It was just like my mom to leave this world filled with flowers. It was her way of saying, “It’s O.K., life goes on, and everything will be alright.”
When I think of my mom I will always think about her love of dirt. The way she would spend morning until night gardening. Even in her eighties she would garden every chance she got. That is the one thing that never slowed for her.
So here I was with all these cymbidiums.
Hmmm. They flowered for many years after her death, every spring, no matter how much I abused them. Along with her orchids my mom left me a third of an acre of garden. So, with my own two acres—and my two little boys—time was scarce and the poor hard-working orchids were put on the back burner.
This year I noticed that there were very few blooms and very little new growth, maybe because the pots were so overgrown that many had split. In fact, some even had full-grown plants sprouting up from the ground through the orchid pots. I was an orchid abuser. Yes, among all the other things that I abused, I now had to add cymbidiums to the list.
Cymbidiums should be divided about every three years. If your plant has filled the pot and is now pushing against the side it is time to repot it.
So, after years of neglect, I finally broke down and started to divide them. Of course, I divided them right in the middle of their bloom cycle, so the small amount of blooms they had would never continue to fruition. Sad face. You are supposed to divide your cymbidiums after the old blooms have fallen off.
Here are the basics of dividing cymbidiums. (I am going to admit something. I never actually read or studied how to divide cymbidiums before I divided mine. I just did it. That’s right, I basically did it wrong.) I used to have this Boss once. She used to always say, “If it’s worth doing, It’s worth doing wrong.” Translation—Don’t overthink it—just do it.
Here is how you are supposed to do it.
First sterilize your tools and your work area (How many of us have sterile potting benches?). Cymbidiums are susceptible to tobacco mosaic virus. You can use a torch flame, bleach, or TSP to sterilize your tools. It is recommended that you use clean newspaper between plants and to wear disposable gloves.
I did none of this.
I look at it as an experiment. If the seventeen cymbidiums I divided get a virus, then I’ll know next time I repot seventeen cymbidiums to wear disposable gloves and to dip my potting table in alcohol.
This is one of two garbage cans I filled with rotted cymbidium roots, leaves and bulbs.It’s also recommended that you have a strong knife or shears for cutting into the root ball (I used my garden clippers) and a potting stick to pack down the potting mix around the bulbs (I used my fingers).
For the potting medium you have many choices. You can use fine orchid bark mixed with perlite, sand, redwood bark, there is Coir with is the pith from the coconut husk, and coconut chips, coarse peat, leaf mold, sand, pumice and lava rock and many, many different combinations of the aforementioned materials.
I used some old coarse bark that I found under my potting table.
Now the next step is to get the plant out of the pot. For me this was no easy feat. Normally you might gently tap the pot on the side of your potting table to dislodge the roots. In my case, I used three methods:
1. The “Throw the pot on the ground and step on it” method.
2. The “Put my foot on the lip of the pot, hold onto the leaves like it was someone’s hair and yank until the plant comes loose and I fall backwards on my ass” method.
3. Last but never least, the “Split the already split pot with a pick-ax, trying not to let the head of the ax fly off backwards on the back-swing and decapitate someone because the ax is really old and the head is only held on by a nail” method.
I don’t recommend any of the previous methods.
Please do not try those at home.
Before you go any further you need to know what a backbulb is. I didn’t know what this was either, but now that I do I shall tell you. Backbulbs are the leafless bulbs toward the middle of the plant. They provide a natural dividing point for the plant. When I divided my plants the backbulbs were exactly where I pulled my bulbs apart.
The best way to pot your new divisions is with 3-4 green bulbs and one backbulb. Do not pot up just one lonely bulb, because one little bulb could take three years to flower again.
When you pot the bulbs, mound the potting mix in the middle of the pot and spread the roots over the mound, don’t cram them in. Work the mix, or in my case the bark around the roots and tamp the roots firmly into the pot. The mix should sit ¾ inch below the lip of the pot and the lower 1/3 of the bulb should be covered.
After repotting, give your plant a little more shade than usual. Keeping your cymbidium a little on the dry side will encourage the growth of new roots. Keep them dry and cool for four to six weeks then back to normal.
For my cymbidiums, it’s back to the torture chamber.
Some of my many happy, roomy new re-potted cymbidiums.