These striking orchids, which are also known as pansy orchids, owing to
their similarity to garden pansies, are enjoying increasing popularity.
Miltoniopsis are cool-growing orchids that originate in the higher elevations
of the Andes in Colombia, Panama and Ecuador. The warmer-growing species,
properly miltonias, originate from the Minas Gerais area of Brazil and more
closely resemble large-flowered oncidiums. Their flowers can be brilliantly
Light should be relatively shaded. Direct sunlight burns the thin
leaves within a short period of time. However, the warmer-growing types
prefer more light than their cooler-growing relatives. The cool-growing
species need approximately 1,200 foot-candles, while the warmer-growing
species require closer to 2,000 foot-candles.
Temperature is critical for the cool-growing plants. Unless temperatures
are kept under 80 F, they may not flower. The minimum temperature is 50
to 5 5 F. Thus, these are really better thought of as intermediate growers
because they need intermediate temperatures throughout the year - not
too hot, not too cold. The warmer growers will take temperatures over
90 F as long as humidity levels of 70 to 75 percent, or higher, are maintained.
The minimum temperature is 60 F.
Water must be plentiful and the medium must drain perfectly. In
their native habitat, the plants are drenched almost daily and, because
of this, they are intolerant of salt buildup, so leaching every fourth
or fifth watering is important when growing in pots. When they are not
getting enough water or humidity, the leaves have a tendency to grow with
accordion-like pleats. The warmer-growing miltonias should be grown like
cattleyas; allow them to approach dryness between waterings. They also
tend to be slightly more tolerant of salt buildup than their Colombian
cousins so they can dry more between waterings.
Humidity must be at least 70 percent because of the plants' need
for abundant water. Less humidity will stress the plants and can lead
to susceptibility to disease, though too much humidity is worse than too
Fertilize at the same level as other orchids: half-strength, balanced
fertilizer every two weeks. This can be reduced by half during overcast
weather or in winter. A 10-30-20 blossom-booster formulation is beneficial
in early spring when plants approach their flowering period.
Potting should be done after flowering when the new growth is
starting. Miltoniopsis should be repotted every year as they are intolerant
of stale conditions. The cool growers (miltoniopsis) do well in small
pots. The warmer growers (miltonias) tend to have a relatively elongated
creeping habit and, therefore, do better mounted. Any potting mix suitable
for fine roots such as 70 percent seedling bark with charcoal and perlite
or a mix of 70 percent tree fern and 30 percent chopped sphagnum is adequate.
Mounts may be cork, tree fern or other hard wood. They should be longer
than wide. For some reason, shallow pans work better than deep pots.