Q) I’m intrigued by Oncidium orchids. Are they as easy to grow as Phals? Trish B.

A) The look of a Dancing Lady orchid is exotic. Each flower is a masterpiece and the best the
industry has to offer.

Oncidiums remind me of my parents who, in their eighties, are competitive ballroom dancers.
My mother is truly a Dancing Lady. She even makes her own dresses. Their basement has floor-
to-ceiling mirrors, hard wood floors, a sound system, and a disco ball! My father performs
wearing a tuxedo and she adorns a glamorous gown. Sometimes, unbeknownst to the audience,
there is a second dress hiding under the first! This surprise stitching arrangement is called a
breakaway dress and always is a crowd pleaser.

Here are three hybrids worth investing in. All are considered easy to grow and have been
around for many years. Expect tall spikes (up to 30 inches) that last for 6 weeks or more. These
plants have been cloned and widely distributed so their blossoms are easily recognizable. The
Oncidium family of orchids is broad and contains many close relatives whose growth habit is
similar. Examples include Miltonia (Pansy), Brassia (Spider), and Odontoglossom.

1. Winter Wonderland – VERY large snowy star-shaped blossoms characterize this
stunning hybrid whose flowers rival the size of standard Phalaenopsis! Often there are
two and occasionally three flower spikes – each one with 6 to 10 puffy buds that open
in succession over several weeks. Subtle burgundy speckles surround the center of the
throat. Technically, this hybrid is a combination of three different genera. The reason that
the flowers are so large is that the breeding includes Odontoglossom – a large flowered
cool growing orchid. Fortunately, Winter Wonderland can take our hot summers thanks
to another parent plant, Brassia. Despite the seasonally suggestive name, don’t be
surprised if this plant blooms in the summer. The Oncidium family is free spirited when it
comes to blooming season!

2. C.M. Fitch – large star shaped flowers with beige polka dotted petals and a pastel pink
throat describe this lovely creation. The flower spikes arch gracefully over the floppy
leaves – each boasting up to a dozen buds. Technically, a Miltassia is a combination of
Miltonia (Pansy) and Brassia (Spider). The flowers have the ‘creepy look’ and subtle
fragrance of a Brassia but with the much wider throat and longevity of a Miltonia.

3. Wildcat – a descriptive name indeed – with tiger-like varieties such
as ‘Leopard’, ‘Jaguar’, and ‘Ocelot’ that give away the coloring – yellow or white
striping against a dark background. There is even a solid burgundy variety ‘Chadwick’
which in the 1990’s was awarded the prestigious Award of Merit from the American
Orchid Society. Wildcat is a tried and true hybrid that re-blooms year after year and
sports rich dark green foliage. The flowers are relatively small – only 1.5” wide but there
are dozens on many branches. The tag says Odontocidium which is a combination of
Odontoglossom and Oncidium. The diminutive blossoms and warm tolerance can be
attributed to the Oncidium parent.

Few orchids are as easy to grow as Phalaenopsis which only require low light in order to bloom
for months. However, every moth blossom looks just like the next in terms of shape and style.
Sometimes the public craves something a little different. From a growing standpoint, Oncidiums
require a little more light than Phals and prefer to be outside for the summer. Expect many repeat
performances from these Dancing Ladies.

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 17:15