Burkholderia species have different lifestyles establishing mutualist or pathogenic associations with plants and animals. Changes in the ecological behavior of these bacteria may depend on genetic variations in response to niche adaptation. Here, we studied 15 Burkholderia strains isolated from different environments with respect to genetic and phenotypic traits. By Multilocus Sequence Analysis (MLSA) these isolates fell into 6 distinct groups. MLSA clusters did not correlate with strain antibiotic sensitivity, but with the bacterial ability to produce antimicrobial compounds and control orchid necrosis. Further, the B. seminalis strain TC3.4.2R3, a mutualistic bacterium, was inoculated into orchid plants and the interaction with the host was evaluated by analyzing the plant response and the bacterial oxidative stress response in planta. TC3.4.2R3 responded to plant colonization by increasing its own growth rate and by differential gene regulation upon oxidative stress caused by the plant, while reducing the plant's membrane lipid peroxidation. The bacterial responses to oxidative stress were recapitulated by bacterial exposure to the herbicide paraquat. We suggest that the ability of Burkholderia species to successfully establish in the rhizosphere correlates with genetic variation, whereas traits associated with antibiotic resistance are more likely to be categorized as strain specific.