. These orchids prefer light shade. If there is too much light the leaves will be a yellow/green color. Too little light will produce leaves that droop and fold together.
   The most important aspect of growing your Cymbidiums is temperature. In summer they are grown under 80% to 95% shade with day temperatures from 75° to 85°F (24° to 29°C) and night temperatures of 50° to 60°F (10° to 16°C). In the fall they must have a drop in temperatures, preferably 65° to 75°F (18° to 24°C) during the day and 45° to 55°F (7° to 13°C) at night. This change in temperature is necessary because without it, they will not initiate their inflorescence (flower spikes). You may need to increase air movement to help lower the temperatures.
   I would like to Thank Eric Wolf for permission to use the photos of his orchids. Stop by and visit his excellent page, Winterview Orchids, and learn more about these lovely Chinese orchids. You can also purchase the vases and the orchids at his site.
 (30% off on the vases for my orchid friends, just mention "The Orchid Lady")