Oncidiums (Dancing Lady Orchids): Types, How to Grow and Plant Care

Oncidium orchids produce some of the most fantastic flowers, which is saying a lot, if you’ve ever seen the beautiful blooms that orchid plants are capable of producing.

You may also see them referred to as the golden shower orchid, or the dancing lady orchid. 

They’re not for the first time orchid-grower, that’s for sure, as they are more demanding when it comes to the care they receive, but the extra steps you might need to take are worth it when you see these stunning flowers in their full glory.

Here’s everything you need to know about oncidium orchids.

At a Glance: What You Should Know About Oncidium Orchids

Oncidium orchids encompass a diverse range of orchids, with over 300 different species to choose from. 

The oncidium genus has been the center of some criticism, as it’s been accused of being a ‘dumping ground’ for orchids that look similar, but may not actually be related.

The genus is undergoing a reclassification process, so species that may currently fall under the Oncidium genus may soon change. 

Some Brazilian species under the genus, for example, have been moved to the Gomesa genus instead, those which feature fused lateral sepals.

The name Oncidium comes from the Greek word onkos, which translates to ‘swelling’. This name points to the lip of each flower, which features a callus. 

In terms of the common name, you’ll see them labeled as dancing lady orchids, spray orchids, bee orchids, golden shower orchids, and tiger orchids. 

How to Recognize an Oncidium Orchid

Oncidium orchids are a favorite of florists and orchid enthusiasts, particularly because of their beautiful elongated flowers, and how the plant is capable of producing many clusters of these flowers (see also What To Do When Your Orchid Has Finished Blooming).

The vast majority of orchids that fall under the Oncidium genus are sympodial, which means the orchid grows from a nearly horizontal stem, instead of a vertical one. This stem stays pretty close to the ground.

It can be pretty confusing to know which is a flower spike, and which is a stem of the plant, but you’ll know with time. 

Most oncidium orchids are epiphytes, which is typical of a lot of orchids, but you will find some that have adapted to grow in the ground or on bare rock, too.

The height of an oncidium orchid is dictated by the species, and can range anywhere from 30cm to 10 feet, although they are less likely to get this tall when not in their natural habitat. 

You’ll see the flowers appear once summer is over, though they can flower all the way through winter. Most oncidium orchids produce flowers in warm, coppery shades of brown and bright yellow, but they can also be red, purple, pink, and white.

These stunning flowers can produce up to seven clusters of flowers, which look like a crowd of butterflies. In the wind, these flowers look like they are dancing.

The blooms themselves are delicate, growing from 6mm in diameter to about 10cm depending on the species. What these petite flowers lack in stature, they make up for in numbers, as these lovely flowers grow in huge clusters or sprays. 

Oncidium orchids also produce pseudobulbs, like dendrobium orchids (see also Dendrobium Orchid Types And Care). The foliage which unfurls from the pseudobulbs also varies, depending on the orchid species. 

The leaves range, but they can be ovate, with large, leathery leaves, or they can be much more delicate, with a single, cylindrical leaf.

How to Grow Oncidium Orchids

Oncidium orchids are well-suited indoors, as they don’t mind relatively low humidity where our homes are drier than their natural habitat, and they like bright window sills. 

Sunlight & Position

Oncidium orchids are perfect for windowsills or houses which get a lot of bright light. Plants in this genus will withstand direct sunlight in the morning, when the rays are less fierce, while orchids in other genera can only stand indirect sunlight.

If you find that your oncidium orchid’s leaves take on a reddish tinge, your orchid is getting too much light. If they are a deep green instead of a vivid green, move it to a brighter position.

Temperature & Humidity

Most oncidium orchids which are sold commercially need a warm atmosphere that doesn’t get below 55°F (13°C) or above 77°F (25°C). 

You can recognize these types by the strappy foliage, big pseudobulbs, and smaller flowers.

The humidity levels that these gorgeous orchids require depends on the temperature they are given. If you keep them somewhere which is warmer, you’ll need to increase the humidity accordingly. 

If you have a colder spot in mind for a dancing lady orchid, the surrounding atmosphere needs to be at least 40-50% humid in order for the orchid to thrive. In a warmer place, the maximum humidity level should be 75%, but it can be as low as 55%, which is more achievable. 

You’ll need to place these stunning orchids somewhere where there’s a lot of air circulation, but avoid anywhere that gets cold drafts, as this will damage the plants. 

When Do You Water a Dancing Lady Orchid?

Dancing lady orchids are vulnerable to overwatering, as the pseudobulbs are particularly thick, and the many roots are susceptible to root rot. 

If you do notice a pseudobulb starting to rot, you should cut it away from the rest of the plant with clean scissors, and elongate the time between watering. 

If in doubt, wait until the pseudobulbs become a little wrinkled, as this is a sign that the plant needs watering. 

When the plant starts putting out flowers, increase the watering frequency, watering every couple of days, but still allowing the growing medium to dry a little in between.

When Do You Feed Oncidium Orchids?

Oncidium orchids aren’t as hungry as other types of orchids, but they do benefit from a very weak dose of orchid feed every third watering in the growing season. 

You’ll need to make the fertilizer a lot more diluted than you normally would. Instead of following the directions on your specific orchid fertilizer, make it only 25% of its recommended amount.

How to Repot an Oncidium Orchid

Oncidium orchids hate their roots being disturbed. As you can imagine, this can make repotting them a little tricky. 

As a general rule, only repot an oncidium orchid when the potting medium has completely broken down, or the orchid has outgrown its pot completely. 

This will usually be every couple of years, when new growth measures at least 5cm long.

Make sure that the new pot you select is wide enough to accommodate at least 2 new pseudobulbs, and these should remain inside the pot. 

You’ll need to pot them up in freely-draining orchid bark, which is readily available. If you prefer, you can also make your own oncidium potting mix, but make sure that the water can drain freely. 

How to Propagate an Oncidium Orchid

Propagating oncidium orchids could not be easier. The pseudobulbs that these stunning orchids regularly develop have the potential to grow into separate plants. 

If you divide the pseudobulbs, leaving at least three in each clump, you can pot them up as separate orchids.

Problems to Watch Out For

If you see the pseudobulbs becoming wrinkled, your oncidium orchid is not getting enough water. 

If you spot roots that have turned black, this indicates that you’re watering the plant far too much, and it may be best to cut these off from the rest of the plant to stop the rot from spreading.

The foliage taking on a reddish tint is the plant’s way of telling you that the position you have your orchid in is getting too much light. If the leaves turn dark green, the plant is not getting enough light. 

When it comes to disease, the only real thing to watch out for is root rot, but this is preventable. Pests that can bother oncidium orchids include spider mites and mealybugs.

If the plant is thriving, but it doesn’t produce flowers during its growing season, you can move it somewhere where it will be bathed in very early morning sun for an hour or so, and this will help promote flowering.

Types of Oncidium Orchids You Should Try Growing Yourself

Oncidium cheirophorum ‘Hand Carrying Oncidium’

Also known as the Colombia buttercup, or the Hand Carrying Oncidium, Oncidium cheirophorum produces plenty of uplifting flowers in a sunshine-yellow.

It’s an orchid that stays on the smaller side, though the flower spikes can be quite tall, or they can arch with the weight of the flowers, each spike able to reach 30cm long. 

The gorgeous flowers appear in the autumn and winter months, stretching to about 1cm in diameter. 

The perfume of these flowers match the color, with a citrus-lemon fragrance.

This orchid requires temperatures that are a little cooler than most in the Oncidium genus, comfortable between 64-71°F (or 18-22°C). At lower temperatures, you should also keep the humidity at the lower end of 40-70%.

Oncidium concolor ‘Single-Colored Oncidium’

This particular oncidium produces flowers which reach 5cm in diameter. As the name suggests, this orchid species only features flowers in a single color, usually a bright yellow, which is quite unusual for an orchid.

It prefers much cooler temperatures than some, and each flower spike can produce as few as four flowers, or as many as twelve. These blooms have a curious fragrance that some have compared to spiced apples. 

Oncidium gutfreundianum ‘Gigi’

Native to Brazil, the Oncidium getfreundianum requires warm or even hot temperatures. These pseudobulbs are elongated, and each will produce one or two leaves. 

The flowers themselves can get to a maximum of 3cm in diameter, in warm tones of orange, yellow, and red.

Oncidium leucochilum ‘White-lipped Oncidium’

One of the most commonly-grown oncidium orchids, the white-lipped oncidium is valued for its striking blooms which are speckled with maroon, and the labellum is white. 

These flowers appear either in spring or autumn, and each spike can produce up to 10 blooms. Each flower has a spicy scent, and can reach up to 3cm in diameter.

Oncidium longipes ‘Long Column Foot Oncidium’ 

A dwarf oncidium orchid, this species will reach about 20cm tall, producing only two or three flowers, growing on short stems. This makes for a dramatic display, offsetting the two oblong leaves nicely.

Oncidium sarcodes ‘Fleshy Oncidium’

If you’d prefer larger flowers, the fleshy oncidium is a good choice. The blooms produced on this plant can reach 5cm in diameter, and can come in brown, red, purple, or vivid yellow. 

The plant itself can reach a maximum height of 45cm. 

Oncidium tigrinum

A very popular cultivar, the Oncidium tigrinum or tiger orchid, grows naturally in Mexico. It prefers partial shade, and needs warm temperatures in order to thrive.

You can recognize it by its yellow and brown flowers, which are highly perfumed, and appear either in spring or in autumn.

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