Saturday, March 08, 2008


I had a large collection of cymbidium orchids which were easy to grow in coastal LA. Naturally I brought them all along with our move to the idyllic Sierra foothills along with rubber trees (ficus elastica), brugmansia, various cacti and miscellaneous other plants in pots which I had accumulated over the years in Southern California. I even rented a small truck to haul them up after their four month exile to my son’s San Pedro front yard.

I was not sure that they would survive the first winter even though I knew that cymbidiums can manage in nearby Sacramento. They all survived but not one bloomed the first year. Then I worried that they would not survive the summer. They did even though I had no shade in my newly landscaped yard.

I now was confident that I could keep them alive but the next challenge was could I persuade them to bloom. Blooming them had never been a trick in SoCal. I used the bloom and grow fertilizers in the appropriate seasons and the orchids responded appreciatively. I maintained this practice after the move but got no blooms in the first two years. This year was to be my final try. I would either have some blooms or give up on cymbidiums and focus on something more appropriate for my climate.

This year I had two plants bloom. The first was my miniature green flowers variety (Sweetheart 'King Arthur'). It has always grown like a weed and flowered like a champion so I was not surprised that it would be the first to step up. In addition it is an early flowering variety which sets buds up in the fall for winter flowering. As a result it had many bloom stalks formed before it got cold and the blooms actually opened in January despite some pretty cold weather. Those blooms are still on the plant but way past beauty.

The surprise was the second plant, another miniature, only red (If I knew the variety once, I don't any longer). This year the stalks popped up about December and just last week opened. The flowers are a bit stressed looking but much better than no flowers at all.

I can only speculate what might have made the difference but this encourages me to hope for even better results next year.

My first thought is that I moved the plants from an exposed location on the retaining wall to a more sheltered location under one of my maple trees and in front of the retaining wall. There they receive shelter from the hot summer sun and perhaps some protection from the winter cold. I will keep them where they are.

On another front, now that it seems that I am having success with them, I plan to repot a few of the most pot bound plants before the summer heat.

One final thought is that my normal month for beginning the bloom fertilizer is October. I plan to switch in September to see if I can get more blooms.

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