Orchids: Oncidium Sweet Ears

Oncidium Sweet Ears 'The OrchidWorks'
Oncidium Sweet Ears 'The OrchidWorks'

Oncidium Sweet Earsis ‘dancing doll’ type Oncidium that is not difficult to grow if you follow our tips. It is a cross between two Oncidium hybrids: Sweet Sugar x Cloud Ears, hence the name. The flower is a fairly typical for a ‘dancing doll’ type Oncidium: bright yellow flowers with variable darker brown markings and a large lip, but, nevertheless, its an improvement over other similar Oncidiums. There are several clones of this hybrid available, and most should be easy to grow.

The plant shown to the left is a young plant blooming on a single mature growth in a 3.5″ pot. It exhibits a compact ‘Christmas tree’ or candelabra flower arrangement that breeders are striving for when it comes to orchids for the houseplant market. Oncidiums have been bred for many years and the goal is now to produce plants that are more compact than the species which can grow to be very large and often have very long unwieldy flower spikes.

Read on to find out how to grow these oncidiums as houseplants on your windowsill.

Oncidium Sweet Ears 'The OrchidWorks'
Oncidium Sweet Ears 'The OrchidWorks'

You can grow dancing doll onicidiums in bright light in a slightly shaded southern,west or east facing window. Allow them to dry out slightly between waterings, and fertilize regularly during the growing season. They will bloom on a mature spike, generally in the cooler months. the flowers last several weeks each, and flowers on the branched spikes will open sequentially resulting in a long lasting display of blooms. After flowering, restrict watering and fertilizer slightly, until you see new growth emerge at the base of the mature bulbs.

The clone photographed is Oncidium Sweet Ears ‘The OrchidWorks’ which was patented by James McCully a grower in Hawaii. Apparently, this clone was selected for its superior qualities from 120 plants. There are many ways that breeders can benefit from discovering, or breeding, a superior plant. I do not believe that patents should be granted for such orchid ‘inventions,’ unless there is a mechanism to share the economic benefits resulting from such a patent with the breeders who bred the parents used to create the patented plants, not to mention the countries from which the parent species were first removed from, without permission and without any compensation; an impossible task once you think about it. Nevertheless, tissue cultured plants like these are often widely available for reasonable prices. This plant, for example, was purchased at Trader Joe’s.

Oncidium Sweet Ears 'The OrchidWorks'-first bloom
Oncidium Sweet Ears 'The OrchidWorks'-first bloom

See the close-up of the flower on a second blooming (above right) of the same plant, the year after the main photo and the close-up (below left) were taken! The flowers are significantly larger(some of them almost twice the size as the year before) , especially the lip. The coloring is also more intense though that is affected by growing conditions, especially temperature and light. This year, our plant had three branches, but apparently more than five branches are possible. The lesson here, is that it takes several years for orchid plants to bloom to their full potential. Grow the strongest, most robust plants you can and you’d be amazed at the quality and quantity of flowers that you will get!

5 Replies to “Orchids: Oncidium Sweet Ears”

  1. I’m soooo excited !!! i just bought this beautiful plant today on Ebay and i can’t wait to get it. That’s all i really want to say. 😉

  2. While plants are spiking or budding they should not be under any stress otherwise the first thing they will likely do is abort the buds. So, I make sure that my orchids stay moist and do not dry out when they are in bud. Also while some oncidiums like a good drying out in nature, I find that in the home, where humidity is lower you need to compensate by not letting them dry out quite as much.

  3. I purchased an Oncidium Sweet Ears two weeks ago. It already had a flower spike with buds. It required repotting and I did so in a clay pot with slits. (Usually I do not repot an orchid that has a flower spike.) I did this so that the potting medium would dry faster, knowing that Oncidiums like a dry period before watering again. The plant is in a makeshift greenhouse (in the basement) with 7 other orchids all of which are getting plenty of light from a T5 fixture/fluorescent bulb for plants. The greenhouse contains two water trays at both ends and a fan for air circulation. Although the buds on the Oncidium spike have become larger within the last 2 weeks, they have not unfolded and so I am concerned about this. I think Sweet Ears are supposed to be watered more when the plant is not in the process of flowering; and if the firm pseudobulbs are plump I understand it’s better not to overwater the plant. But because it is in a clay pot I wonder if I should water it more often because the medium would be drying out faster. (I’m not fertilizing while there is a spike.) Anyway, the buds are not opening and I’m wondering what I need to do get them to open! – David E.

  4. Hi Carlos, I think you may be right in that it is a tetraploid. I checked the patent online but it doesn’t say anything about that. I agree, this is a great hybrid..!

  5. Indeed! It is an amazing hybrid with gorgeous flowers! Most likely it’s a tetraploid. I bought one small plant in San Francisco, Calif. At the plaza of the BART station at 24th st/ Mission st. Very inexpensive for the quality one gets! A real jewel I treasure to own. It has a panicle already full of flowers (and more coming), as well as another baby panicle coming from another pseudobulb, which means I’m gonna be seeing these flowers for as long as (probably) November! (today it’s 8/10/2010). I only regret I didn’t buy three or four of these beauties! I cross my fingers the lady at the stand where I bought them will be there again this saturday. Excuse my enthusiasm, I’ve had lots of Onc. varicosum hybrids in the past, but never a cross of this precious quality, a real jewel! Carlos O.

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