Miltoniopsis (mil-toh-nee-op-sis) Culture (commonly called Miltonia)

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The Miltoniopsis is commonly known as the Pansy orchid for its resemblance to the common pansy flower. This is a relatively small group of orchids consisting of about eight naturally occurring species found in Central and South America. Miltoniopsis are relatively easy to grow and will reward you with 2-3 spikes of colorful and fragrant flowers from each new growth. The bloom period can last 4-8 weeks and when expired should be cut off from the point where it had emerged from the plant. Well grown plants often produce a second flowering several months after the primary bloom and essentially flower twice a year.

LIGHT
In our Wisconsin climate the Miltoniopsis prefer to be grown in a bright area where they will receive some direct sun. While growing indoors between the months of October through May, the best exposure is a bright east window where the plant will receive direct sun on the leaves during most of the morning hours. A south or western exposure is also suitable, but be sure the plant receives no more than two hours of direct sun daily.

Some tips for growing in a south exposure: During the winter months the south exposure in our Wisconsin latitude can be very bright due to the sun being so low in the horizon. During this period the direct sun in a south window can damage the leaves of a Miltoniopsis, therefore it is recommended to position the plant where it will receive no more than two hours of direct south sun daily. During the summer months the south exposure has the opposite effect where the angle of the sun is very high and no direct light is received. It is then that you will need to move the plant to an east or west exposure to ensure proper light levels or supplement light with an artificial plant light.

Moving the plant to a shaded location outdoors during the months between June through September is also an option, being sure to protect the plant from any direct sun. Whichever exposure you choose for your Miltoniopsis, try to provide as much light as possible throughout the year without causing sun burn on the leaves. If your Miltoniopsis is not producing flowers, it is a sign that you need to increase the light levels. Once your Miltoniopsis is in the flowering stage it is best to shade it from any direct sun to prolong the life of the blooms.

Miltoniopsis can also be grown and flowered successfully under artificial plant lights such as fluorescent lights, high pressure sodium or metal halide. Some artificial plant lights produce enough heat to burn the leaves if positioned too close to the plant. When using any artificial plant light source be sure to position the plants under the lights in accordance to the needs of the plants. If in question, consult Orchids Garden Centre & Nursery for more detailed information.

TEMPERATURE
One of the cultural elements that make the Miltoniopsis a popular plant is that they enjoy an indoor temperature range similar to what we live with. While growing your Miltoniopsis indoors they prefer a temperature range between 60 degrees at night up to 80 degrees during the day. Differential between day and night temperature is highly beneficial to the plant. Of course we do not heat our homes to 80 degrees during the winter day so do not read this as they absolutely require that much daytime warmth however, the warmer the daytime temperature, the faster the plant will produce new growths and subsequently do more flowering. An average winter daytime temperature of 70 degrees and average night temperature of 60 degrees is sufficient to maintain good growth on your Miltoniopsis.

If you choose to grow your Miltoniopsis outdoors between the months of June through October, the natural temperature spread between day and night in our Wisconsin summer climate is ideal. As fall approaches and the night temperatures begin to drop consistently below 55 degrees, it is then time to consider bringing your Miltoniopsis back indoors. Periodic temperature dips below 55 degrees at night during the summer are acceptable however, if persistent may that climate may cause ill health to the plant.

WATER
The Miltoniopsis have pseudobulbs which are water storing organs of the plant, therefore it is recommended to allow the bark mix to become slightly dry just beneath the surface. This can be somewhat difficult to diagnose by just looking at the bark. One way to diagnose the need for water is to get familiar with the weight of the pot between watering cycles. A dry pot is very light, while a wet pot is somewhat weighty. Try to achieve a happy medium of a light-weight pot in between watering cycles.

Typically while indoors in our Wisconsin climate a good thorough watering every 5-7 days is sufficient. While outdoors, watering will need to be closely monitored according to the weather and environment that the plant is experiencing. It would not be uncommon to water several times a week while growing outdoors during the summer and then tapering back to every 5-7 days as the fall weather becomes cool and cloudy.

To water your Miltoniopsis properly it is best to water the pot thoroughly until water runs freely from the pot. Usually this is done at the sink or somewhere you can do a good flushing of the pot. Always remove your pot from any decorative container to allow for proper drainage. Never allow your pot to stand in any water as this will cause root rot. Never use softened water on any of your orchids. Miltoniopsis benefit highly from the use of rain water, bottled water or any other low mineral water source.

FERTILIZER
Miltoniopsis are somewhat sensitive to the dissolved salts that are commonly found in most fertilizers. For best results it is recommended to thoroughly water your Miltoniopsis to ensure the potting mix is moist before applying fertilizer.

Miltoniopsis are slight feeders and for that reason we recommend applying a 20-20-20 or similar balanced type fertilizer once every 2 to 3 weeks throughout the entire year. A safe dilution ratio for these plants is one-half teaspoon of fertilizer mixed in one gallon of water. Do not over-fertilize as this will cause permanent root damage.

HUMIDITY
Like many orchids, the Miltoniopsis enjoys a moderately humid climate of 50% or greater. In some cases these plants show a symptom of pleated or accordion folds in the leaves when humidity is less than sufficient. Therefore, while growing these plants indoors it is highly recommended to increase humidity around the plant. This can be achieved simply by placing your plants on a humidity tray, misting them adequately in the morning, or grouping your plants all together in one area. While growing outdoors humidity is not an issue since we generally have adequate humidity in our Wisconsin summer climate.

REPOTTING
We recommend repotting Miltoniopsis once a year, preferably right after flowers expire or right after the start of new growth. If you are not experienced or comfortable doing this yourself we offer the repotting service at our greenhouse for a small fee. Your recently purchased Miltoniopsis may be ready for a repotting job as soon as it has finished flowering. Inquire with us as to when your individual plant was last repotted.

Miltoniopsis are seldom able to be divided so the repotting process is fairly straight forward. Remove the plant from the pot and allow all the existing potting medium to fall away from the roots. Once you have all the mix away from the roots you will be able to distinguish the healthy roots from the not-so-healthy, rotted roots. Trim away any rotted or dead roots with a scissors or pruning tool.

If your Miltoniopsis is one that is a candidate for dividing, then make the proper division now by cutting the rhizome in a position that will allow for a piece consisting of 3-4 connected pseudobulbs. Plants that are not candidates for dividing in most cases require the removal of at least one old pseudobulb from the back of the rhizome.

A note about orchid viruses: most commonly the transmission of orchid viruses is caused by using the same cutting tool on multiple plants. The most effective method to reduce virus transmission from plant to plant is to briefly flame sterilize all your cutting tools between use on each plant. A simple Butane torch or a gas stove are handy items for this purpose. This practice should be implemented when repotting as well as when cutting off expired flowering stems.

Once your Miltoniopsis is properly prepared it is time to select the appropriate size pot. Selecting the proper size pot is the next most important aspect in repotting a Miltoniopsis. Select a pot that is only large enough to accommodate the roots comfortably. If you need to force the root mass into the pot, then it is not quite large enough and you may need one size larger. The rule of thumb is not to use any pot larger than what comfortably accommodates the roots. Do not use too large of a pot because these plants like to be somewhat crowded, even after repotting. It is always recommended to use a new pot and be sure it has adequate drain holes in the bottom and/or side.

Next, place the plant in the pot with the oldest pseudobulb against the inside perimeter of the pot and fill the pot with our moistened fir bark orchid potting mix. Try to keep the rhizome about 1/2” below the potting mix and pack it firmly with a blunt tool to ensure the plant is secure in the pot. Wait about one week and then water thoroughly.

For more assistance with your Miltoniopsis or any other Orchid, please call us at 608-831-4700, send an email, or visit our store.

Happy growing, from Orchids Garden Centre & Nursery!