How to grow and care for Boat Orchids Indoors

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Indoor Orchid, Boat Orchid, Cymbidium Orchid

Botanical name: Cymbidium spp
Family: Orchidaceae
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Tribe: Cymbidieae
Subtribe: Cymbidiinae

Boat Orchids are popular easy to grow Indoor Orchids. They bear large waxy flowers arranged on an unbranched flowering stem which last for weeks. The flower sepals and petals are all free and are similar to each other. The lip (lowermost petal) is significantly different from the other petals and sepals and has three lobes and a spotted center. The shape of the lip gives this orchids their common name (Boat Orchids). Boat Orchids are prolific bloomers; with several flower spikes bearing up to 100 blooms per season. Some species of Boat Orchids have thin stems but in most species the stems are modified to pseudobulbs. Where leaves are present, there are 3-12 light-green leaves arranged in two ranks and they last for several years.

Cymbidium is a genus of orchids occurring in the wild from tropical to subtropical Asia and Australia. The genus name Cymbidium is derived from the Latin name Cymba meaning "cup", "bowl" or "boat" in reference to the shape of the lip (lowest lower petal). Many cultivars have been developed like the Miniature Cymbidium which is regarded as the beginner's orchid. Flowers are available in red, white, pink , yellow and green.

How to Grow Boat Orchids (Cymbidium spp)


Boat Orchids grow best in bright, indirect light for about 10 hours per day. A few feet away from an east- or west-facing window is ideal. Keep them away from direct sunshine to avoid sun scorch on the leaves. Regularly turn the pot to ensure the plant gets adequate light on all sides. A Boat Orchid that is receiving the right amount of light has light-green upright leaves. Dark green leaves indicate that the orchid needs more light. Yellow leaves means the orchid is receiving too much light. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants


Water Boat Orchids thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering in the cold period. To take the guesswork out of watering Boat Orchids, check the roots. Whitish-green and plump roots indicate the orchid is well hydrated. Whitish, thin roots indicate the orchid needs to be watered. Use tepid, chlorine-free water as orchids are sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals dissolved in water. Avoid wetting the foliage as it can lead to fungal diseases. Boat Orchids are more tolerant of dry soil conditions due to the presence of pseudobulbs and their thick leaves. Learn more on how to water houseplants.


The best temperatures for Boat Orchids are between 10-290C. Warmer days and cooler night temperatures with a difference of 10-150C are ideal. Cool nights are essential to trigger flowering. Ensure there is good air circulation as orchids cannot tolerate hot and stuffy conditions. Protect them from draughts. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.


Moderate humidity is ideal for Boat Orchids. If the air is too dry, set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity. Occasionally clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth. Do not mist the leaves as it can lead to fungal diseases.


Feed Boat Orchids every 2 weeks during the growing season with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. Withhold feeding during the cold season. Do not feed an orchid that is in flower. Learn more on how to feed houseplants.


Boat Orchids bloom best when they are pot-bound. Repot Boat Orchids only when growth begins to suffer. When the orchid has outgrown its pot and the new growth reaches out over the edge or when the soil has broken down completely. Basically repotting Boat Orchids every 2-3 years should be adequate. Repot only when new growth begins, shortly after blooming is over. Use a pot with proper drainage holes or slits; the roots need good air circulation. The pot should be only 1 size larger than the previous one. Use loose, free-draining bark soil. When repotting, shake off excess soil and trim off any dried and shrivelled pseudobulbs.


Pruning Boat Orchids is easy. Remove dead and diseased leaves by cutting them at the base with sharp scissors or a knife. When flowering is over, cut the flower stalk 1 in. above the 3rd node from the bottom.

How to Trigger Flowering in Boat Orchids (Cymbidium spp)

Give the Boat Orchid 6 weeks of cool temperature of about 7-100C during the cold season. Reduce watering but maintain the soil moderately moist during this period. Withhold feeding during this period. Take it back to its usual spot when the 6 weeks period is over. This kind of treatment will coax a Boat Orchid to flower as it mimicks its natural triggers in the wild.

How to Propagate Boat Orchids (Cymbidium spp)

Boat Orchids can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season once flowering is over. Gently split the pseudobulb into sections. Leave at least 3 shoots on each section. Seperate the roots attached to each division from the mother root ball. Remove the old potting soil attached to the roots. Place each section in the center of the pot. Bury the roots in the soil while ensuring that the bottom of the pseudobulb is level with the top of the soil. The best pot should be about 1-2 in. larger than the pseudobulb. Ensure the pot has enough drainage holes and slits to prevent root-rot. Place the set up in a shaded place until they have established their own roots. Water the new Boat Orchids lightly to enhance root development. Stake each newly repotted plant.

Common Problems in Growing Boat Orchids (Cymbidium spp)

  • Brown soft spots on the leaves
  • Brown soft spots on Boat Orchid leaves are an indication of a fungal disease; remove the affected leaves immediately to prevent further spread.

  • Brown hard and dry spots on leaves
  • Exposure of Boat Orchids to direct sunshine will result in scorch marks which are brown hard and dry spots on the leaves. Move the orchid to a shadier spot or protect it from direct sunshine.

  • Mould on leaves
  • This is an indication of Powdery Mildew Disease. Misting the leaves in Boat Orchids may lead to mildew growth if the water does not evaporate quickly. Ensure good air circulation and stop misting.

  • Limpy and droopy leaves
  • Limpy and droopy leaves in Boat Orchid are caused by underwatering. Do not allow the soil to dry out completely. Water Boat Orchid thoroughly, maintain the soil consistently moist and allow only the top half of the soil to dry out between waterings.

  • Dark-green leaves
  • Dark green leaves in Boat Orchid indicate that the plant is not getting enough light. Move the orchid to a brighter spot. The leaves of a Boat Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be light green.

  • Yellowish leaves
  • Yellowish leaves in Boat Orchid indicate that the plant is getting too much light. Move the orchid to a shadier spot. The leaves of a Boat Orchid that is receiving the correct light should be light green.

  • Leaf tips turn black and die
  • The cause of black leaf tips in Boat Orchid is the presence of chemicals like chlorine and flourides in water. Use chlorine-free water only.

  • No blooms
  • Too little light for Boat Orchids will result in no blooms. Move the plant to a brighter spot.

  • Bud blast (buds dying before opening)
  • The cause of bud blast in Boat Orchids is improper watering. Too much or too little water will cause the flower buds to die before they open.


Boat Orchids (Cymbidium spp) are non-toxic to both humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.

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