What divides orchids from other flowers is not only the fact they can be high-maintenance but also their out-of-this-world appearance. If you like unusual flowers, the oncidium orchid is the one for you, with its long leaves and impressive flowers with a dominant lip.
Here is a summary on how to care for oncidium orchid: First of all, oncidium doesn’t like too high humidity like the rest of the orchid family members do. It requires enough brightness, on the other hand – a windowsill is a great place for your oncidium. It likes moderate temperatures, from 21 to 30 degrees Celsius during daytime and 15 to 19 degrees Celsius during night time. The temperature change is needed to enhance the blooming process. The flowers are marvelous and appear a few times a year. It likes moderate watering – only once a month during the winter. During the growing period, don’t be afraid to water it every day or once every two days. The potting medium should be soilless, and well-drained. You can re-pot it once every few years. Propagating oncidium orchid isn’t that hard, and will provide some healthy, natural entertainment while doing it.
Are you interested to find out more interesting facts about oncidium orchid care? Join me on the ‘oncidium orchid care and maintenance’ tour!
Origin of Oncidium Orchid
Oncidium is also known as Onc. in the horticultural world, while common names are ‘dancing-lady orchid’, ‘bee orchid’, ‘tiger orchid’, and ‘golden shower orchid’.
It is a large orchid genus, containing over 300 different species! They live throughout Central and South America and the West Indies.
One particular species can even be found in Florida.
It is interesting that they are very adaptable and live at different altitudes, from hot tropical areas to the mountains of the Andes.
In 1800 Olof Swartz, a Swedish botanist and taxonomist first described the species.
There has been a lot of fuss lately around this genus because, in 2008, it was labeled as ‘grossly polyphyletic’ by the American Orchid Society.
Polyphyletic species are the ones that have a large number of similarities to another species but they don’t share the same ancestor.
If you want to know more about this extraordinary orchid species and oncidium culture, you can read about it in American Orchid Society Culture Sheets.
Oncidium Orchid Appearance
Since there are a couple of hundred different species, they vary in shape and size.
Most species are epiphytic, meaning they live on other threes’ surfaces. Some species are lithophytes (living on rocks) or even terrestrials.
The flowers are typically brown and yellow (thus the name bee orchid), although these days, many cultivars come in different colors.
They have a long, dominant lip, while the flowers grow in large sprays. The leaves are oblong, oval, and usually thin.
The foliage color is solid green. They also have big pseudobulbs that come in very handy if you want to propagate oncidium.
To choose your favorite oncidium variety, google oncidium orchids images.
Oncidium Orchid Varieties
There are a couple of hundreds of different varieties that come in different colors, shapes, and sizes.
Some of the most commonly known and seen in the gardens are oncidium leucochilum (this is the most typical one, with yellow and brownish flowers), oncidium tigrinum, oncidium floridanum, oncidium crispum, oncidium alliance, oncidium splendidum, oncidium twinkle orchid, etc.
The last one is pretty interesting, with its tiny flowers. Oncidium twinkle is kind of different because of these blooms (they need irrigation of the soil, for example).
Besides these, there is a large number of hybrids, as well. Those are crossed oncidium species.
The first hybrid of oncidium orchid was registered in 1909. Its name is oncidium illustre (oncidium laucochilum and oncidium maculatum cross).
Pro-Tip: If you aren’t an experienced gardener when it comes to orchids, and you would still like to own an oncidium orchid, I suggest buying a hybrid called oncidium sherry baby – it is great for indoors.
Blooming Oncidium Orchid
Oncidium flowers emerge from spikes or long sprays. Flowers are usually small, no longer than 10 cm. Nonetheless, they are extravagant and eye-catching.
They emerge on branches (young specimens may only have one or two branches, but as the plant grows, the number of branches expands).
The blooming occurs a couple of times a year and the flowers last for six weeks or so. Once the flowering process is over, you can cut off the old spikes – they won’t rebloom. Cut them just at the place where they produce foliage.
Sunlight Requirements for Oncidium Orchid Care
When you care for oncidium orchid, sunlight requirements depend on the particular species. In general, they like bright places away from direct sunlight.
Still, once you buy the plant, make a small research about it, so you know how to keep it thriving. Some species prefer semi-shaded places, while others like being placed on a windowsill.
The general rule is – the thicker the leaves, the more sunlight oncidium needs. Also, diffused light is always the best option when it comes to oncidium orchid care.
Just place some curtains on the windows, but make sure they are bright-colored. Dark colors will completely stop the sunlight from passing through.
This way, your orchid oncidium will get the filtered light it needs.
Also, if you have decided to place the pot on a windowsill, it is for the best of you to protect oncidium from direct sunlight during the peak hours from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
This is of extreme importance if you live in a hot area!
Oncidium Orchid Temperature Requirements
I have already mentioned that different oncidium species tolerate different temperatures.
Some are tropical and subtropical plants, while others live in high altitudes in much cooler temperatures.
The most widely spread oncidium variety (the yellowish one), likes moderate room temperatures. Still, never let the temperature fall below 15 degrees Celsius.
Some growers suggest that this variety can hold onto even colder temperatures, not lower than 10 degrees Celsius, but I don’t suggest that kind of experimenting.
Of course, cold drafts are strictly forbidden!
You can stimulate the blooming process with orchids by using a difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures.
Because of this, the ideal temperature during the night is between 15 and 19 degrees Celsius, while the daytime temperature range is from 21 to 30 degrees Celsius.
Never let the temperatures go higher than that – it may cause leaf yellowing and other problems.
Watering Oncidium Orchids
Oncidiums like a little bit more water than average orchids.
You can water them daily or every second day during spring and summer because that is the growing period.
Gradually decrease the watering, and do it only twice a month during the winter.
Still, like any other orchid species, oncidium isn’t tolerant to overwatering, so never let the potting medium become waterlogged!
Also, try not to place the roots in water. This one is logical since they commonly live on tree branches in nature while collecting the humidity from the air through their roots.
Don’t forget that oncidium has massive pseudobulbs which act as water storage. On the other hand, if they become wrinkled, it is because the plant isn’t getting enough water.
Always let the potting medium become almost dry (except during the growing season). Here is a trick to know how dry the potting mix is.
Take a wooden pencil and stick it into the potting mix.
When you take the pencil out, you will see that the wooden part is either the same color or has turned a little darker.
If it is darker, it means the potting mix is still moist. Wait for a couple of days and repeat the action.
What type of Water to Use for Oncidium Orchid Care?
Orchids are very sensitive to chemicals found in tap water. Chlorine may cause leaf yellowing and other problems. To prevent this, use rainwater. If you can’t collect it, use distilled water.
If you don’t like the idea of using distilled water (after all, it is more expensive than tap water), there is a third solution.
Take the used plastic and glass bottles (recycling at its finest) and fill them with tap water. Place them outside, without the bottle cap, under the direct sunlight.
The harmful substances will evaporate in a few days. You can use this technique for all of your house plants. Also, watering during the night isn’t advised, especially when it comes to orchids.
Click here to find out why you shouldn’t water indoor plants at night.
Pro-Tip: Because the pseudobulbs are large, they are prone to rotting. If you notice that a pseudobulb is starting to rot, prune it immediately. You must use a sterilized sharp tool and sterilize it before every cut. It can transfer the small, microdose of rot to another stem and infect it that way. Also, reduce watering if you notice the pseudobulbs are getting rotten.
Humidity Requirements for Oncidium Orchid Care
Regarding humidity, oncidium is different than other orchid species – it likes lower levels of humidity. Average humidity between 30 and 60% is ideal.
To raise the level of humidity, you can place the pot on a tray filled with moist pebbles. The evaporating water will preserve the humidity.
You can buy a humidifier, as well. Here are some tips to help you choose the best humidifier.
Of course, occasional misting is welcome. Still, there are a lot of questions when it comes to misting orchids.
Personally, I think it can only do good if you do it the right way. Namely, you should avoid every part of the plant except for the foliage. Otherwise, you will cause rottenness.
Oncidium Orchid Soil Requirements
When it comes to oncidium care, the right soil choice is essential. You must use a soilless potting medium. Choosing the right oncidium potting mix is of massive importance.
Oncidium is an epiphyte, and you can often see it living on and hanging from tree branches, for example.
Now, when growing like this, the roots don’t touch the soil at all and they are constantly in touch with the air around them.
These are exactly the conditions you want to recreate – provide a well-drained soil mix (bark and peat moss based) and a great airflow.
Needless to say, oncidium orchid potting mix must never be waterlogged.
Fertilizing Oncidium Orchids
When it comes to oncidium care, additional feeding is required. Always use one of the special orchid fertilizers.
Most of them are liquid, and in my experience, they have been proven to be the best solution so far. During the growing season, fertilize approximately twice a month.
There is no need for feeding during the winter, while in autumn you can do it once a month.
Another important thing – since oncidium species vary in size, remember the golden rule: the bigger the plant, the more fertilizing it requires.
Repotting Oncidium Orchid
Repotting Oncidium Orchid isn’t hard at all. All you need is a new container, a pruning tool, and a good mood.
In general, they aren’t fast growers and you won’t need to re-pot the plant for at least two to three years.
Don’t worry if you notice that the roots have overgrown the container – it is natural for orchids. When repotting oncidium orchids, choosing the right container is very important.
Never use a too-large container, make it bigger only by size.
The roots are strong and tangled up, so there is no need to stimulate them to grow more than they already do.
Take the plant out of the old container, remove all the potting mix and place the plant in a new pot.
Nicely tuck in the potting medium, but not too hard, as you don’t want to damage the airflow.
The best time of the year for repotting oncidium orchid is springtime.
Propagating Oncidium Orchid
In the process of oncidium orchid repotting, you can make a couple of small baby plants, as well. Once you have taken the orchid out of the container, carefully divide the pseudobulb clumps.
Make sure you don’t damage the roots. You should have at least three pseudobulbs in each bulk.
After that, place the plant in a new container which shouldn’t be too big! Don’t water the plant for a week and after that, water abundantly.
Still, even though you won’t water it until the plant forms new roots, the plant should be in a high-humidity is environment.
If you need some help, here is the ultimate list of propagation hacks!
Common Problems of Oncidium Orchid Care
Let’s take a look at some of the most common problems you can find while growing your own Oncidium orchid.
I feel like God created orchids and right after that, overwatering. No orchid grower in the world hasn’t overwatered their green friend at least once.
If this happens to you as well, don’t worry, but try to solve the problem as soon as possible. See whether the roots have started to rot already.
If they have, you won’t be in doubt – they will be dark brown and even black, slimy and soggy.
If they are rotten, take the plant out of the container, remove the potting medium, and prune the rotten parts.
After that re-pot, the plant in a fresh potting medium and don’t water it for some time.
Pro-Tip: If you notice that you have overwatered your plant, but the potting medium isn’t waterlogged, there is a trick to help you dry out the potting mix. Just crush some charcoal and put it into the potting medium. Active charcoal is great for water-absorbing features. Besides, it prevents pests from appearing and infections and diseases from spreading, so it will do nothing but good for your oncidium orchids.
First of all, I need to point up one thing – leaf yellowing and falling off is normal.
If you see that the bottom layers of the leaves are getting yellow and eventually falling off, it is the plant’s natural way of rejuvenating.
But, if the upper layers are getting yellow as well, you are not doing something right.
Most Common Reasons for Leaf Yellowing
Now, there are a lot of reasons for orchid leaf yellowing.
One of the main problems can be too much exposure to direct sunlight. If this is the reason, simply find another pace for the pot.
Still, keep in mind that orchids can be very sensitive to relocating, so try to find the best place for it and leave it there.
Too low or too high temperatures may be causing the same effect. Follow the general rules in the ‘Temperature’ section to avoid this issue. Relocation is usually the solution to this problem.
Of course, overwatering is one of the reasons for leaf yellowing, but I have already talked about it.
Another less common cause of leaf yellowing can be relocating the pot. Orchids are sensitive to external conditions and can react in a bad way if you relocate them from a place they used to ‘like’.
In this case, you’ll have to decide on your own what to do, simply because sometimes it happens that the plant adjusts to the new conditions, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Overfertilizing can cause leaf yellowing as well. Too many chemicals can stop the roots from absorbing enough water. This way, the plant is slowly dying.
On the other hand (and ironically enough), underfeeding can cause the same effect.
Still, since this variety of orchids doesn’t require much fertilizing, you should be aware of the lack of food.
Hard water and chemicals found in the tap water can harm your oncidium and lead to leaf yellowing, as well. To prevent this from happening, read the pro-tip in the ‘Watering Requirements’ section.
All orchids are prone to pests because of their high humidity requirements. If you notice that the leaves are becoming mushy, it is probably a sign of pests.
Fungal and bacterial diseases will cause a change of leaf color and other issues. Just use insecticidal soap to get rid of them.
Visit your local flower shop and find that is suitable for orchids.
In the end, I would like to mention that different pests usually cause leaf change, like yellow or brown leaves.
This is usually how the growers find out their plants have pests – leaf problems.
For more advice when it comes to orchid care, visit the link.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often do Oncidium orchids bloom?
This, too, depends on the particular variety. In general, they bloom a few times a year, two or three times.
The most abundant blooming period is usually in autumn and spring.
The change in nighttime and daytime temperatures stimulates the process, so if you like to enjoy the flowers, carefully read the ‘Temperature’ paragraph.
Are used coffee grounds good for Oncidium orchid care?
Maybe you’ve heard that used coffee grounds can be used as an excellent fertilizer for some house plants. Well, this is actually true!
But it is not advised to use them for other species, except for orchids and African violets. You can add some to the potting medium.
Should I prune the spikes after blooming?
The process of blooming occurs a couple of times a year. Once it is over, the dry spikes stay attached to the plant.
You can prune them, as they won’t rebloom again. Still, when pruning, always cut in the foliage level – right where the stem is releasing the leaves.
Oncidium orchid is one of the most extravagant orchid species. It originates from Central and South America and lives at different altitudes.
Now, when it comes to its requirements, it can be a little high-maintenance but provides beautiful flowers in exchange.
It likes a lot of filtered sunlight and an average level of humidity (from 30 to 60&).
The room temperature should be moderate – between 21 and 30 degrees Celsius during the daytime, and a bit lower during the night (from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius).
The temperature difference stimulates the blooming process.
When it comes to watering, do it almost every day during the growing period for the rest of the year, a couple of times a month is enough.
The potting mixture should be specialized for orchids – porous, well-drained, and soilless.
Fertilize twice a month during the growing season and once during the rest of the year.
Repotting shouldn’t be done often – wait for at least two or three years.
Common problems include the usual orchid problems, such as pests and overwatering.
Although it might seem a little hard because there are too many requirements coming from oncidium orchids, once you get into the whole process, it is very easy to care for them and encourage them to prosper and thrive.