LADIES

Central Otago Mirror - - FEATURES -

Igrow cym­bid­ium or­chids, moth or­chids, zy­gopetalum and paphio­pe­dilum or­chids, but on­cid­ium or­chids are flavour of the month right now as most are cur­rently in bloom. Oncidiums, or danc­ing ladies, are one of the largest or­chid gen­era, com­pris­ing some 750 species. Their growth habit varies con­sid­er­ably. Plants may grow from just a few cen­time­tres to more than a me­tre in height. The num­ber of flow­ers also varies, as does the colour range, although yel­low and brown are the most dom­i­nant hues. Oncidiums are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar for their ease of growth and long flow­er­ing dis­play. One of the eas­i­est to grow is On­cid­ium flex­u­o­sum, which bears masses of tiny bright yel­low flow­ers. One of the most de­li­ciously scented is On­cid­ium Sharry Baby Sweet Fra­grance, whose white-tipped, cherry red blooms smell of choco­late. While this va­ri­ety’s main bloom­ing pe­riod is around May (just in time for Mother’s Day), and again six months later, the plant of­ten blooms spo­rad­i­cally through­out the year, each flower spike last­ing six to eight weeks. A close sec­ond in the scent de­part­ment is the pink flow­er­ing On­cid­ium or­nithorhynchum. Some say it smells of choco­late, though Ross Tucker of Tucker’s Or­chids would say it smells more like pink ic­ing. The ‘‘Twin­kle’’ types are sim­i­lar: small mul­ti­coloured plants that come in yel­low, white, red or pink with per­fumes like candy, ic­ing and choco­late. As a gen­eral rule, oncidiums must be given plenty of light (not di­rect sun­light) or flow­er­ing will be in­hib­ited. The more light the more scent too, though di­rect sun­light will burn the leaves. ‘‘Leaf colour should be light green and some­times may even have a pink­ish tinge,’’ Ross says. A dark green in­di­cates not enough light; too much red in the leaves in­di­cates too much light. Oncidiums like an av­er­age night-time tem­per­a­ture of around 12 de­grees Cel­sius, and hu­mid­ity about 60 per cent in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity of the plant, as well as good air cir­cu­la­tion or ven­ti­la­tion with­out there be­ing cold draughts. Hu­mid­ity may be in­creased by plac­ing plant pots on saucers filled with peb­bles and water. Oncidiums like to be­come rea­son­ably dry be­tween wa­ter­ings. ‘‘Oncidiums love it when there is a rapid al­ter­na­tion of wet and dry con­di­tions,’’ Ross says. ‘‘For this rea­son they of­ten do well grown on slabs where they can be wa­tered daily and dry rapidly.’’ Oncidiums are not heavy feed­ers. They are best fed at least once a month, although a spe­cialised or­chid food may be ap­plied weekly while plants are ac­tively grow­ing. Most oncidiums re­quire a short rest pe­riod from water and feed­ing af­ter flow­er­ing. Re­pot­ting should take place at least ev­ery sec­ond year. ‘‘Per­fo­rated plas­tic pots or clay pots are ideal as the roots can dry quickly, prevent­ing spot­ting of the flow­ers and leaves,’’ says Ross says. ‘‘Keep the pots on the small side. Bark mixes are usu­ally sat­is­fac­tory.’’

Pop­u­lar: Oncidiums, or danc­ing

ladies, are one of the largest or­chid gen­era, com­pris­ing some

750 species.

Cym­bid­ium or­chids

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