Of all the orchids, cymbidiums are best suited for outdoor culture. They’re prized for their sprays of large flowers, used as cut flowers or for corsages. Cymbidiums can be kept outdoors from early spring until late fall and can endure temperatures as low as 28 degree F for a very short time. After the first frost they should be brought into the house or greenhouse.

Blooming occurs from February to May. One bloom spike may carry as many as 30 flowers, each 4 to 6 inches across. The flowers can remain fresh and attractive for eight or more weeks.

Water well from March to October as new growth develops and matures. At other times, keep the potting mix barely moist but never dry.

Do not disturb plants too often because most cymbidiums bloom best when pot-bound. Repot after blooming and only when pseudo-bulbs become crowded against the edges of the pot. Water lightly after repotting.

Cymbidiums need a complete liquid fertilizer every two weeks from January to July. Fertilize once a month from August to December.

During the summer months cymbidiums need cool nights to initiate flowers. One way to help is to add ice to the soil. Do this every night in August after the sun sets. In the fall, keep plants outside until after the first frost. By doing this you will be rewarded with beautiful flowers.

Linda Whetsell, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Phalaenopsis orchids are nicknamed the moth orchid because the arrangement of the flowers on a gracefully arching stem suggests moths or butterflies in flight. The individual flowers last for two months or longer, which makes them a very nice house plant.

Phalaenopsis are native to Asia, extending west into Africa and south to Australia. They prefer a temperature range of 65 degrees F at night and 10 to 15 degrees warmer during the day–much like our household environment. They prefer filtered sun and should never be subjected to direct sunlight. Phalaenopsis like either fir bark or osmunda as potting material and do not require repotting as frequently as other orchids.

Since they do not have a pseudobulb (swollen stems common to many orchids that stores water), Phalaenopsis plants should never be allowed to dry out completely. They require good drainage and aeration, so you must be careful not to overwater (rot will occur). During the active growing season, they like a liquid fertilizer with every watering.

If you follow these simple steps, you will be rewarded with many months of beautiful, graceful flowers.

Linda Whetsell, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Do you want a beautiful, low-maintenance, hard-to-kill, and fun-to-share plant? If so, read on.

Nun’s Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae) has about all the eye appeal you can stand. Brought over from China over two hundred years ago, it was named for the hooded flowers that call to mind a nun’s veil. This gorgeous plant can bear up to three stalks of white and reddish-brown flowers that can last up to a month.

According to Pam Freeman of Leath’s Greenhouses, it doesn’t require any special care. “Good light, average humidity, liquid fertilizer once a month, that’s about it.”

After the flowers fade and the danger of freezing weather has passed, set your plant where it will receive filtered sun, such as a covered deck. Bring indoors if temperatures drop below 40 degrees F. Fertilize monthly with a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer. When cold weather returns, bring indoors and place near a bright window. Keep the soil evenly moist and continue to fertilize monthly.

This beautiful flowering plant is easy to propagate. After the flowers face, divide the plant and repot in sterile potting mix rather than the bark that most other types of orchids prefer. To divide, lay the plant gently on its side, slide the container down and away from the roots, wedge a butcher knife into the root mass, and divide as many small plants with roots attached as you can. Repot in a container filled with sterile potting mix and set outside under a shade tree. You will now have several plants to share with friends and family.

Roxie Hart, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Phalaenopsis orchids or moth orchids are easy to grow if you follow a few simple steps. They like good light, but not direct sunlight. Place them near an east or north window. A south window is acceptable if you protect the plant with a sheer curtain during the summer. Daytime temperatures should be 68 degrees F. or higher and nighttime temperatures should be 60-65 degrees F.

Since they are generally planted in a bark mixture, you need to water the bark well and then wait about a week before watering again. Conditions in your home, of course, determine how quickly it will dry out. Because air conditioning and heating units rob the air of moisture, you can place your plant on a tray of gravel filled with water; however, do not permit the base of the pot to sit in water. Your plants would also enjoy a place in the bathroom where periodic baths and showers add moisture to the air.

After your orchid blooms, feed it with every watering with 1/4 strength 30-20-20 or 20-20-20 fertilizer.

The greatest problem you will have is that you will probably become hooked on orchids. But one of the great advantages of living in Tyler is that there is a local orchid society that meets monthly. Give them a call!

Joan Blackstone, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Posted in Houseplants