Apartment plants

Dancer orchid - Oncidium

Oncidium Orchid

To the genus Oncidium belong hundreds of species of orchids originating from the Caribbean islands and from Central and South America; in fact at one time there were almost seven hundred species of oncidium, with the deepening of studies on this genus but many species have been reclassified into genres apart. There are many species and not all of them have the same crop needs; some species produce small swollen pseudobulbs, others have rhizomatous roots; the foliage is rounded and fleshy, or ribbon-like, or even fan-shaped, depending on the species, but always in a bright green color. If the foliage of yours oncidium it tends to become bronze-colored, meaning that you have exposed it to excessive light.
In spring they produce long stems, sometimes branched, which bear numerous flowers of various sizes, usually in the lathes of yellow or orange. In addition to the countless species there are also many hybrids and cultivars.

General characteristics

The oncidium is an orchid of extraordinary beauty due to the large quantity and long duration of the flowers arranged in clusters, with streaks of different colors. The oncidium they are epiphytic and terricolous orchids, originating in the 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 rounded or flattened shape, which originate from rhizomes with horizontal development and generally carry two or three leaves at the end.
The numerous species (from 400 to 600) vary greatly in size, foliage and crop needs. There are some very large and some rather small species. They can have a single leaf or several leaves, leathery, thin or even cylindrical.
The flowering stems develop at the base of the pseudobulbs and can reach a considerable height, they carry abundant clusters of flowers, sometimes perfumed and almost always yellow, with speckles of different shapes and dark colors.

Oncidium for short


Gender Oncidium
Type of plant From flowers
Origin Central and South America
Foliage Persistent
Habit Standing or hanging
Use Flowering plant or cut plant
Height at maturity It depends on the species
Growth rate slow
Diseases and pests Mealybugs, red spider and snails

How to grow it

Ballerina orchid plants in general are species of amateurs, and are not always good in the apartment. Each species has special needs, but in general all the oncidiums like to be grown in a place that is not too hot, with very moist and very ventilated air.
To achieve such a climate it is often necessary to use a humidifier to be placed near plants.
Many species of ballerina orchid in winter go through a period of dormancy in winter, during which they prefer cool temperatures, between 10 and 15 ° C, in order to vegetate at best. During the summer months they can live even with higher temperatures, although most species do not like the extreme heat, and it is therefore advisable to cultivate them in a place sheltered from the direct sun.
Oncidium is an orchid that is quite easy to grow even in geographical areas with climatic conditions different from those in tropical areas. The ideal environment for the oncidium is the temperate greenhouse, but it can be kept in the apartment by using some tricks, and in summer it can be moved outdoors. The needs in terms of temperature and environmental humidity vary a lot, so it is advisable to opt for species that can be grown at temperatures that can be easily reproduced in the apartment. Regarding ideal temperatures, they vary according to the species. Generally, temperatures between 130-150 degrees at night and 180-220 degrees during the day are recommended. Recommended is the temperature range between day and night of at least 50 degrees.
Oncidium can be grown in pots or on bark or cork rafts, and if they are kept in pots the soil must be aerated and ensure excellent drainage.


Many species live in places that are not too rainy, and do not require excessively frequent watering; for this reason generally the oncidium are watered only when the growing substratum is perfectly dry, and it is often better to avoid watering them rather than wetting them once too often; above all they do not like watering during the vegetative rest period.
Generally the oncidiums that love watering the least are those that have pseudobulbs, while the rhizomatous species more often love slightly more frequent watering, always avoiding however leaving the substratum moist for a long time.

Oncidium cultivation


Medium difficulty
Maintenance Average
Exposure Sunlight shielded
Ground Draining
Water needs Average
watering Abundant in spring-summer, scarce in other periods
Humidity rate 40%-50%
Temperature Between 100 and 150 degrees at night and between 150 and 250 degrees during the day
Composting In the growing season
Propagation Division

Oncidium, like other orchids, loves humidity, so it is necessary to vaporize it regularly during the development of pseudobulbs, ie in spring and summer.
Water for watering must be non-calcareous, possibly using rainwater. An insufficient amount of water for a short period causes no harm, 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 before watering it again.
In spring and summer the waterings can be more abundant to stimulate growth. As with other orchids, avoid over-watering and remove the water from the saucer to prevent the roots from rotting.
To ensure that the plant is sufficiently moist, spray water on the vase and on the aerial roots, or place the vase on a grid resting on a container full of water.
The nebulisations must be rather frequent if the orchids are cultivated on a raft.

The roots of oncidium

In nature these orchids develop their roots directly exposed to the air; for this reason, oncidiums are often grown on bark rafts or on trays, where the roots remain completely in the air, and watering is provided in the form of frequent vaporisations. If we want to grow them in pots it is good to use containers with holes, so as to allow air to flow through the substrate. In nature the species of ballerina orchid are epiphytic, that is they develop among the remains of leaves present among the branches of other plants; therefore they do not need soil, but an incoherent substrate, made up of pieces of bark, bits of peat, or other material. They are repotted when the roots are too developed to remain in the previous container, in late summer or early autumn. In this time of year it is also possible to divide very large specimens, producing some portions of the bread of roots, to be repotted individually. After the division we wait a few days before watering, often vaporizing the leaves.

Orchid variety

Oncidium cheirophorum Epiphytic orchid that lives between 1000 and 2500 m of altitude. With thin, lanceolate leaves, and a flowering stem with many yellow flowers. It blooms in autumn. It can be grown in pots or on rafts. In pot it is advisable to use a soil with pine bark, peat and sphagnum.
Oncidium ornithorhynchum Very easy to grow variety with pink flowers with a vanilla scent. It grows in tropical forests at an altitude between 650 m and 1500 m. It reaches a maximum height of 40 cm. It blooms in spring or winter with very yellow-pink flowers with a delicate fragrance. It can be grown in pots or on rafts. A mixture of pine bark, peat or sphagnum is recommended in pots. It must be kept in partial shade with a high environmental humidity (70%).

Repot the oncidium

Repotting takes place on average every two or three years in spring, after flowering, when the substrate has deteriorated and retains too much water, or the pot has become too small for the roots that can no longer grow and there is no space necessary for draining and air passage. You will notice if the roots are abundant and appear in all directions.
The vase should not be too large. Use a specific soil for orchids. If you intend to make the mixture yourself, use pine and sphagnum bark or sphagnum powder. But it still needs to be assured good drainage.
To extract the orchid from the pot, use the necessary care to prevent the roots from breaking. Do not pull it out forcefully, but if necessary, break the jar. You can also wet the roots many hours before they become softer and less fragile. Place the soil in a 2 cm pot larger than the previous one. Remove the dried leaves and ruined roots from the plant. Place the rhizome in the jar and the roots inside the jar, and compress the soil slightly.
The following month limit yourself to spray water every day. Then resume watering and fertilizing.
If instead you use a raft, choose one that is very irregular so that the orchid's roots can easily anchor there. Submit it to a disinfection process. Meanwhile, prepare the orchid by placing some roots on the sphagnum moss previously. Place it on the raft, fixing it with strips of a material that is fairly elastic and does not break, for example you can use nylon stockings. Do not over tighten so that the plant is given the necessary freedom and opportunity to grow. Arrange the plant according to your needs: if it grows upwards or rather horizontally or if it has a hanging habit. Of course orchids on rafts need frequent sprays.


The oncidium must be exposed to light, but not to direct sunlight: therefore, especially in summer, shield it with a curtain. The light must be adequately dosed because if it is insufficient, the oncidium does not bloom, if instead it is excessive, it can burn the leaves.

Oncidium flowering

The flowering period varies depending on the species. It generally occurs between autumn and spring, and lasts about a month. The floral buds are born spontaneously at the base of the pseudobulb when it reaches maturity. A good flowering derives from a sufficient amount of watering and light. Flowering is stimulated by a decrease in night 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 in the summer between 150-250 degrees and in winter between 100-150 degrees. Environmental humidity must reach 40% -50%. The way to ensure the plant an adequate level of environmental humidity is to place the pot in a saucer in which it has been placed with expanded clay and water. The bottom of the pot must rest on the expanded clay and must not come into contact with water. Moisture is created by the evaporation of water placed in the saucer.
Generally the oncidium prefers the heat so in summer it is possible to place it outside in a sheltered place protected from sunlight.

Soil and fertilization

The soil must be light and porous, and to allow for root aeration the grain size must be large. Use pine bark, balls of expanded clay, polystyrene and sphagnum that will avoid water stagnation.
Give fertilizer for orchids with high nitrogen content every two weeks during the growing period, using half the recommended dose. Then replace it with a fertilizer with a lower percentage of nitrogen and a higher content of phosphorus and potassium.

Reproduce the oncidium

Propagation occurs by dividing the heads. At the time of repotting divide the plant into several parts, each of which is provided with some shoots. You can also use pseudobulbs by detaching them from the plant and putting them in smaller pots with a moist and draining substrate. After a few weeks or a few months the new shoots will appear.

Dancer orchid - Oncidium: Pests and diseases

The oncidium is rather resistant and less subject to the diseases that affect other orchids. It is necessary, however, to pay attention to the watering to prevent an excessive dose of water or lack of ventilation to rot the roots.
The main enemies of the oncidium are cochineals and the red spider: it is possible to eliminate them manually or treat the plant with specific products. It is possible to 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 water on the oncidium and place the pot in a saucer in which you will have place some balls of clay and water.
If the plant is placed outside, a threat is also represented by snails that can settle in the pots and devour the ends of the roots.