Cymbidium Orchid (Boat Orchid): Complete Growing & Care Guide

cymbidium orchid


Plant Type: Perennial
Family: Orchidaceae
Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect sunlight
Watering: Weekly (Avoid overwatering)
Colors: Variety (White, Green, Pink, Yellow, etc.)
Size: 1-2 feet tall, spread of 1-2 feet
Hardiness Zones: 10-12
Soil Type: Orchid potting mix (well-draining)
Soil pH: Slightly acidic to neutral (6.0 to 7.5)
Propagation: Division (usually after flowering)
Toxicity: Non-toxic to humans and pets

Cymbidium orchids, commonly known as boat orchids, are favored by many for their elegant and long-lasting blooms, making them a popular choice among both experienced and novice gardeners. These orchids are prized not only for their beauty but also for their adaptability and ability to thrive in a variety of environments. With proper care, cymbidiums can be cultivated successfully indoors and outdoors, bringing a touch of exotic elegance to gardens and homes.

Growing and caring for cymbidium orchids may seem daunting, but with a basic understanding of their specific needs and preferences, these captivating plants can be easily maintained. It is essential to provide them with the right balance of light, temperature, water, and nutrients—ensuring they can thrive, bloom, and bring joy to any space.

In this guide, the focus will be on exploring the essential aspects of cymbidium orchid care, including soil, light, watering, fertilization, climate, and temperature. By familiarizing oneself with these aspects, cultivators will have the tools and knowledge needed to successfully grow and care for enchanting boat orchids.

Origin and Distribution

The Cymbidium orchid, also known as the boat orchid, has a natural habitat that spans across several regions in Asia and Australia. This beautiful and popular orchid species has been grown and revered in China for thousands of years, where it was prized for its incredibly decorative flower spikes, used especially as cut flowers or for corsages in the spring.

The boat orchid can be found in a diverse range of environments, varying from tropical and subtropical climates. Its geographical distribution includes countries such as Japan, India, and the Southeast Asian nations. In the Himalayas, these orchids can also be encountered, reaching as far up as Bhutan.

Cymbidium orchids have adapted to various habitat types and can be discovered growing in forests, grasslands, and even rocky landscapes at high elevations. Its ability to thrive in diverse conditions has made it one of the most popular orchids in cultivation today.


Cymbidium orchids, also known as boat orchids, are stunning evergreen plants with a remarkable appearance. They are known for their striking blooms, which consist of beautiful petals and sepals. The flowers vary in size and color, making them a popular choice among orchid enthusiasts.

The leaves of cymbidium orchids are long, narrow, and typically green. These plants feature modified stems known as pseudobulbs, which serve as a storage organ. The stems can be thin or thick, depending on the species or variety.

Cymbidium orchids produce impressive flower spikes that emerge from the base of the pseudobulbs. On these spikes, several blooms can develop. Each flower has three outer sepals and three inner petals, with the central petal being modified into a lip or labellum. The labellum is often larger and more colorful than the other petals, making it a focal point of the bloom.

Some key characteristics of cymbidium orchids include:

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Green leaves, ranging from light to dark shades
  • Modified stems (pseudobulbs)
  • Elegant flower spikes with multiple blooms
  • Distinctive petals, sepals, and labellum

Cymbidium orchids come in various sizes and can grow as tall as 2 feet (0.6 meters). The species and hybrids available offer a wide selection of colors and sizes, catering to a diverse range of preferences among plant lovers.

How to Care for Cymbidium Orchid

Cymbidium Orchid

Cymbidium orchids, also known as boat orchids, are prized for their beautiful and long-lasting flowers. To ensure these orchids thrive, it is essential to provide them with the appropriate care. This guide will cover the essential aspects of caring for Cymbidium orchids, including their light requirements, soil, watering and fertilizing, and temperature and humidity preferences.

Light Requirements

Cymbidium orchids require very bright light, with around 4,000 foot-candles (fc) for optimal growth. Indoors, they thrive well in locations with bright, indirect sunlight or dappled sunlight, as direct sun can burn the plant. Outdoors, partial or filtered sunlight is ideal, ensuring that the orchid receives sufficient light without being exposed to harsh, direct sunlight.


Cymbidium orchids prefer a well-draining, loamy, acidic humus-type soil. This type of soil allows for adequate moisture retention without becoming waterlogged, ensuring the orchid’s roots do not rot. For container-grown orchids, use a high-quality orchid mix, containing materials such as bark, perlite, and sphagnum moss, to provide the optimal balance of drainage and moisture retention.

Watering and Fertilizing

Watering and fertilizing Cymbidium orchids play a significant role in ensuring their proper growth and flowering. Follow these guidelines for watering and fertilizing:

  • Keep the soil consistently moist, but not soaking wet. Water the orchid thoroughly, ensuring that the water drains freely from the pot.
  • Cymbidium orchids benefit from a balanced, diluted orchid fertilizer applied throughout the year. Feed the orchid monthly during the growing season, and reduce fertilizing to every other month in the winter.
  • Maintain a constant source of water for the orchids, especially when grown indoors. Placing the pot on a pebble-filled tray with a pool of water can help maintain humidity levels and ensure the plant receives the moisture it needs.

Temperature and Humidity

Cymbidium orchids are capable of tolerating a wide range of temperatures, from 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 32°C), making them suitable for both subtropical and cooler climates. However, optimal growth occurs when nighttime temperatures fall to around 58°F (14°C) and daytime temps range between 75°F to 85°F (23°C to 29°C).

Humidity plays a crucial role in the health of Cymbidium orchids, with ideal levels ranging from 40 to 60%. To maintain the right humidity, use a humidifier, mist the plant regularly, or place the pot on a tray of water-filled pebbles.

By providing Cymbidium orchids with the appropriate care, these stunning plants will reward you with their captivating blooms and grace your home or garden year after year.

Cymbidium Orchid Varieties

cymbidium orchid

Cymbidium Ensifolium

Cymbidium Ensifolium is a species of Cymbidium orchids that has long, sword-shaped leaves and produces beautiful blooms in shades of green, yellow, and brown. These orchids are known to be more heat-tolerant compared to some other species, making them suitable for various climates. With proper care, these orchids can thrive both indoors and outdoors.

Cymbidium Kanran

Cymbidium Kanran is a popular variety of boat orchids, also known as the cold-growing Cymbidium due to its ability to grow in cooler areas. This species is native to China and features small, fragrant flowers in hues of green, yellow, and brown. Cymbidium Kanran is known for its ability to produce up to 75 blossoms when in bloom, filling the air with its lovely scent.

Cymbidium Goeringii

Cymbidium Goeringii, another species of the boat orchid, is native to Asia and features charming flowers in shades of green, purple, pink, and white. These orchids are known for their durability and ability to grow in cooler climates, making them a popular choice for collectors and enthusiasts. Miniature hybrids of Cymbidium Goeringii have been developed, offering a more compact size for smaller spaces.

Cymbidium Sinense

Cymbidium Sinense is an exquisite boat orchid species native to China and other parts of Asia. This species is prized for its stunningly fragrant flowers in a wide range of colors, such as yellow, green, pink, and brown. Many cultivars of Cymbidium Sinense have been developed, showcasing diverse patterns and colors, making it an appealing choice for both seasoned growers and beginners.


Cymbidium orchids, belonging to the Orchidaceae family and classified as semi-terrestrial, are a popular genus of orchid plants to propagate and maintain in home gardens. Propagation can be performed through a few simple steps and offers an inexpensive way to grow more plants.

To propagate Cymbidium orchids, it is essential to work with healthy, mature plants. Begin the process by carefully removing the orchid from its container or garden location. As part of the Orchidaceae family, cymbidiums have pseudobulbs which serve as a primary means for propagation. Identify the pseudobulbs on the plant, which are swollen stems that support the leaves.

Divide the plant into smaller sections using a sterilized gardening tool. Each division should contain at least three healthy pseudobulbs with accompanying leaves and roots. Ensure that the divisions have sufficient root systems to support the new plants.

When propagating cymbidiums, suitable growing conditions must be met for successful growth. These conditions include:

  • Soil: Use a well-draining, loamy mix with acidic humus for optimal growth.
  • Containers: Choose pots that provide adequate drainage and space for root development.
  • Planting Space: Ensure proper spacing between newly propagated divisions, allowing for ample air circulation and growth.
  • Light: Provide dappled sunlight, as direct sun can harm the plants.
  • Water: Keep the soil consistently moist but not overly saturated.
  • Climate and Temperature: Cymbidium orchids thrive in temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit in daytime and cooler temperatures at night. They can also tolerate a light frost and a wide temperature range from 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Following the propagation instructions and maintaining the plants in proper conditions will increase the likelihood of robust growth and longevity in the garden. Although cymbidium orchids can be grown indoors, they truly flourish when planted outside from late spring to early fall. As winter approaches, protect the plants from extreme temperatures and frost. Regular maintenance and monitoring ensure a thriving addition to the home garden and a stunning display of beautiful orchid blooms for years to come.

Potting and Repotting

Cymbidium orchids, also known as boat orchids, require specific care for potting and repotting to ensure their proper growth and overall health. When potting a new cymbidium orchid, it’s crucial to choose the appropriate container and potting media.

The best pots for cymbidium orchids are usually made of plastic or terracotta, as these materials provide good drainage and aeration. The size of the pot should allow for the growth of the orchid’s extensive root system, typically just a few inches larger than its current container.

The soil type for cymbidium orchids should be a mix of loamy, acidic humus-type soil that drains well. A good potting media can consist of:

  • Fir bark
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Perlite
  • Coconut husk chips

When it comes to repotting, cymbidium orchids should be repotted every two to three years, or when the potting media starts to break down. To repot a cymbidium orchid, carefully follow these steps:

  1. Gently remove the orchid from its current pot and clean the roots of any old potting media.
  2. Inspect the roots and trim away any dead or rotting sections.
  3. Choose a new pot that is slightly larger than the current one.
  4. Place a layer of the chosen potting media at the base of the new pot.
  5. Position the orchid in the pot, ensuring the pseudobulbs are not buried under the potting medium.
  6. Fill in the remaining space with potting media, without packing it down too tightly.

Once the cymbidium orchid is repotted, provide the proper care by keeping the soil moist and not allowing it to dry out. This will ensure that your cymbidium orchid thrives and blooms beautifully for many years to come.

Pests and Diseases

Cymbidium orchids, are generally easy to grow but can encounter some pests and diseases. Here are some common issues and how best to deal with them:


  • Soft Scale Insects: Cymbidium orchids can be infested with soft scale insects. These pests are about 6mm long and bear a waxy shell that protects them from spray insecticides. They suck the sap from the plant, affecting both stems and leaves. To combat these insects, use horticultural oils, which can penetrate the waxy layers and help control their population.


  • Root Rot: Root rot is a common disease that can affect Cymbidium orchids. It is usually caused by overwatering or poor drainage in the growing container. To prevent root rot, use a well-draining soil mix and water only when the soil is almost dry. If you suspect root rot, remove the affected roots, and treat the plant with a fungicide to prevent further infection.
  • Hardiness Zones: Cymbidium orchids are winter-hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. They can tolerate a vast temperature range from 40 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, with the most significant growth happening between 50-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Ensure your plant receives the appropriate temperature conditions to prevent diseases associated with too much heat or cold.
  • Sympodial Growth: Cymbidium orchids are sympodial, meaning they grow in segments, with each segment producing leaves, roots, and flowers. This growth pattern can make them vulnerable to pests and diseases due to the close proximity of new and old growth. Regularly inspect your plant for signs of pests or diseases, and promptly address any issues to ensure the health of your Cymbidium orchid.

When do Cymbidium Orchids Flower

Boat orchid

Cymbidium orchids, also known as boat orchids, have a blooming period that can vary depending on the species or hybrid, as well as climate and environmental conditions. They typically bloom from October through May, and their flowers can last from one to three months, although six to eight weeks is more common.

To get Cymbidium orchids to flower again, it is essential to provide the right growing conditions. These orchids prefer several hours of direct sun early in the day but should be protected from hot afternoon sun. During summer, it’s advisable to keep them in semishade, with day temperatures around 75 to 85°F. However, it’s crucial that Cymbidium orchids experience cooler night temperatures in late summer to autumn, from August to October, ranging between 50 to 60°F. This drop in temperature helps initiate the development of flower spikes.

In winter, maintain optimum temperatures of 45 to 55°F at night and 65 to 75°F during the day. It is worth noting that Cymbidium orchids thrive in cooler weather, setting them apart from most other orchid varieties. If daytime temperatures become too hot, they may not bloom at all.

To summarize, Cymbidium orchids flower when provided with the following conditions:

  • Blooming period: October to May
  • Duration of bloom: One to three months (typically six to eight weeks)
  • Light: several hours of direct morning sun, protection from hot afternoon sun
  • Summer day temperatures: 75 to 85°F
  • Late summer to autumn night temperatures: 50 to 60°F
  • Winter night temperatures: 45 to 55°F
  • Winter day temperatures: 65 to 75°F


Do Boat orchids need full sun?

Boat orchids prefer bright but indirect sunlight. Exposure to strong, direct sunlight can potentially burn the leaves. Therefore, a location with filtered or diffused sunlight, such as near a south-facing window with a sheer curtain, is ideal.

Are cymbidium Indoor or Outdoor plants?

Boat orchids can thrive both indoors and outdoors. They are often grown indoors in most climates, but they can be moved outside during warmer months or grown outside year-round in regions with mild climates (generally USDA hardiness zones 10-12). If grown outdoors, they should be placed in a location that offers some shade to protect from intense sunlight.

How do you get cymbidium orchids to rebloom?

Encouraging a Cymbidium orchid to rebloom involves a few key steps:

  • Light: Ensure the orchid is receiving sufficient bright, indirect light.
  • Temperature: These orchids need a distinct difference between day and night temperatures in the fall to trigger blooming. Cooler night temperatures (around 50-55°F) for a few weeks should do the trick.
  • Fertilizer: Regular feeding during the growing season with a balanced orchid fertilizer can support healthy growth and flowering.
  • Watering: While Cymbidiums like to stay slightly moist, overwatering can prevent blooming. Make sure the orchid is well-drained and not sitting in water.

Where do you put cymbidium orchids outside?

Boat orchids do well outside in warmer climates, provided they’re placed in locations with bright, indirect light or partial shade. A spot under a large plant or on a shaded patio would be suitable. Remember to acclimatize your orchid gradually to outdoor conditions to prevent stress, ensuring it’s protected from extreme weather and never waterlogged.

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