Growing Miltoniopsis orchids

Miltoniopsis Orchid
The Miltoniopsis Orchid is also known as the Pansy Orchid

The genus Miltoniopsis was established by Godefroy-Lebeuf in 1889 in honor of Fitzwilliam and Milton. The Miltoniopsis orchids are intermediate climate orchids. This means that they can be warm-growing orchids as well as cooler-growing orchids. Although the Miltonia orchids and Miltoniopsis orchids are similar, the distinction between the two is made by referring to the Miltonia orchids as the warmer-growing orchids which come from Brazil, and the Miltoniopsis orchids as the cooler-growing orchids which come from Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. It is easy to distinguish between the two genera, however, as Miltoniopsis has 1-leaved pseudobulbs while the Miltonia has 2-leaved pseudobulbs. Furthermore, the pseudobulbs of Miltoniopsis are tightly clustered while the pseudobulbs of the Miltonia are widely separated by a long rhizome. These flat-faced orchids are also sometimes referred to as the Pansy Orchid because their orchid flowers resemble pansies in shape and pattern.

The charming Miltoniopsis orchid plants bloom profusely with two to three spikes of large, fragrant blossoms that flower for one to two months. In addition, a well nurtured Miltoniopsis will often produce a second bloom a few months after the primary bloom season! The richly colored, fragrant flowers are borne on slender arching stems. The Pansy Orchid flowers vary in colors - red, white, pink with different colored markings as well as yellow. However, the bloom time of Miltoniopsis orchid flowers as a cut flower is fairly short; consequently the Miltoniopsis orchid flowers are not suitable for corsages or cut flower arrangements.

Both the Miltonia orchid and the Miltoniopsis orchid are closely allied to the Oncidium orchids and the Odontoglossum orchids. This alliance facilitates many intergeneric hybrids.

Cultivation

The Miltoniopsis orchid is a truly elegant orchid. The arching sprays of orchid flowers that blooms right through the year makes it truly remarkable. They do put on a special orchid flower show in the late spring and rewards the diligent orchid cultivator with their display. The orchid flowers itself is full, and rounded in appearance and resembles a large velvety Pansy. They also possess a soft rose-type fragrance and the foliage itself is a lovely bluish-grey. Although the Miltoniopsis orchid has a reputation for being difficult to grow, they are relatively easy to grow if their particular requirements and conditions can be met.

Temperature

The temperature for Miltoniopsis orchids can range between 16 and 29° Celsius (that is between 60 and 85° Fahrenheit) with minor seasonal variation. Miltoniopsis plants can tolerate temperatures higher than 32° Celsius (90° Fahrenheit) for brief periods provided that the humidity is high and air movement is strong. However, hybrids produce better growth and more flowers if night temperatures do not fall below 16° Celsius (60° Fahrenheit).

Light

Light conditions for Miltoniopsis orchids are similar to those for Phalaenopsis orchids (The so-called Moth orchids) or the Lady Slipper orchids (also known as the Paphiopedilum orchids) - bright but indirect light of 1,000 to 2,000 fc. Direct sun will burn the thin leaves. If you cultivate the Miltoniopsis orchid in your home orchid garden be sure to make use of at least a 50% shade cloth. These orchids are incapable of tolerating too-high light levels and the beautiful foliage can get scorched very easily if you are not careful.

Water and humidity

Allow for good air movement in your home orchid garden when cultivating Miltoniopsis orchid plants. Miltoniopsis orchids enjoy moist air, requiring an average of 80 to 90% humidity with a minimum of 55 to 65% humidity. An increase in humidity is needed to reduce the stress on the plants when the temperature and lighting intensity increases. In addition, all Miltoniopsis species as well as their hybrids need to be kept moist and should never be allowed to dry out completely as the fine, threadlike roots of the Miltoniopsis plants will die if the potting medium is too dry. Watering of these orchid plants should happen every other day during the summer months and petering out to once or twice a week during the winter months without heavy watering as it must be kept evenly moist. The Miltoniopsis orchid will grow throughout the entire year. Humidity is vital to the Miltoniopsis orchids and you will need to mist your orchid plants on a regular basis.

Feeding

The feeding habits of the Miltoniopsis orchids resemble the feeding habits of the Odontoglossum orchids closely. They are both heavy feeders. Special feeding care has to be provided after you have repotted your Miltoniopsis orchids (in spring). Do give your Miltoniopsis orchids a regular feed of 30:10:10 high nitrogenous-based fertilizer after repotting to aid the orchid plant in spurting new growth and roots and foliage. Apply an 18:18:18 general feed during the summer to plump up the bulbs and provide the orchid plant with enough sustenance to see it the autumn. During autumn you should also provide the Miltoniopsis orchid plants with a high potash-based bloom booster. This will help with the production of flowers and flowering stems. There is no need to fertilize your Miltoniopsis orchid in autumn or winter.

Pests and Diseases

Common pests associated with Miltoniopsis orchids are scale, spider mites, red-spider mites and aphids. Sometimes even thrips will attack your orchid plants if you are not vigilant. Luckily all these pests can be dealt with easily.

Potting mix and Repotting

The Miltoniopsis orchid prefers pot culture and semi-shade conditions and is not difficult to cultivate provided that you stick to their preferences. Miltoniopis orchids do not take kindly to the potting mix that starts to decompose. Therefore, it is best to repot them once a year, during the fall months when new root growth begins, into an open mix that drains well. In fact, annual repotting is important to maintaining a healthy Miltoniopsis orchid but repotting should not take place later than early winter to allow the plant time to become reestablished before the summer weather. However, you should not over pot! The Miltoniopsis orchid plants should be placed in a small pot that is barely large enough to contain the roots and allow enough room for another year's growth. All old medium should be removed and any damaged or diseased roots should be trimmed off. It is best to make use of bark and perlite because both of these potting media are open mixes that also hold a fair amount of water without becoming too soggy. The roots should not be allowed to dry out, but the pot should be given good drainage so the plant never stands in water as this will also kill the fine roots. With thin leaves and small pseudobulbs, Miltoniopsis does not like warm, drafty conditions that will dehydrate the plants. Try to give them a moderate, moist environment if possible.

Repot the Miltoniopsis orchids at least once every two years or when the potting medium begins to decay.

General tips for Miltoniopsis Orchid care

  • The Miltoniopsis orchid enjoys frequent watering, but the compost must be allowed to dry just to the point of dampness before re-watering the orchid plant.
  • Water your Miltoniopsis orchids very carefully and do not allow water to stand in the leaves or soft rot may occur.
  • Do not fertilize the orchid plants during the autumn and winter months.
  • Miltoniopsis leaves have a slight pinkish tinge when light levels are correct; and a red, tan, or straw color when light is too high.
  • Die-back on the tips of mature leaves indicates a salt build up in the potting medium.