Guest Author - Susan Taylor
Among the easiest of orchids to grow, the "Dancing Ladies" are among the most popular. Members of the Oncidium family, the common name comes from the shape of the flower which resembles a lady with her arms outstretched on the top with a skirt-shaped lip below. See if you can see the resemblance in this picture of Oncidium Grower Ramsey. With a slight breeze moving the blossoms, it looks like there is a whole troupe of dancers.
Among the easy-to-grow yellow Oncidiums, Grower Ramsey and Sweet Sugar are cultivars you should consider. Look for varieties with relatively short -- 18 inch or 45 centimetre -- inflorescences with multiple side branches. Some older varieties simply put out one long inflorescence with no branching and are difficult to control. They are also sometimes available in cream, light yellow and white flowered varieties.
Another Dancing Lady is the ever-popular Sharry Baby one of the best selling Oncidiums of all time. The flowers are much smaller than the yellow varieties, although the shape is similar. The big selling point for Sharry Baby is the wonderful fragrance. It varies from chocolate to vanilla depending upon variety. They have many many blossoms and can perfume a whole room. It is often possible to find this variety at grocery stores, home improvement stores and florists in the Unites States. There are many similar red and white Oncidiums with similar growth habits that will put on a wonderful show for you with great fragrance. I have an Oncidium Rosy Sunset, from Parkside Orchids that is about to bloom on seven inflorescences and I expect at least a hundred tiny pink and red dancers. (Scroll down to find the specific plant.) This cultivar has more of a sweet floral fragrance than the chocolate of Sharry Baby.
The Oncidiums which make up the "Dancing Lady" group are fairly easy to grow with the exception that they need good humidity. Weekly watering with a good orchid fertilizer is also recommended. A couple of hours of sun each day will keep them happy and once a week watering if grown in the home. Outside plants will need more water during the summer. It is easy to determine if they are getting enough water because the large flattish pseudobulbs will start to wrinkle. If this happens to your plant, water a bit more -- they will plump right back up. Burned or very light leaves will indicate too much light; dark green leaves indicate too little light. The leaf color should be a nice light green in order to give the plant enough to encourage blooming. The inflorescences will appear at the bottom of the new pseudobulbs from the inside of the leaf on both sides of the bulb. If you've treated your plant just right you should get two inflorescences from each new pseudobulb. They should be repotted every couple of years after flowering when the media begins to break down in the pots.