How to Grow Cycnoches

CYCNOCHES are popular among intermediate and advanced hobbyists who want to experiment with something different, says Gene Monnier of JEM Orchids in Delray Beach, Florida. The keys to success: Provide excellent drainage and do not overwater.

“Once you understand the problems associated with dormancy, the plants are easy to grow. When the new growths are developing, do not give the plants too much water until the new roots are growing,” says Monnier.

Cycnoches Wine Delight (Cyc. lehmanni x Mormodes sinuata). Registered in 1980
Cycnoches Wine Delight (Cyc. lehmanni x Mormodes sinuata). Registered in 1980

Cycnoches normally have a dormant period during the winter, although those plants grown under lights or in a greenhouse where temperatures above 60 F are maintained are unlikely to lose their leaves. Under most conditions, however, the plants shed their foliage. The plants are most vulnerable to overwatering when they are dormant, during which time Monnier recommends watering the plants once a week. Ideal temperatures at that time are 55 to 65 F during the day with a slight drop at night. When the plants are growing, provide day temperatures of 75 to 85 F with a 10 degree drop at night.

At JEM Orchids, dormant cycnoches are removed from their containers, the roots are cut away with a sterile tool and then each cluster of pseudobulbs is set into a clay or plastic container and watered with the other orchids (lack of potting mix around the roots prevents rot). When growth begins in the spring, the plants are potted in clay or plastic containers large enough to hold the cluster of pseudobulbs plus the new growth. Monnier uses a mix of equal parts charcoal and Aliflor to which 20 percent coconut peat is added. He says that repotting the cycnoches annually gives them a boost.

Some growers, both in the tropics and those who grow in greenhouses in the temperate zone, attach the plants to mounts, such as hardwood or cork. Avoid using tree fern as a mount because it may hold too much water. According to Monnier, this method of cultivation is excellent for those who tend to water plants frequently. When grown this way there is less chance of the plants succumbing to basal rot.

Cycnoches respond differently to varying light conditions. “The plants can be grown under phalaenopsis to vanda light conditions, but the intensity determines the sex of the flowers,” says Monnier. A cycnoches can bear male or female flowers, depending on the environment. Although the flowers of some species are similar, female flowers tend to be of heavier substance and longer-lasting, while male flowers are smaller but more numerous on an inflorescence.

Indoors, place the plants on a windowsill with an east or south exposure (light in a west-facing window may be too intense). In the greenhouse, provide some shading, and if you live in South Florida, consider growing cycnoches in a pool cage; the screening provides light that induces development of female flowers. Those who raise orchids under lights should experiment to determine the most satisfactory tubes-to-plants distance. For example, it may be appropriate to set plants 12 inches away from fluores­cent tubes, but several feet away from high-intensity-discharge lamps. Monnier, who has seen cycnoches growing on the trunks of palms in nature, and even on fence posts, says that providing the correct level of humidity is important, too.

When the plants are in active growth — which begins in the spring — fertilize regularly. At JEM Orchids, a one-half-strength solution is applied twice a month. Withhold fertilizer when plants are dormant.

To avoid pests and diseases, maintain a clean growing environment. Even under the best conditions, spider mites may be a problem, especially where there are high temperatures and low humidity. To control them indoors, apply a soapy solution to the plants. The life cycle of these mites is three days, says Monnier, which makes it necessary to repeat applications of soapy solution every three days. For those who grow their plants in greenhouses, there are several chemical miticides available. Before working with toxic chemicals, remember to put on gloves and protective clothing. Apply the toxin to the plants in a well-ventilated area. When finished, tightly close the pesticide container and store out of the reach of children and pets. — James Watson.

Reprinted with permission: JULY 1997 ORCHIDS – THE MAGAZINE