The Journal of the Canadian Orchid Congress
Le Journal de la Fédération Canadienne des Sociétés Orchidophiles

coclogo news

Volume 5.1
January 1993

Editor: Annette Bagby

6th Canadian Orchid Congress, Nanaimo 1993

I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone in Nanaimo, I hope your club got all the information about the CVIOS Show and COC meeting.

The dates are MARCH 5, 6 and 7
LOCATION : Beban Park Recreation Center, 2300 Bowen Road, Nanaimo.
CONTACT Gabriela Sartisohn. Box 1061, Nanaimo, B.C. V9R 5Z2 phone day: 604-755-3469
home phone/fax 604-248-2310

See you there!


Roll Call

Minutes of last meeting.

President's report

Treasurer's report

Auditor's report

Education Committee report

Editor's report and Species List report

Election of new officers

New business.

All voting representatives from member clubs should come with complete update of names, addresses, and phone numbers of their executive.

Fees become due at the annual meeting.

Phenomenal Phrags!

Kenneth J. Girard

During the past few years I have seen a growing interest in tropical slipper orchids. Partially this interest is a result of the species being put on CITES Appendix I, but also it is due to their ease of culture and very rewarding flowers which come in several sizes and colors. For many years Paphiopedilums have been common in most of our collections but the exotic western hemisphere slipper orchids known as Phragmipediums are not that common and can be difficult to obtain at the best of times and one comes across them more by accident than anything else.

The slipper orchids belong to the sub section Cypripediaea in the orchid family. This is one of the more primitive groups of orchids. Paphs. and Phrags. have reduced rhizomes (except for Phrag. besseae, Phrag. pearcei and others of the himantopetalum section), none of them have pseudobulbs and most have several leaves arranged alternately in a loose fan. The inflorescence is produced from within the leaves at the apical meristem (growing point). Once a growth has matured and flowered the growth itself will no longer continue to grow, but one or possibly several side growths will emerge from its base and continue the wonderful process all over again, much the same way as a common garden iris grows.

Phragmipediums differ from Paphiopedilums in several ways. The name Phragmipedium means three chambered which refers to the ovary having three distinct locules (chambers) in it, which are separated by walls within the ovary, most orchid seed pods (capsules) do not have these walls. The lip on Phragmipediums curves in at the opening, Paphiopedilum lips do not. The plants themselves tend to look grassy or sedge like, particularly Phrag. pearcei. Phrag. besseae is an exception which looks like a Paphiopedilum vegetatively but certainly not floral wise. Phragmipediums can be quite small, as in Phrag. pearcei, to relatively large as in the case of several Phrag. caudatum or Phrag. longifolium hybrids. A friend of mine refers to her Phrag. Rosy Gem as something that looks like a cross between a cymbidium and a bullrush as far as the foliage goes, of course the flowers are much more spectacular than such a cross, if possible, would ever be. Phragmipediums like to be kept evenly moist, not soaking wet but definitely not dry either. Most of them grow in areas where there is a lot of seepage from the ground or small springs. Others grow along river banks just above the high water mark. I grow my plants in plastic pots which I place in shallow trays or saucers to keep approxiamately a 1/2" water at the base of the pot, I do not water again until the water has evaporated. Upon lifting several of my plants out of their trays of water I have noticed that most of them have grown roots right out of the bottom of the pot into the water with no ill effects. Phrag. schlimii and it's hybrids respond very well to this type of culture throughout the year.

Most people grow their Phragmipediums in fine to medium grade fir bark and usually add some chopped New Zealand or native sphagnum moss to the mix. I also add charcoal to the compost so that the drainage is not impeded when the bark starts to break down. Phragmipediums are heavier feeders than Paphiopedilums. When growing, which seems to be most of the year, phrags require fertilizer, especially if you are watering them with rain water. A balanced fertilizer such as Peter's or Dyna-Grow will do fine. Some literature recommends fertilizing them every watering from March to October at about 1/2 strength. This seems a bit strong, so I try to fertilize my plants every other watering at 1/4 strength. I have added tree fern fibre to the potting mix therefore the plants get some nutrients from that as it breaks down as well as the fertilizing. Some growers have reported that Phrag. besseae does not like heavy fertilizing, sighting leaf tip burn, dieback and eventual plant loss as a result of over fertilizing. If the tips of the leaves of your plants are brown and dry it may be due to excess fertilizing, not enough water or possibly root loss. If your plants are doing well do not change anything, I know of one grower who burnt the leaves on their plants by trying a home made recipe for a hydroponic type of fertilizer, unfortuneatly they tried this on all of their plants at one time. If you want to try something new or different with your plants, only try it with a few expendable ones (as if any phrag is expendable) such as divisions to see if the plants are going to react in any way. One thing to watch out for is root rot, with the amount of water that these plants like it is easy to get root problems if you neglect to repot every year or two. Most Phragmipediums when healthy will outgrow their containers in a year or two so there is little to no worry of rot problems in the smaller plants, but when the plants finally get up to specimen size care should be taken not to let the potting media get too broken down. It is best to repot after flowering, but with some of these plants that is almost never because as soon as one inflorescence has finished producing flowers another comes along to replace it from another growth. Many of these plants can be in bloom for most of the year when well grown.

Phragmipediums require brighter light than Paphiopedilums do, almost as much light as Cattleyas, around 2500 ft candles. The leaves should be a bright greeny; if dark forest green the plants are probably receiving too little light or too much nitrogen fertilizer (especially if the plants are not blooming well). If the leaves are yellow then probably too much light. You do not want to burn the leaves of your plants and they should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Phrags do well under artificial lights, a set up using four fluorescent tubes works well as do the 1000 watt high intensity lights. The problem with growing most phrags under fluorescent lights is the height of their inflorescences - they usually grow into or past the lights. Flower quality and quantity may be reduced when growing phrags under lights.

Intermediate temperatures seems to suit phrags well. As most come from montaine regions in nature they do enjoy cooling down at night and a slightly cooler rest period in winter. Day temperatures should be around 23 celcius and nights 15 celcius for most of the growing season.

Most of the species of Phragmipediums are quite dramatic on their own and hybridizing has helped to create many spectacular plants that mother nature did not. Of all the species, Phragmipedium caudatum is one of the most popular. It has very long petals which have been recorded up to seventy cm long. The flowers are usually white or beige with tan, green, yellow or red markings. This group of phragmipediums, section Phragmipedium, open all of their flowers over a short period of time so a plant may have anywhere from one to five flowers open at once on an inflorescence depending on the plants health and vigor. All species in this section have extended petals. Other species are Phrag. wallisii, Phrag. warscewiczianum and Phrag. lindenii (a pouchless species considered by some to be a variant of Phrag. caudatum). These phrags grow as semi-epiphytes in nature. They enjoy moisture but must have good air movement among the roots. One of the best Phrag. caudatum plants that I have seen was grown in medium sized chunks of lava rock. I believe that the lava rock afforded a lot of moisture retention while allowing for a lot of air movement around the roots of the plant. Watch for salt buildup and break down of the lava rock. As lava rock breaks down it grinds into a fine dust which collects in the bottom of the pot, impeding drainage. When used in breeding, Phrag. caudatum passes on its petal length to its progeny, particularly if the other parent has longish petals such as Phrag. caricinum, Together they create Phrag. Dominianum (Veitch, 1870). Phrag. Grande (Veitch, 1881) is another famous hybrid from Phrag. caudatum crossed with Phrag. roezlii (syn. Phrag. longifolium var. roezlii).

Another phrag which is now being highly sought after is Phrag. besseae, the scarlet harlot of the bunch. The flowers are small compared to Phrag. caudatum, but what they lack in size they more than make up for in color. There seem to be two races of this plant, one from Peru and the other from Ecuador. Plants from Peru have flowers which are orange/red in color with wider floral segments, especially the petals. The plants from Ecuador are darker red in color with thinner floral segments. As this species has only been in cultivation for a short time, compared to the other species, it's cultural requirements are still open for debate. I have seen it grown in a mix very much like a paphiopedilum mix, composed of fine fir bark, charcoal, chopped sphagnum moss and coarse perlite as this species is rhizomatous, pots should be large enough to allow for runners so that the plant can develop fully. Keeping it evenly moist and relatively cool seems to do it best in the west. Growers of this species in the east are having better success growing it warmer than most other phrag species. The leaves of Phrag. besseae are unlike any other phrag, looking more like a Paphiopedilum, being flat, moderately wide and a mid-green color. Phragmipedium besseae comes from the same group of phrags as does Phrag. schlimii.

Phrag. schlimii has been in cultivation for a very long time now. It is the species responsible for the pink hybrids such as Phrag. Sedenii (Phrag. longifolium x Phrag. schlimii, Veitch 1873), Phrag. Schroderae (Phrag. caudatum x Phrag. Sedenii, Veitch 1882), Phrag. Cardinale (Phrag. Sedenii x Phrag. schlimii, Veitch 1882) plus a host of others. As for its true identity, I have talked with many people who grow phrags and most of them and I feel that the majority of the plants in our collections labelled Phrag. schlimii are not true Phrag. schlimii but hybrids from it. At an orchid show I saw a plant in a display which was definitely a phrag, but not like any I had seen before. The flower was about 2.5 cm across, quite round in its shape, bright pink and the staminode was lemon yellow with two red spots on its apex. The label with the plant said Phrag. schlimii. The leaves were rush like in appearance. This plant's flowers did not look like any other Phrag. schlimii that I have either grown or had seen before. Upon returning home I researched this plant with the literature I had available and found out that yes indeed Phrag. schlimii was round in shape, small and had a yellow staminode. This particular plants flower was a bit smaller than is normal for the species but the color was a solid pink, not the usual soft pink with darker lip. Some of the awarded Phrag. schlimii plants have flowers which are much larger, are pale pink with dark pink pouches and white staminodes with dark pink spots. With further research I believe that some of the plants going around as Phrag. schlimii are actually Phrag. Cardinale or Phrag. Cardinal-Schlim (Phrag. Cardinale x Phrag. schlimii, Measures 1900). I have had both Phrag. schlimii 'Wilcox' AM/AOS and Phrag. Cardinale 'Westonbirt' in bloom at the same time. If the flowers were cut and placed side by side, I would find it difficult to tell the two apart. No matter what your plant is, it is quite easy to grow. Phrag. schlimii likes to have wet roots, so the tray method works really well with these plants. In nature Phrag. schlimii is found growing on the banks of streams, in seepage areas and in rock crevices with debris that is constantly moist if not wet. The flowers appear on a single or branched inflorescence, usually opening one flower at a time, giving the plant a long blooming season.

Phrag. longifolium is another popular species and is highly variable. Depending if you are a lumper or a splitter you may feel that Phrag. roezlii, Phrag. hartwegii and Phrag. hincksianum are all separate species while other people feel that they are geographical races of the same species, Phrag. longifolium. These plants are good strong growers when established, but it may take some time for that to happen if the plants are transplanted at the wrong time of the year or divided into small divisions. The flowers can be quite large due to their petal length up to 10 cm long. The petals do not droop as in Phrag. caudatum but can be held at a 45 degree angle to almost horizontal - much the same way Paph. rothschildianum holds its petals. The colors of the flowers are usually green with brown with yellow, red or white markings. One of the most beautiful hybrids using Phrag. longifolium as a parent is Phrag. Ainsworthii (Phrag. Sedenii x Phrag. longifolium, Reichenbach 1879). The soft pink from the schlimii parent comes through with the elongated petal length of the longifolium. This cross has been made several times using different forms of Phrag. Sedenii and Phrag. longifolium and has given rise to a lot of confusion in regards to it's correct identity. Some of the synonyms for Phrag. Ainsworthii are Phrag. Brownii, Phrag. Calurum (Veitch 1883) , Phrag. Pink Pearl and Phrag. Robustius. Since Phrag. Ainsworthii was registered first it is the correct name and all of the others no matter what the plants may look like are synonyms. Sander's list of orchid hybrids recognizes Phrag. Calurum as the proper name for this grex but gives the date of 1883 which is four years later than Reichenbach's registration date (Hennesey and Hedge, 1989). The AOS also uses Phrag. Calurum probably due to Sander's list. Phrag. boissierianum (alt. sp. Phrag. boissieranum; boisseranum) is apple green with very unique waving or crimping of the petal margins. Two beautiful hybrids from it are Phrag. Praying Mantis (Phrag. boissierianum x Phrag. longifolium, Stewart's 1975) and Phrag. Court Jester (Phrag. boissierianum x Phrag. caudatum, Stewart's 1977). The flowers appear sequentially in this group which is referred to as the section Lorifolia.

I have recently obtained a plant of Phrag. pearcei, one of the smaller phrags. This plant is closely related to Phrag. ecuadorense, Phrag. caricinum and Phrag. klotzscheanum and together they comprise the section known as Himantopetalum. All of these plants have dark glossy green leaves which are quite thin, giving the appearance of sedges. The flowers are smaller than most of the others and the colors are usually green, brown and white, with some yellow and red on certain clones. This whole group has well developed rhizomes compared to most Phragmipedium species and should be potted so that the rhizomes can develop on the top of the potting mix. Again there is a lot of confusion as to what is a true species and what the other ones are. If not different species are they just variants upon the theme? I have seen plants labelled Phrag. pearcei in orchid collections that are quite small, 15 cm long leaves, to plants that have leaves well over 60 cm long. Until some more work is done on these slipper orchids as far as taxonomy is concerned we may never know what is really what. Up to 1990 Phrag. caricinum has been registered as a parent only 6 times between the years 1870 - 1906 and Phrag. pearcei has only been used as a registered parent 4 times from 1980 to 1990.

Phrag. sargentianum, Phrag. lindleyanum and Phrag. kaieteurum make up the section of phrags known as Platypetalum. These plants have wider flat petals than all of the other sections except for the Micropetalum section. All are rather big plants that are robust growers. They also only open one flower at a time on their inflorescence. Inflorescence can be branched (making it a panicle) and each branch can have a flower open, resulting in a beautiful display. Phrag. sargentianum has flowers which are green in color with red on the sepals and petals. Hopefully in the future this species will be used for breeding more of such interesting and desirable hybrids such as Phrag. Sorcerer's'Apprentice (Phrag. sargentianum x Phrag. longifolium, R.B.Cole, 1986), Phrag. Demetria (Phrag. sarg. x Phrag. caudatum, D&B Mallott, 1990) and another hybrid made before the turn of the century, Phrag. Umbriel (Phrag. sarg. x Phrag. Grande, Sander). To date only 4 hybrids have been registered using Phrag. sargentianum as a parent and 8 using Phrag. lindleyanum as a parent.

There are many different hybrids out there. Most of them are very old having been made around the turn of the century or even earlier. Of the 67 registered Phragmipedium hybrids dating up to and including 1990, 57 were registered before 1907, 14 are considered synonyms for the original 57 and 10 have been registered from 1975 to 1990. Due to their increase in popularity many growers are again hybridizing Phragmipediums, creating new and exciting crosses. Phrags do not breed as easily as paphs but new hybrids are being produced today, especially with the new species that have been found in the last few years, Phrag. besseae in particular. Plants of Phrag. besseae crossed with Phrag. longifolium (Phrag. Eric Young), Phrag caudatum and Phrag. sargentianum (Phrag. Memoria Dick Clements) have been produced to name a few. Some of these crosses have bloomed and have been exhibited in shows. I have been told that they are very striking. The besseae color is coming through on the hybrids though maybe not as strong as some would like. Remember that this is only the first generation. Either breeding back onto Phrag. besseae or sib crossings of these hybrids may bring out the vibrant color of Phrag. besseae, but only time will tell.

If you have not tried Phragmipediums and would like to, do not hesitate. They are very rewarding plants that are quite easy to grow, either under lights, on a windowsill or in a greenhouse. The leaves are a glossy green which makes for an attractive plant even when not in flower. They have a long blooming period, especially the sequential bloomers and the flowers are very elegantly shaped.

List of Current Phragmipedium Species (recognized in literature) Phrag. lindenii phragmipedium Yen., Col., Ecu. caudatum var.
SpeciesSectionCountry of OriginPossible Synonyms
Phrag. caricinumhimantopetalumBol., Peru
Phrag. ecuadorense himantopetalum Ecua., Peru pearcei var.
Phrag. klotzscheanum himantopetalum Guy., Veil.
Phrag. pearcei himantopetalum Ecuador, Peru
Phrag. boissierianum lorifolia Peru
Phrag. cajamaracae lorifolia Peru boissierianum var.
Phrag. czerwiakowianum lorifolia Peru boissierianum var.
Phrag. dariense lorifolia Panama longi folium var.
Phrag. gracile lorifolia Ecuador longifolium var.
Phrag. hartwegii lorifolia Ecuador longifolium var.
Phrag. hincksianum lorifolia Costa R., Pan. longifolium m var.
Phrag. longifolium lorifolia Costa R., Pan., Ecu.
Phrag. reticulatum lorifolia Ecuador, Peru boissierianum var.
Phrag. roezlii lorifolia Costa R., Pan., Col. longifolium var.
Phrag. vittatum lorifolia Brazil
Phrag. hirtzii lorifolia new species described in Die Orchideen (awarded CBR/AOS)
Phrag. besseae micropetalum Peru
Phrag. schlimii micropetalum Colombia
Phrag. xerophiticum micropetalum Mexico *new species published in Orguidea (Mex.) 12:1-10
Phrag. caudatum phragmipedium Ecua., Peru
Phrag. wallisii phragmipedium Ecuador
Phrag. warscewiczianum phragmipedium Cen. Am., Col.
Phrag. kaieteurum platypetalum Guy., Ven. lindleyanum var.
Phrag. lindleyanum platypetalum Guy., Ven.
Phrag. sargentianum platypetalum Brazil


American Orchid Society. 1991. Awards Quarterly Vol. 22:4 pg. 194. American Orchid Society, West Palm Beach.

Baker, M. & C.. 1991. Orchid Species Culture. Timber Press, Portland.

Bechtel, Cribb and Launert. 1986. The Manual Of Cultivated Orchid Species. Blandford Press, Cambridge.

Cash, Katherine. 1991. The Slipper Orchids. Timber Press, Portland.

Curtis, C. 1950. Orchids. Harrison and Sons, London.

Garay, Leslie. 1979. The genus Phragmipedium. Orchid Digest 43:133-148.

Hawkes, Alex. 1965. Encyclopedia of Cultivated Orchids. Butler and Tanner, London.

Hennesey and Hedge. 1989. The Slipper Orchids. Acorn Press, Randburg.

Northen, Rebecca. 1990. Home Orchid Growing. 4th ed. Prentice Hall Press, New York.

Royal Horticultural Society. 1965-1990. Sander's List of Orchid Hybrids. 1961-1990, Royal Horticultural Society, London.

Royal Horticultural Society. 1991. The Orchid Review Vol 99 No. 1177. Caxton and Homesdale Press, Sevenoaks.

Royal Horticultural Society. 1992. The Orchid Review Vol 100 No. 1183. Caxton and Homesdale Press, Sevenoaks.

Sander, F. 1947. Sander's Complete List of Orchid Hybrids. Gibbs and Bamforth, St. Albans.

Sander, F. 1927. Sander's Orchid Guide. Sander's and Sons, Belgium.

Williams, B.S.. 1973. Orchid Growers Manual. Wheldon and Wesley, New York.

Orquidea (Mex.) 12:1-10

Presidents Message

Canadian Orchid Congress

As the winter storms rage on I want to wish each and everyone of you a happy and prosperous 1993. Here is hoping that this year is going to be a lot better than the last. One thing that I have found is that all people interested in plants are a hardy and resilient lot, always willing to stick it through no matter how bad it gets because there is always next year. Speaking of next year, which for the Canadian Orchid Congress starts in March because of our annual meeting, I have great hopes for the new executive which will be guiding the Canadian Orchid Congress into the future. I will have completed my term as President of the Canadian Orchid Congress as of March 7, 1993 in Nanaimo B.C.. It has been an interesting experience being President of the Canadian Orchid Congress. I certainly have met a lot of orchid growers from across Canada that I may not have met had I not had this opportunity. I have made several friendships that will be treasured well into the future and look forward to meeting more orchid friends as time goes on. Due to the hard work of people before me and confidence in the people after me I know that the Canadian Orchid Congress will continue to grow and serve the Canadian orchid grower in many ways. We are still working on Bill C-42 and hope that it will become a piece of legislation that is of help to orchid growers in Canada not a hindrance.

At the Canadian Orchid Congress meetings in Nanaimo March 5-7, 1993, see inside for details, we hope to have a rough cut of the new video being produced by Ms. Marilyn Light for the Canadian Orchid Congress. In talking with Marilyn it sounds like she and her crew have worked hard to get as much as possible on the Cypripedium reginae story as they could with the little time they had last summer. Marilyn was given the go ahead in May and immediately proceeded to get the story board, cameras and crew together to get footage of the growing plants as they came into bloom that same season. She has also included footage of other native orchids from the same area of Ontario. I am looking forward to viewing this film, it sounds interesting.

I feel that people do not get thanked enough for all of the work they do for various organizations, such as ours. It has already been two years (less 2 months) that I was elected to the position of President of the Canadian Orchid Congress, yet it seems only like yesterday. During those two years I have learned a lot, one thing is that it takes a good support network to get anything accomplished and that is what the Canadian Orchid Congress has in its current executive. Dr. Wally Thomas, who got the ball rolling, and Mr. Peter Foot, both past presidents of the Canadian Orchid Congress have lent their unwavering support to me and the Canadian Orchid Congress. Thank you for all of your guidance and input into the Canadian Orchid Congress. Dr. Nancy Tozer who has been treasurer of the Canadian Orchid Congress for several years now, will not be seeking re-election in March and she will be sorely missed, thanks Nancy for all of your hard work. Annie Cairns our secretary, thank you for keeping things organized.

My biggest vote of thanks goes to a very special person without whom I think the last two years would have been exceedingly more difficult and not nearly as much fun. She has kept this organization going along by insisting on input from all orchid societies across Canada, by way of short surveys and the species lists. She is also the voice of the Canadian Orchid Congress as she is our Editor, Mrs. Annette Bagby. On all of my trips out to Ontario, to attend orchid happenings Annette and her family (Mac and Duff included) were my gracious hosts and chauffeurs. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with them and no, she never did serve me her house specialty, Smoked Chicken ala Bagby. I guess that dish is saved only for very special house guests such as Allan Moon.

There are also other people whom have helped in the background, Mr. Chuck Travis helped with the first Canadian Orchid Congress Trophy, thanks Chuck for your work in this area and Mrs. Joanne Eadie helped get the pin designed and made. Yes, we have a pin! So all of you who said that they could sell them for us, we are counting on you. They sell for $5.00 each or 10 for $45.00, put together a society order to get the discount.

The new trophy's are done. They are medallions which can be requested by the host society of an orchid show which is a member of the Canadian Orchid Congress. The beauty of this award is that it does not have any set criteria, which means that it can be used for whatever the host societies show committee feels that it is needed for. Uses in the past have been categories such as: Best Display by a Visiting Society, Best Display under 20 sq. feet, best Display by an Individual Exhibitor and many more. We now are requesting that a brief report be filled out about the Canadian Orchid Congress award as it is important to know what the award is being used for and who/what wins the award and a picture of the award winning plant or display with vital statistics. Requests for the award should be sent to me at least four months in advance.

I would also like to thank the COC reps for their hard work in spreading the news and affairs of the COC to their fellow orchidists. It is only through your input that we know what is wanted or needed by orchid growers out there, so keep up the good work, it is certainly appreciated. As for me I think I will rest for a while, ha! that will be a shock. Actually I am thinking of taking the next step in my orchid growing career and that is to become an accredited AOS orchid judge. I can never keep out of anything, as many of you know. So until I see you in Naniamo or at an orchid show. Take care and all the best.

Sincerely, Ken Girard

Growing Oncidiums

by Gordon Heaps, President, Orchid Society of Alberta, Edmonton

The "Dancing Ladies", "Spider Orchids", "Equitants", "Mule eared" and Pseudobulb Oncidiums all belong to a delightful genus containing over 600 different species of ORCHIDS. This huge group of orchids is as varied in flower, size, color and culture as the many names imply. Don't panic, they can and should be grown by everyone on the windowsill, under light or in a greenhouse. Guaranteed there is a species or hybrid that you can succeed with. You must however give them the required cultural and climatic conditions that are similar to their native growing area.

Did you know that Oncidium onustum actually can be found growing epiphytically on prickly pear cactus in the desert of Equador. You can imagine how much water this species requires during the dry months.

Of the 600 species identified to date I have tried growing 60 (10% of the known ones). Through much trial and error and some losses, lots of reading and plenty of luck I have developed the following system and schedule for growing these orchids.

As with any genus of orchids you grow it is essential to try to match the climatic conditions of the native habitat for each type of orchid. The sections that the Oncidiums are grouped in were taken from the Wellington Orchid Society book "Oncidium Orchid Culture". This small reference has been a very valuable guide to my Oncidium growing experiences. Because my experience is presently limited to only sixty species, I will limit the information in this article to those species I have flowered.

Some general guidelines on getting started with Oncidium growing before I start with specific details on climatic conditions necessary.


Oncidiums are generally epiphytic so mounting will work for most species (all that I have tried). I have grown oncidiums on cork, tree fern slabs, hardwood pieces, and even cedar shingles. If enough moisture is provided the roots will grow extensively. As with any mounting process there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, it is essential when you try to establish a plant on the mounting slab, the existing roots be in close contact with the slabs. I do not like adding sphagnum moss as it stays top wet for me, but prefer to press the pseudobulbs tightly into the mount with the aid of wreath pins (see line drawing). After mounting the slab should be thoroughly soaked and kept moist till new roots start to grow. This will mean misting at least once per day. Some species of oncidiums must be mounted (rather than potted) as they are climbing types and will simply grow out of the. pot. For example, 0. crispum and 0. flexuosium. Just a note, curtain hooks (see drawing) work well to hang mounted orchids.


As with all orchids we pot them for convenience and to make things easier to maintain. Over the last few years I have gradually moved through a wide range of potting media, trying light rock, bark, charcoal, sphagnum moss, tree fern and combinations of the above. I now grow most of my potted oncidiums in tree fern fiber (the only exceptions are the oncidiums in section Glanduligera which I grow in charcoal).

For potting oncidium orchids use the same procedure as with any orchid. Plant at the correct depth (do not bury the crown or pseudobulbs). Firm the media around the roots but do not press hard on any roots. Use rhizome clips to secure the plant till it is established. Water the oncidium in well after potting unless the median is presoaked. (I use dry medium as it is less messy to work with). Treat all newly potted (and mounted) oncidiums with Truban fungicide to prevent root rots from getting established. Better to prevent them than try to cure them.

Choosing species (or hybrids)

Research the growing conditions necessary for the different species before buying. Ensure that you can provide the correct conditions necessary or there will be no flowering. It is very frustrating to purchase and "fall in love" with a specific plant if you can not make it flower, believe me, I know. The oncidiums I have been successful with will be listed later in sections that have specific cultural requirements but for now another grouping according to leaf (or stem) type,

  1. Pseudobulb types - generally are easier to grow than other oncidiums, most will perform well on windowsills or under lights (except section crispum). Some will get very large, for example O. sphacellatum is measured when the plant reaches one meter across and has three thousand plus flowers. 0. truliferum has pseudobulbs that are 15 cm plus 30 cm of leaves. There are of course some miniatures in this group like 0. longipes and 0. harrisonianum both of which are only 10 cm overall. Beware that some smaller plants like 0. sarcodes produces flower stems that may reach 2 meters in height.
  2. Equitant oncidiums - you will most likely purchase the hybrids in this group. They are all miniatures, all have brightly colored flowers and are relatively easy to flower. Lots of light and air movement. The actual species in the group Include 0. urophyllum. 0. guianense, 0. pulchellum and others. My experience with equitants over the years has been with mainly hybrids.
  3. Mule-eared types - I have found them to be generally harder to flower than the other types, this is probably due to the very high light requirements and diversified conditions they need. Some mule-earned oncidiums are also very large, 0. splendidum gets to be huge but the rewards are wonderful with 1.5 metre stems of long lasting flowers. There are also some miniatures in this group 0. pumilum has won me some ribbons for the orchid with the most flowers per stem. This delightful miniature is only 10 cm, the flowers are produced on a 10 cm stem but will have 150 or more 1/2 cm yellow flowers. You may need a magnifying glass to see the individuals but it's well worth it.
  4. Terete leaved types - there are only three or four terete leaved species that I have grown. These are 0. stramineum, 0. jonesiana and 0. cellobeta all require extremely high light. The hottest spot in my greenhouse is reserved for these mounted specimens. All I can say is hot and dry during the summer will reward you with 30 cm spikes of long lasting flowers.


This article will not go into much detail on fertilizers and their use as that is a very controversial and complicated issue. Let's just say that oncidiums are fairly heavy feeders especially the mounted orchids. Under normal epiphytic conditions these oncidiums would have lots of decaying leaves around their roots but as we are all good growers, we carefully remove all dead leaves so the plant has virtually no natural nutrition available. I feed using Plant Products fertilizers but Peters, Dynagro and other soluble types will work just as well. Make sure there are trace elements like iron, magnesium and others listed on the label, if they are not listed they are not there. General rules, feed half strength every watering (except the fourth). I feed during foliage growing season with 30-10-10 (of something similar), during root growing season 10-52-10 (or 15-30-15) and in preparation for flowering 7-11-27. Make sure you leach heavily that fourth time. Just a note, the O. papilio group is more susceptible to high salts than other oncidiums.

The easy ones - My selection of starter oncidiums

Although I am a Phalaenopsis grower, I made the mistake of trying a couple of oncidiums a few years ago. I now have 60 species and many hybrids, that means there are only approximately 540 species I haven't tried. (I hope my wife doesn't read this article.) Start with the easy species (or hybrids) then you will be hooked just like me. There is never a time in my greenhouse that does not have an oncidium or two in flower.

0. varicosum (0. Taka, 0. Gower Ramsy, 0. Star Wars are easy hybrids)
0. flexuosum - a delightful mounted oncidium
0. sphacelatium - grows like a weed and is very large.
0. papilio - actually the hybrid 0. kalihi is easier.
0. micropogon - I have a clone called "Scorpio spider" so you can picture this unique flower.
0. macropetalum - large yellow petals on a very small plant.
0. ornithorynchum - an easy pink species
Equitants - if conditions are correct these are wonderful.

Remember as with most orchids the hybrids are generally easier to grow and flower than the species but you must understand the conditions necessary for the species parent before deciding on the hybrids. The intergenerics are also very exciting but that's another story.

I have listed the species as they are grouped in each section ("Oncidium Orchid Culture") followed by the climatic conditions necessary to make each species flower. Do not be put off by the complicated section names, they are just included to help with groups.

1. Oncidium crispum, praetextum, macropetalum, marshallianum, curturm, sarcodes, gardneri, enderianum,duveenii, gravesianum, lionettiana (Section Crispa)

This section grows well in warm, humid conditions for most of the year. When the new growths have reached maturity (fully grown pseudobulbs) gradually dry out the plant with a maximum of one third of the regular watering. During the dry-period the pseudobulbs will (and should) shrivel quite considerably. The plants can also be cooled to 10C for approximately four months. When the flower spike starts to develop, restart the watering, warmer temperatures and regular feeding programs. I have been most successful mounting this group .

2. Oncidium cebolleta, stramineum, jonesianum (Section Plurituberculata) (I didn't think up these names!!)

When I say high light, I mean very high light for these terete leaved oncidiums. Outside, southside on the drainpipe will not be too much light for this group. They like it hot and dry during the summer months. Never allow them to have wet feet so they are best mounted. I use bark rather than tree fern as it dries out faster. Water daily during the new foliage growing time, but reduce the water to once per week during the hot summer months.

3. Oncidium luridum, carthagense, cavendishianum, lanceanum, splendidum, pumilum, stramineum (Section Plurituberculata)

Same as above but a different type of oncidium. These Mule-earred oncidiums also require high light but not as much as the terete leaved oncidiums. Good Vanda type lighting will do well for them. I use medium tree fern in pots for all oncidiums in this section. Dry slightly after the foliage has completely matured; this will push the flower spikes to start.

4. Oncidium papilio, kramerianum, sanderae (Section Glanduligera) (Butterfly Orchids)

The real novelties of the oncidium orchids but you really get interesting comments when they are in flower. DO NOT cut the spikes as this group flowers all the time once it reaches flowering size. The flowers develop from the end of the spike and each new leaf growth produces a new spike. Grow in good light, with medium to high humidity. Mine are always in flower at temperatures of 18 C. This is the exception of the oncidiums for me as I grow them potted and in large charcoal chunks (1"-1 1/2" size). I have found some salt damage so feed lightly rather than too heavy. One hybrid of note is Onc. kaliki which I have found very easy to grow.

5. Oncidium incurvum, sphacelatum, lietzei, fimbriatum, maculatum, reichenheimii. hastatum (Section Waluewa) (Section Stellata) (Section Planifolium)

A very easy group to grow successfully, best to mount these as they like to be slightly dry for part of the year. They will grow well along with your cattleya orchids and certainly benefit by being dryer and cooler during the summer growing months. Most of this section are small plants so you will have room for more. Always an exception, the two plants in Section Planifolum are very large plants (0. incurvum, 0. sphacelatum ) and very fast growing but if you have the space well worth the effort as when flowering the flowers are counted in the thousands.

6. Oncidium concolor, gracile, dastyle, globuliferum (Section Concoloria) Even I remember this section! (Section Serpentea)

Grow with as much light as you can during the winter. I have my plants mounted and hanging right below the lights in the greenhouse. This group benefits from dry conditions during a 3 month cool period (12-15C). Provide lots of air movement (actually all orchids like lots of air movement).

7. Oncidium varicosum, spilopterum, flexuosum, blanchettii, williamsonianum. paranapiacabense, robustissimum (Section Synsepala) (Section Pslvinata)

These are the easiest and the most well known of all the oncidium sections (lots of easy hybrids as well). Warm conditions with high humidity mounted or potted they will flower almost anywhere, they are not fussy at all. Some plants can get quite large but are very easy to divide so you can give them away and get other growers hooked on oncidiums as well. By feeding every watering (except fourth) with half strength fertilizers the flowers will develop a couple of times a year. A slight rest period as the flowers fade will set up the next flowering. This simply means less watering for 3 or 4 weeks.

8. Oncidium ampliatum, isthmii, micropogon, orthostates, longipes, tigrinum, barbatum, leucochilum (Section Oblongata) (Section Barbata)

O. ampliatum is one of my favorites, although the plant gets quite large, the flowers are bright yellow with good substance and very long lasting. Grow all members of this section warm (18-24C) with good to high humidity. I do not dry my plants out at all but maintain regular feeding and watering year round. As with all oncidiums they do require high light (Cattleya light or better). All my oncidiums are growing at the top of my greenhouse.

9. Equitant Oncidiums, Oncidium lyratum, guianense, caribense, pulchellum, calochilum, urophyllum (Section Variegata)

Please note these equitant species, I have only grown a couple of them as the hybrids are so bright and easy to grow. If you take note of the leaves of this group, it will immediately tell you the light necessary. Like the terete leaved group the Equitants need lots and lots of light. I grow most of mine mounted on tree fern slabs as they like a fair amount of water but the roots must dry out fast after watering. I have noted that the large growers of equitants grow them in small clay pots and straight charcoal, so you may want to try this. These bright colored miniatures are considered easy provided you can give them enough light.

10. Oncidium onustum (Section Onusta )

This section contains only one species and as I said earlier 0. onusta is found growing on a cactus in the windy deserts of Equador. Just to confuse you, some from commercial cultivation will grow under warm conditions (12-21 C) but all require at least one month of very dry. (Do not water during this period.) This dry period should occur after flowering. Water and feed normally all other times of the year, giving the plant extra air movement and plenty of light. As it is a small species, it will work well on a bight windowsill. A primary hybrid 0. onustum x O. orthostates is also a favorite of mine, producing long spikes of 3 cm yellow flowers that last for weeks.

11. Oncidium ornithorynchum, cheirophorum, raniferum, edwallii (Section Rostrata) (Section Plurituberulata)

These are cool to intermediate oncidiums growing most successfully between 12-18C for at least the winter months. I grow most of these species in pots with medium tree fern and keep them quite moist. 0. ornithorynchum is a delightful pink and very fragrant, producing masses of 2 cm flowers on a 50 cm spike. I have found this species to be susceptible to some foliage fungus spots so I'm extra careful about water on the leaves. All members of this group will grow well in medium to high light.


Orchid Society of Alberta Show Muttart Conservatory, 9626 96A Street, Edmonton, Alberta. FEBRUARY 6 _ 15.

Central Vancouver Island Orchid Society Show and 6th COC Beban Park Recreation Center, 2300 Bowen Road, Nanaimo, British Columbia. MARCH 5, 6, AND 7.

London Orchid Society Show Wonderland Gardens, 284 Wonderland Rd. S., London, Ontario MARCH 6, 7.

Orchid Society of the Royal Botanical Gardens. Royal Botanical Gardens, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, Ontario. MARCH 27-28.

ORCHID EXPO '93 College de Maisonneuve, Corner of Bourbonniere & Peirre de Coubertin, Montreal, Quebec. MARCH 27-28

Orchid Society of Nova Scotia's Spring Show Nova Scotia Museum, 1747 Summer Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia. APRIL 17 -18

Regina Orchid Society presents ORCHID ARTISTRY Seven Oaks Motor Inn, 777 Albert St. Regina, Saskatoon. APRIL 17-18.

Notes from Annette

Keep those Species lists AND Species list updates coming, Malcolm is working on getting them on disc and I will report on the progress at Nanaimo.


Malcolm has also agreed to take over as COC Editor!!!!

Those of you familiar with Malcolm's newsletter for his club or his contributions to the Pleurothallis Newsletter will understand my enthusiasm. We can look forward to a much more professional publication than my efforts, and with the much improved input from around the country, as seen in this edition, a really worthwhile source of information for all clubs.

I have enclosed two address labels for Malcolm to get you started, please be sure your editor and club members are made aware of this change.

I have one or two ideas about newsletter contributions which I will discuss with you at Nanaimo.


AND Thank you to both Ken Girard and Gordon Heaps, for their superb articles, they are a joy to read.

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