By: Anne Baley
Oncidium orchids are known as dancing lady or dancing doll orchids for their distinctive floral design. They have so many fluttering blooms on each spike that they’ve been said to resemble branches covered in butterflies waving in the breeze. Oncidium dancing ladies developed in the rainforest, growing on tree branches in the air instead of in the soil.
As with many other orchid varieties, Oncidium orchid care depends on keeping the plants in loose, well-drained rooting medium and imitating the environment in which it first developed.
What is an Oncidium orchid? It’s a species that has developed without the benefit of soil (epiphytic) and which grows long spikes covered in colorful flowers.
Start growing Oncidium orchids by choosing the right rooting mix. An all-purpose orchid medium with small amounts of sphagnum moss and perlite and mixed with chopped pine or fir bark gives the right amount of drainage and aeration to the orchid’s roots.
Oncidium grows rather quickly, and may need to be repotted every other year.
Growing Oncidium orchids includes finding a bright spot to put the planters. These light-loving plants need from one to several hours of sunlight each day. Feel the leaves of your plant to determine its light needs—plants with thicker, fleshier leaves need more sunlight, and those with thinner leaves can get by with less.
One thing you learn when finding out how to care for Oncidium orchids is that they are rather particular when it comes to temperature. They like it very warm during the day, around 80 to 85 F. (27-29 C.) on average. Heat spikes of up to 100 F. (38 C.) won’t hurt these plants if they cool off afterward. At night, however, Oncidium likes the air around it a bit cooler, around 60 to 65 F. (18 C.). Having such a wide range of temperatures can be a tricky proposition for most houseplant growers, but is easily obtained in the average small greenhouse.
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Oncidium orchids, also commonly known as “Dancing Lady” orchids, are known for their vibrant colors and uniquely shaped flowers. This makes them very popular with orchid enthusiasts.
However, they are more particular about care than many other types of orchid. They require lots of light, and you should take extra care when choosing a potting mix or repotting an Oncidium, due to their relatively fine roots.
In this care guide, we’re going to take a closer look at these wonderful plants and their care requirements.
The Sharry Baby orchid benefits from a complete watering every seven days. Allow the water to flow freely through the medium that surrounds the plant. The water should flow out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. The potting medium needs to feel slightly dry to the touch before each watering. Watering the Sharry Baby orchid too much can result in the plant's death. Any shrinking of the plant's pseudobulbs means that the orchid is being maintained in conditions that are too dry. The Sharry Baby orchid appreciates a light misting of its foliage each morning with room temperature water.
Oncidiums appreciate bright, indirect light (2000-4000 fc). If you are also growing Phalaenopsis alongside an Oncidium, keep in mind that the Oncidium is a medium-light orchid, while your Phal is a low-light orchid. Place your Oncidium a bit closer to the window than you would a Phal.
Grow your oncidium in a bright east, south, or west-facing window. If you’re going for best odds, the ideal location for oncidium orchids that results in the most abundant flowers is a bright east-facing window that receives a couple of hours of morning sun.
Alternatively, if you don’t have enough natural light, consider using artificial lights. Artificial lights can have spectacular results and are much less intimidating than you might think. If you’d like to learn more about artificial lights, CLICK HERE.
Depending on the variety the flowering season can be at any time of year, but is generally heaviest in the fall and spring. Many hybrids can bloom 2-3 times per year. In order to initiate the flower spikes, it is important to grow the plant in an area where the night temperatures fall below 65°. Usually plants growing by a window are a couple of degrees cooler than the rest of the house. The flower spikes on Oncidiums generally grow to a medium or tall length and branch out in several directions. Each new growth that develops produces a flower spike once the pseudobulb is of mature size. When the flower spikes are finished blooming, they can be cut down to where the spike meets the leaves. Keep a close eye on the spike (when it begins to produce flower buds) for aphids. Oncidiums are one of the most favored orchids of the aphid bug.
Repot every 1 to 2 years as the mix breaks down or as the plant outgrows the pot. Plants potted in a bark mixture should be carefully pulled out of the pot. Clean off the roots of the old mix, being careful not to break the good roots. However, breaking roots when repotting is inevitable. Roots that are bad and should be cut off are those that are brown and mushy or papery. Those roots that are white or tan and are firm to the touch should be left alone. Simply place the plant into a new pot, placing the oldest growth towards the back of the pot so there is room for the newer growths to develop for about 1-2 years. Oncidiums can be divided when there are 6 or more pseudobulbs. Divide, leaving 3 growths per each division. Generally Oncidiums are planted in either an orchid bark mix or New Zealand sphagnum moss mixed with tree fern fiber.
Among the care of orchid oncidium must take into account that they must provide adequate conditions for this plant to develop in the best way, as far as the conditions are covered aspects of light, temperature, nutrients and others. It should be noted that although these plants are not large, they usually grow laterally and their structure is born from new pseudobulbs that gradually supplant the previous ones. If all the necessary cares and conditions are taken into account, oncidium orchids would be another kind of wild orchid that we can grow at home in a simple way.
The Oncidium are among the few orchids that resist the direct sun.
It is important that the site has a lot of light, we can place it in a window oriented east or west, where it receives the light of the first hours of the day.
As a precaution and despite its good resistance to sunlight, it is best to receive the light sifted by a net curtain or a Venetian blind.
In temperate climates, they could be outdoors in a place protected from direct light, and facing south. In these cases we must not forget the needs of humidity, nor that they can not withstand excessive temperatures.
We will appreciate that it does not receive the light it needs, observing the color of its leaves.
A dark green leaves indicates that it receives little light, while a reddish green warns us that it receives too much light. When the orchids receive the light they need, they have to have a medium intense green color.
The Oncidium have light needs that are superior to those of other orchid genera, such as Phalaenopsis. Even so, we do not recommend, in some warmer and sunny areas of the United States, a direct exposure to the sun, although in its natural habitat it is accustomed to being outdoors. One of the reasons is that this genus comprises many hybrids with different needs and, therefore, we can not generalize too much in this aspect.
A suitable place at home can be the landing of a window, balcony, internal patio, etc. If the light received by the plant is adequate, the coloring of the leaves will be of an intense green color. A very dark green color would indicate little light and a reddish green an excess thereof.
First of all, it is necessary to bear in mind that the needs for light are fundamental for the development of any type of orchid, but in the case of oncidium orchids it is necessary to be very careful in this aspect, because these plants need very specific conditions related to light. First of all it should be noted that as every orchid needs an environment where sunlight is guaranteed, but we must also make it clear that the sun’s rays should not come into direct contact with these plants, that is, for the orchid Oncidium can develop in the best way it needs seasons of light and others of shadows.
For this reason, it is necessary to highlight that in the best case to ensure proper care of the oncidium orchid is to locate this plant in a place where it can be outdoors, the ideal location would be near windows or windows, balcony, some patio that is covered. On the other hand, sunlight will undoubtedly give the necessary vitality to the plant to fulfill its development functions, but the excess of this element could dry the leaves of the plant ending with leaves in a yellowish color, when the ideal would be leaves In intense green color.
It is generally known that in terms of temperature most species of oncidium orchids can maintain a stable condition if they are between 15 ° C and 30 ° C. But among other aspects of care should be taken into account that these plants improve their flowering if their temperature is changed during the day and night, that is, if during the day maintain warmer temperatures than those of the night environment, according to various studies This contrast is favorable for the development of the flowers of these orchids. For this reason it is stated that the difference that must be maintained between the temperatures of the day and night should be at least 10 ° C.
It should be noted that within the care taking the aspect of temperature the best for the vitality of oncidium orchids is to avoid temperatures that are below 12 ° C and above 30 ° C, these temperatures would be harmful to the development of these plants. In the same way, taking into account the temperature should be considered a ventilated environment, that is, the most ideal for these orchids is an environment that has some current of air.
As with all orchids, there must be a difference in temperature between day and night to stimulate flowering. These differences have to be in the environment of 10ºC, with the precaution of not exceeding the minimum and maximum.
The degree of humidity must be maintained between 40% and 60%. To favor this degree of humidity, during winter indoors and on warm days, it is advisable to spray the plants, place a humidifier or, failing that, place a dish with water under the plant, always with the precaution that the water is not in direct contact with the roots.
Taking into account the above, it can be said that humidity is the best scenario for the ideal habitat that establishes the right conditions for the growth and vitality of oncidium orchids, however, as a reference of the environment according to the studies it must be maintained at 40% and 60% humidity. Faced with this situation, the most advisable thing is if this environment is not propitious to implement some irrigation strategy by means of humidifiers or in such case regular sprays, then, specialists in the cultivation of orchids propose that it is best to moisten these plants slightly but in hours in the morning, so that during the day the leaves can be dried in the best way, otherwise, the plants may contract fungi or infections produced by excess water at night.
However, taking into account the previously explained aspects it is also important to highlight that among other recommendations regarding the care of oncidium orchids related to temperature it should be noted that these plants, if exposed to the higher temperatures indicated, should be increased the humidity levels.
Take into account also that especially the Oncidium, as with most orchids, can not stand being in very high places (low oxygen or tobacco smoke or other pollutants). Neither do they tolerate direct air currents, although they do tolerate a certain renewal of the environment (aeration of the room).
The ideal humidity for these orchids is between 40 and 60%, as we explained above. For this purpose and according to conditions we should proceed to use humidifiers or regular sprays. Better to do it in the morning or in the early afternoon to allow the leaves of the plant to dry before nightfall. Otherwise, we could favor the appearance of diseases (fungi, bacteria, etc.). At higher temperatures we must increase the value of the environmental humidity
The Oncidium require more water than other types of orchids , so it is usually recommended to water every two to three days in the growing season and once a month (or every two) in the dormant season. However, this is not completely correct, the ideal is to water when the orchid needs moisture.
It is best to check if the substrate is dry or not, at least half of the pot should have been dried to re-irrigate.
During the latency period it is best to observe the pseudobulbs to decide whether to water or not. If we see them smooth and thick, it is that the plant is well and does not need much water, but if we observe that they seem to wither, we must increase the frequency of the waterings.
The Oncidium pseudobulbs are prone to putrefaction, so it is very important to monitor the waterings and that the drainage of the pot is correct. If we see that a pseudobulb begins to rot, it is best to cut it with a knife that we will have previously sterilized.
Water always in the morning and with water that does not contain salts. When in doubt, it is better to use filtered or bottled water.
On the other hand, taking into account the process of irrigation in the care of orchids, it should be noted that water should be used in these cases of oncidium species that contain low mineralization, that is, avoid using water that may have other types of components. that could be harmful to the plant.
Among other ideas highlights that the risks depend on the conditions established in terms of humidity and temperature of the environment where the plant is located. For example, in seasons where the temperature is warmer, irrigation should be carried out more frequently, for example, in the case of winter, longer periods of time can be established between each irrigation. On the other hand, the life cycle of the plant also influences the irrigation, since when the orchid is in full stage of growth it should proceed to water more frequently.
Within the entire irrigation process it must be considered that for the care of these oncidium orchid species at the time of irrigation the substrate must be completely dry from the previous irrigation, that is, the waterings should not be so frequent because the plant needs seasons where the substrate must be completely dry, however, it is clear that the end of the dehydration of the plant should not be reached.
However, in these cases the specialists recommend avoiding using the water that can be obtained from the tap for the irrigation process, since this type of water is loaded with minerals that can affect the vitality of the orchid.The best in these cases to maintain the care and the orchid in excellent conditions is to irrigate the plant with filtered or mineral water.
So use, as in all orchids, low mineralization water. Irrigation will be carried out depending on the vegetative cycle of the plant and environmental conditions. Spacing them more in winter, during rest at 1 or 2 per month increase during growth and before flowering to 1 or more weeks, depending on temperature and humidity conditions.
It is very important in this species, between irrigation and irrigation, to let the substrate dry almost completely but without the plant becoming dehydrated.
It is essential not to use tap water. The current waters, normally with great hardness and mineral content are not suitable for these plants. Use mineral water or treated water with appropriate filters (reverse osmosis).
Also important are the irrigations carried out by vaporizers on aerial roots and leaves, avoiding ponding. This type of irrigation should be more abundant in the hot season (summer) since there is greater water loss.
In the growing season, and if the substrate is composed of pine bark, you have to look for a fertilizer that contains a composition 30-10-10 (Nitrogen-phosphorus and potassium) . This proportion is to compensate the nitrogen expense, which comes from the degradation of the substrate.
If the substrate is not pine, we can use a more balanced fertilizer 20-20-20.
During the growing period it is advisable to fertilize every two weeks, but at half the recommended dose. It is also a good idea to water abundantly once a month, to eliminate the remains of fertilizer that may remain on the substrate.
You already know that fertilizers usually contain salts, that the plant stores in its roots and also is deposited in the substrate, and this is very harmful for orchids.
In all that concerns the care of orchid oncidium in the case of nutrients should take the suggestions that are established in specialized stores, ie, in the case of orchids are marketed specific nutrients for these plant species , the ideal is to acquire and maintain the care with these products.
In addition, it must be considered that among other recommendations it should be taken into account that the ideal would be to fertilize the plant in the periods prior to growth, that is, at the stage where it needs to acquire more nutrients for its proper development.
Use only special fertilizers for orchids and follow the instructions of the product. In general, we will need to pay more regularly in the periods before flowering (usually in late winter or early spring, but depends on which part of the United States you are located). We also recommend using foliar mixed fertilizers in the water of vaporization since both the aerial roots and the leaves can assimilate them and will contribute to the good general state of the plant.
The substrate that Oncidium orchids need is typical for orchids: spongy, light, resistant … it is best to buy the one that comes prepared, which is usually composed of pine bark.
From time to time it is necessary to change the pot, when the plant has grown a lot or also when we observe that the substrate no longer drains correctly.
These changes are best done when the orchid has already blossomed, ideally during the resting period.
Before making the change, we will proceed to thoroughly clean the substrate of all types of dust , and disinfect the pot well by washing with soapy water.
When making the change and if the plant allows it,we can divide the orchid as long as we have at least three pseudobulbs in each plant.
Once the transplant is done, the plant will need a few days of recovery, especially if we have cut roots or divided the plant. It is best not to water a lot and keep it away from excessive light.
Following these tips, you will surely have a huge success with your Oncidium, which are the most spectacular orchids in their bloom.
On the other hand it should be noted that the change of substrate must be done when it is really necessary, that is, when the plant has some type of infection or any fungus that requires the transplanting of the orchid, among other cases it is also valid when the plant has grown in a considerable way and the pot does not suit your needs in terms of space. In this way, as previously stated, it is best to acquire nutrients and specialized fertilizer for plants of this species, that is, orchids. Within all this it is important to know how to cut the orchids and get new pups from it, in the whole process involved in the transplant.
Regarding changes of substrate, we advise changes only in those cases where we have had an infestation of bacteria or fungi in the roots or in those cases in which the plant has grown and the roots really need more space.
These changes must occur during the plant’s rest period. Never during flowering. We will use special substrate preparations for orchids and easily acquired in any garden center. Avoid fertilization in the post-transplant period and excess irrigation. Keep the temperature without many changes and away from excessive light. The plant will need a few days to recover from the small scars caused by roots and other parts. Be alert to possible infestations and extreme hygienic measures.
Within the market in different countries the different oncidium orchid species are generally known as dancing orchids and have great economic value due to the beauty of their yellow flowers, which are popularly considered as the dancer movements of a dancer. In this way in what refers to the aspect of the decoration the dance ladies orchids are valued and form the main trade, due to this demand is proceeded to carry out the cultivation of these species, which usually is not complicated if you have consider their necessary conditions for growth.
In relation to the above in the orchid trade, oncidium is found in the countries of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, where climatic conditions are generally favorable for these plants. It is generally known that in the cultivation of these plants are made in some supports made of wood or cork, but the most common and most advisable for the cultivation of these plants is to make them in pots, where the drainage is guaranteed by of the substrate.
In this way, taking into account the above, it can be said that the success of the trade is due to the fact that in the cultivation of these plants the appropriate considerations are taken for the correct development, and one of them is without a doubt to keep the plants in a pot where the substrate can offer adequate drainage in the irrigation process. In general, due to the facilities in terms of the cultivation of these Oncidium orchid species, they are usually found commercially in an accessible manner, that is, these plants do not carry high prices.