The oncidium is an orchid of extraordinary beauty due to the large quantity and long life of the flowers arranged in clusters, with streaks of different colors. The oncidium are epiphytic and terrestrial orchids, originating in tropical areas of Central and South America where they live at different altitudes (from sea level to 3000 m).
They are provided with pseudobulbs (in some species they are extremely reduced) with a round or flattened shape, which originate from rhizomes with horizontal development and usually carry two or three leaves at the extremity.
The numerous species (from 400 to 600) vary greatly in size, foliage and cultivation needs. There are some very large species and others rather small. They can have a single leaf or several leaves, leathery, thin or even cylindrical.
The floriferous stems develop at the base of the pseudobulbs and can reach a remarkable height; they carry abundant bunches of flowers, sometimes perfumed and almost always yellow, with dots of different shape and dark colour.
Oncidium in brief
Type of plant
Central and South America
Erect or falling
Flower plant or cut flower plant
Height at maturity
Depends on the species
Speed of growth
Diseases and pests
Ladybugs, red spider and snails
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How to cultivate
Dancing orchid plants are generally amateur species, and do not always fit well in the apartment. Each species has particular needs, but in general all oncidiums love to be grown in a place not too hot, with well humid air and very ventilated.
To achieve such a climate it is often necessary to use a humidifier to be placed near the plants.
Many species of dancing orchid go through a period of dormancy in winter, during which they prefer cool temperatures, between 10 and 15°C, in order to be able to vegetate at their best. During the summer months they can live even with higher temperatures, even if most of the species do not like the sultry heat, and it is therefore advisable to cultivate them in a place sheltered from direct sun.
The oncidium is an orchid that is quite easy to grow even in geographical areas with different climatic conditions from those of tropical areas. The ideal environment for the oncidium is the temperate greenhouse, but it can be kept in an apartment using some precautions, and in summer it is possible to move it outdoors. The needs in terms of temperature and humidity vary greatly, so it is advisable to opt for species that can be grown at temperatures easily reproducible in the apartment.
As for the ideal temperatures, they vary depending on the species. Generally, temperatures between 130-150 degrees Celsius at night and 180-220 degrees Celsius during the day are recommended. Recommended is the temperature range between day and night of at least 50 degrees.
The oncidiums can be cultivated in pots or on bark or cork rafts, and if they are kept in pots, the soil must be aerated and ensure an excellent drainage.
Many species live in places not too much rainy, and do not need excessively frequent watering; for this reason, usually the oncidiums are watered only when the substratum of cultivation is perfectly dry, and it is often better to avoid watering them rather than to wet them too much; especially they do not like watering during the period of vegetative rest.
Usually, the oncidiums which less love the watering are those having pseudobulbs, whilst the rhizomatous species more often love slightly more frequent watering, always avoiding, however, to leave the substratum humid for long time.
The cultivation of oncidium
Abundant in spring-summer, scarce in other periods
Between 100 and 150 degrees at night and between 150 and 250 degrees during the day
In the period of growth
L Like other orchids, oncidium loves humidity, so it should be sprayed regularly during the period of pseudobulb development, i.e. in spring-summer.
The water for watering must be non calcareous, possibly using rainwater. Insufficient water for a short time does not cause damage, but care must be taken that pseudobulbs do not suffer from excessive drought.
In winter, it is sufficient to water them once a week. Wait for the soil to dry out before watering it again.
In spring and summer, watering may be more abundant to stimulate growth. As with other orchids, avoid over-watering and remove the water from the saucer so as not to rot the roots.
To ensure that the plant is supplied with sufficient moisture, spray water on the pot and the aerial roots, or place the pot on a grid resting on a container full of water.
Nebulizations should be quite frequent if orchids are grown on rafts.
The roots of oncidiums
In nature these orchids develop their roots directly exposed to the air; for this reason oncidiums are often grown on bark rafts or trays, where the roots remain completely in the air, and watering is provided in the form of frequent vaporization. If we want to grow them in pots, it is good to use containers with holes, so as to allow the air to flow through the substrate.
In nature, the species of orchid dancer are epiphytes, that is, they develop between the remains of leaves present between the branches of other plants, so they do not need soil, but an inconsistent substrate, consisting of pieces of bark, pieces of peat, or other material. Repotted when the roots have developed too much to remain in the previous container, in late summer or early autumn.
During this time of year it is also possible to divide the very large specimens, producing some portions of the root bread, to be repotted individually. After the division, let’s wait a few days before watering, often vaporizing the leaves.
Oncidium cheirophorum Epiphytic orchid that lives between 1000 and 2500 m of altitude. With thin, lance-shaped leaves and a flowering stem with many yellow flowers. It blooms in autumn. It can be grown in pots or on rafts. In pots it is advisable to use a soil with pine bark, peat and sphagnum.
Oncidium ornithorhynchum Variety very easy to grow with pink flowers with a scent of vanilla. Grows in tropical forests at an altitude of between 650 m and 1500 m. It reaches a maximum height of 40 cm. It blooms in spring or winter with very numerous yellow-red flowers with a delicate perfume. It can be grown in pots or on rafts. In pots we recommend a mixture of pine bark, peat or sphagnum. It should be kept in the shade with a high ambient humidity (70%).
Repotting the oncidium
Repotting should be done on average every two or three years in spring, after flowering, when the substrate has deteriorated and holds too much water, or the pot has become too small for the roots that can no longer grow and there is not enough space for drainage and the passage of air. You will notice if the roots are abundant and sprout in all directions.
The jar should not be too large. Use a specific soil for orchids. If you want to make the mixture yourself, use pine bark and sphagnum or sphagnum powder. However, good drainage must be ensured.
To extract the orchid from the pot use the necessary caution to prevent the roots from breaking. Do not pull it out vigorously, but if necessary, break the pot. You can also wet the roots many hours earlier so that they become softer and less fragile. Place the soil in a pot 2 cm larger than the previous one. Remove dried leaves and damaged roots from the plant. Place the rhizome in the pot and the roots inside the pot, and slightly compress the soil.
The following month, just spray some water every day. Then resume watering and fertilizing.
If you are using a raft, choose one that is very irregular so that the roots of the orchid can easily anchor there. Disinfect the orchid. In the meantime, prepare the orchid by placing some roots on the previously moistened sphagnum. Place it on the raft and fix it with strips of a material that is sufficiently elastic and does not break, for example you can use nylon stockings. Do not overtighten so that the plant is given the necessary freedom and opportunity to grow.
Arrange the plant according to the needs: if it grows upwards or rather horizontally or if it has a falling habit. Of course, raft orchids require frequent spraying.
The oncidium must be exposed to light, but not to direct sunlight: therefore, especially in summer, screen it with a curtain. The light must be properly dosed because if it is insufficient, the oncidium does not flower, but if it is excessive, it can burn the leaves.
The flowering period varies depending on the species. It usually takes place between autumn and spring, and lasts about a month. The floric shoots spontaneously originate at the base of the pseudobulb when it reaches the maturity. A good flowering comes from a sufficient quantity of watering and light. The flowering is stimulated by a decrease of the nocturnal temperature.
The oncidium is an orchid with an ideal habitat whose climate is between 100 and 150 degrees at night and between 150 and 250 degrees during the day. Temperatures must fluctuate between 150-250 degrees in summer and between 100-150 degrees in winter. The ambient humidity must reach 40%-50%. The way to ensure that the plant has an adequate level of ambient humidity is to place the pot in a saucer in which expanded clay and water have been placed.
The bottom of the pot must rest on the expanded clay and must not come into contact with the water. Moisture is created by evaporation of the water in the saucer.
Usually the oncidium prefers the heat so in summer you can place it outside in a place protected from sunlight.
Soil and Fertilization
The soil must be light and porous, and in order for the roots to be aerated, the grain size must be large. Use pine bark, expanded clay pellets, polystyrene and sphagnum to prevent waterlogging.
Feed high nitrogen orchid fertiliser every two weeks during the growth period, using half the recommended dose. Then replace it with a fertiliser with a lower percentage of nitrogen and a higher content of phosphorus and potassium.
Play the oncidium
The propagation takes place by division of the heads. When repotting, divide the plant into several parts, each of which has some shoots. You can also use the pseudobulbs by removing them from the plant and placing them in smaller pots with a moist, draining substrate. After a few weeks or months the new shoots will appear.
Dancing orchid – Oncidium: Parasites and diseases
The oncidium is rather resistant and less prone to diseases that affect other orchids. However, care must be taken when watering to prevent excessive watering or lack of ventilation from rotting the roots.
The main enemies of the oncidium are the cochineals and the red spider: you can eliminate them manually or treat the plant with specific products. You can try to wash the plant with one in which soap has been dissolved. Wash the plant and rinse it to remove the soap. If the infestation is severe, use a specific insecticide.
The spider attacks the plant when the environment is rather dry, so spray some water on the oncidium and place the pot in a saucer where you will have placed balls of clay and water.
If the plant is placed outside, a threat is also posed by snails that can settle in pots and devour the ends of the roots.