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Oncidium Orchid

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Oncidium vs. Phalaenopsis care

Oncidiums are a large and diverse species of orchid. With over 600 varieties. Like the Phalaenopsis, Oncidiums are an excellent choice for beginner orchid growers. Oncidiums do well in the windowsill. Some say they do even better in a home environment than they do a greenhouse because humidity levels are lower.

Discover how easy it is to care for an Oncidium orchid

ONCIDIUM ORCHIDS

Water

Unlike Phalaenopsis orchids, Oncidiums are sympodial. This means that they grow from a rhizome rather from a single stem. Another difference is that they have pseudobulbs where they store water. These pseudobulbs should be firm and smooth.  While in active growth, meaning you can see roots and leaves growing, keep the orchid well watered. When not in active growth allow the Oncidium to dry out a bit between watering. This is a bit different watering approach than the Phal. Because the Phal  doesn’t have water storage it should never completely dry out.

Orchid Anatomy and Terminology

Help for Defining Orchid Terms

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oncidium - pseudobulbs

Pseudobulbs store water for the Oncidium.

Light

Oncidiums appreciate bright, indirect light. 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.

Humidity

If you own both an Oncidium and a Phalanenopsis, one of the first things you probably observed was how different their leaves are. Phalaneopsis leaves are much thicker than that of Oncidium leaves. If the leaves on your Oncidium look pleated one cause may be lack of humidity, or it may just be a poor cultivar.

Air Circulation

You may also notice dark spotting on the leaves. These black or brown spots are likely caused by bacteria. Do not be alarmed; spotting is pretty normal. Increasing air circulation with a fan pointed away from your orchids will help alleviate the spotting.

Water

As stated above, Oncidiums are prone to spotting on their leaves. In addition to good air flow, taking care to keep water of the leaves when watering may also help to prevent leaf spotting.

 Roots

Both Oncidium and Phalaneopsis can grow aerial roots, though Oncidium roots are much thinner than Phalaenopsis roots. Always leave these aerial roots alone. Do not tidy them up by trimming them away. Just accept them and let them do their thing.

Fragrance

One notable difference between Phalanenopsis and Oncidiums is that several Oncidium varieties have a delightful fragrance. Sharry Baby is known for its chocolate-like aroma. Twinkle is another variety with a lovely scent.

Sharry Baby - Oncidium - fragrant orchid

Sharry Baby has a distinct chocolate aroma.

Blooming

Oncidiums can put forth an amazing profusion of flowers, but once the flower stalk is done blooming, it’s done. The Phalaenopsis may continue to bloom off the same stalk for months on end. I have one Phalaenopsis that was in bloom for a solid year. After several months, or even a year, you’ll see flower stalks begin to emerge on your Oncidium.

oncidium - dancing ladies

Oncidiums can put on a spectacular show of flowers.

Enjoy

Oncidium orchid varieties do well in a home environment. If you’re used to growing Phalaenopsis orchids, remember that Oncidiums prefer more light and have pseudobulbs, making them more drought tolerant than the Phalaenopsis.

Growth Patterns of Monopodial and Sympodial Orchids 

Knowing this will help you better water and pot your orchids.

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How to RePot an Orchid: A Beginners Guide

For optimum health, repot your orchid every 1-2 years. Come learn how.

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7 Comments
  1. Rosin says:

    I live in IRELAND, and love growing my orchids; they give great joy.They are the first thing I look at every morning,
    The room I have then in is full glass floor to roof with dark roof. It gets very warm during the day light hours and the temp. drops as the sun goes down.
    I would love any help or tips! Roisin

  2. Jasmin Chiodo says:

    I’ve had 4 Oncidiums for 2 years now. Sharry Baby just finished blooming, but this time it only gave me 1 spike. Last year it had two very long spikes and lots of flowers. The flower spikes were 18 inches long. Now its only 7 inches and has only 6 flowers. I’m still waiting for my Wildcat yellow to bloom still in spikes. Can’t wait.

    1. Anna says:

      Jasmin,
      I love Sharry Baby! My recommendation for getting more flowers is to increase the amount of light Sharry Baby receives. Oncidiums are considered a medium light orchid, so you don’t want the Oncidiums to get too much light. Bright, indirect lighting is best.
      Good luck on your Wildcat! Reblooming orchids is so rewarding. Let me know if you have any more questions.
      Yours,
      Anna

  3. ROSITA says:

    I love orchids and I am so glad that I stumbled across your post on Instagram. Reading your tips has inspired me to go home and take better care of my orchids.

    Thank you I am going to try your tips and see what happens!
    Orchid Lover

    1. Anna says:

      Thank you Rosita!
      Let me know if you ever have any questions about caring for your orchids!
      Anna

  4. Dennis louie says:

    My oncidium is doing a very funny thing this year. The stem did not grow out straight. Instead it is blooming while growing it resulting in a curved and bent stem. It has been doing this for over a month and keeps having new blooms but thr stem is curled into itself.. What did I do wrong and how do I avoid this next blooming season. Help!

    1. Anna says:

      Dennis,
      I’ve experienced the same thing with a Brassia orchid. If the flower stalk is weak, your orchid may need more light. If the stalk is strong, it just grew that way naturally. If it is any comfort, when my Brassia grew other flower stalks, they were all normal. You could try staking the stalk and see if that helps.
      I hope this helps!
      Anna

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START HERE to Learn More About Caring for Orchids

Find Out What I Wish I Knew When I First Started Caring for Orchids

YES! THANK YOU!