Apartment plants



Miltonia is one of the easiest orchids to find on the market: it immediately attracts our attention for its large and colorful flowers, similar to those of pansies. Its cultivation, however, is rather demanding given that it requires constant care and environmental conditions that are not always easy to reproduce. It is therefore recommended especially for those who are already familiar with this type of plants.
To the genre miltonia belong about 20 species, divided into two different families of orchids, the Miltonia from Brazil and the Miltoniopsis from Colombia and the Perщ; besides they belong to the genus miltonia also hundreds of hybrids, both natural and artificial. The miltoniopsis have large fragrant flowers and bright colors, similar to very large pansies; the miltonia instead generally have star-shaped flowers, greenish in color, with brown or purple spots. From the pseudobulbs, narrow, long and thin leaves of a nice light green branch off.
In spring and autumn, from the new pseudobulbs a long stem emerges on which numerous flowers of great aesthetic impact and splendid bloom to make one's house or garden an exclusive and welcoming place.

Classification, origins and description of Miltonia

The genus Miltonia (belonging to the Orchidaceae family) includes approximately 25 species (including some hybrids) all from Latin America. Their environment of origin is the fresh Andean highlands on the border between Brazil, Perщ, Colombia and Bolivia, at altitudes between 300 and 2500 m, where they grow clinging to the tops of the trees.
They have lance-shaped leaves that depart directly from the pseudobulbs present at the base, pear-shaped.
In nature, flowering is almost always spring: the stem is emitted by the leaf axil and can carry from 3 to 10 very large, colorful and extremely fragrant flowers.
The growers have obtained over time a large number of very prolific commercial hybrids, equipped with very large, perfumed corollas and in an infinite number of colors: they are also easier to grow.



Spring or autumn / hybrids several times a year
Irrigation Frequent, every 7-10 days
Composting Monthly or fortnightly
Division End of winter
repotting End of winter, every year
Vegetative rest Unnecessary


Both types prefer not too bright exposures. The ideal would be to find them one placement near a window facing West or, at the extreme, East. However, the light must always be filtered, especially from mid-spring to the end of September: it is advisable to place a light-colored thick curtain in front of the glass.
An easy way to monitor the accuracy of our location is to observe the color of the leaves. The plants in full health have a nice bright light green; if it gets too dark it's because we have chosen a position that is too dark; on the other hand too much sun causes generalized yellowing, dehydration and, in extreme cases, localized burns.
The miltonie need luminous positions, but far from the direct rays of the sun that can cause the burns of the leaves; usually if the leaves tend to become very dark green we try to place them in a brighter place, but if they tend to turn yellow, the plant moves to a slightly more shaded area.
In summer they can be placed in the garden or on the terrace of the house, in a shaded outdoor place, possibly at the base of trees or shrubs, so that they enjoy the shade and at the same time are protected from winds and possible storms. The ideal growth temperature for miltonias is around 18-20 ° C, while miltoniopsis can easily withstand even at slightly lower temperatures.


Both adapt with difficulty to life in the home or apartment: to thrive they would need special environments where it is possible to regulate environmental temperature and humidity, with good variations between day and night, especially in summer.
The miltonia in winter requires temperatures between 10 and 12 ° C (in the house rooms that are not very heated are fine); in summer the thermometer must mark about 25 ° C during daylight hours to drop to 16-18 ° C at night (for example a bedroom with air conditioner).
The Miltoniopsis in winter requires temperatures from 8 ° to 12 ° C: in the ideal summer it is instead a room with about 20 ° C by day and 15 ° C in the night.

Humidity and aeration

A very important factor for the health of our orchids is the rate of environmental humidity. In this case it is important that it never falls below 65%. At home, unfortunately, it is not an easy goal to achieve, but an important help can come from electric nebulizers and frequent manual sprays. Also useful are the saucers filled with expanded clay and water to be placed near our vase. Let us remember that environmental humidity must increase in proportion to temperatures.
Even good aeration is important to avoid the onset of fungal diseases: we keep the vessels as much as possible outside, compatibly with temperatures. Otherwise we often change the air, but we absolutely avoid the cold currents, cause of sudden withering and abortion of stems and buds.

Watering and irrigation

The miltonie need a lot of water, possibly supplied frequently, but avoiding the water stagnation that could ruin the very thin and delicate roots of our orchid. Remember to water these orchids at least twice a week, throughout the year, never letting the mixture dry, and increasing the frequency of watering when necessary. If the waterings are too scarce, it may happen that the leaves crumple, in this case it is necessary to water the plant as soon as possible, which will produce new leaves, leaving the old ones dry. Remember to increase the environmental humidity by occasionally vaporizing the miltonie with distilled water. Provide specific fertilizer for orchids at least once a month.
The roots must always sink in a moist substrate, but never soaked. The frequency of administration depends on the temperatures and the type of bottom. In general, one intervenes once a week, possibly in the morning. We can pour the water from above or leave the immersed vessel for about half an hour. In any case we will then have to let it go very well. We always avoid to wet the leaf axil where rots are more easily established.
The specimens kept on raft (clinging to pieces of bark) need more frequent interventions, by means of sprayers. For all purposes we always use demineralised, osmotic or rain-bound water.

Cultivation of Miltonia

Miltonia and Miltoniopsis orchids have slightly different needs. The first ones in fact can be classified as temperate greenhouse plants (and are therefore more delicate and demanding); the latter instead live very well in a cold greenhouse and are much more tolerant. We will see in particular the various aspects to be taken into account.

Land and Fertilization

As for the soil, use a specific compound for orchids, consisting of incoherent material such as bark or osmunda fiber. These orchids need to be repotted at least every year, after flowering, without necessarily increasing the size of the vase.
During the growing season they need a good support: it is essential to use a specific fertilizer for orchids with balanced macroelements: NPK 20-20-20. We can administer it once a month at full dose or every 15 days by halving it. Let's make sure we wet the roots well before proceeding: we will avoid dangerous burns. In the winter period it is recommended to suspend the administration for about 2 months.


In autumn or early spring it is possible to multiply our plant, dividing the tufts of pseudobulbs, taking care to keep some leaves and some vigorous roots for each portion practiced. The new plants are immediately buried in individual containers to ensure better growth of the new plants.

Pests and diseases

Apart from the problems due to the lack of water, the miltonias do not get sick easily; occasionally they are attacked by aphids and scale insects. In this case, use specific pesticide products to eliminate the problem found at the best garden centers or nurseries.


Generally these plants are commercially found in the period in which they naturally bloom. We evaluate before the purchase the general state of the plant with a particular attention to the roots: they must be very full-bodied, without signs of rot, but not even dehydrated.
Repotting should preferably be done at the beginning of spring, every year.
This will allow the roots to have space to expand and good air circulation, which is essential for preventing rot. You can, in an emergency, intervene at any time of the year.
The ideal substrate is similar to that for phalaenopsis: bark (pine bark) of small and medium size mixed with other material such as vegetated fibers (coconut, palm). We can also add a little peat and sphagnum.

Pruning and cleaning of Miltonia

The only necessary intervention is the cutting of the flower stem. We operate as soon as the corollas begin to wither: we will thus avoid weakening the plant. Ruined or dried leaves can be removed at the base.

How to treat damaged or dehydrated roots?

If the roots are damaged or dehydrated it is good, to save the plant, to carry out a treatment called "sphagnum therapy". First of all you have to clean perfectly from all the rotten or damaged parts, in the roots or in the collar. We then prepare a "bath" with water and a specific fungicide (propamocarb is very suitable) and leave the roots immersed for at least 2 hours. We extract it and let it dry well on a newspaper. We prepare some sphagnum leaving it in water, so that it becomes soft and wet: it will then be squeezed very well. We coat a vase with the sphagnum and place the roots inside. We close with plastic and keep at around 25 ° C. We eliminate the leaves that should turn yellow. In about a month the plant will begin to vegetate again. Once the root system is restored we will return to normal cultivation.

Miltonia: Species and variety of Miltonia

The first hybrid (Miltonia vexillaria x roezlii) was recorded in 1889 and since then more than 2000 were produced, again between these two species.
Later, many intergenetic hybrids were also obtained with Oncidium orchids (they were called Miltonidium). However, the crossings were very numerous, giving rise to many botanical and commercial names.
Here are some of the most common or interesting species and hybrids.
Miltonia clowesii
It produces brown and pink flowers, between September and October, collected in groups of 10. The flower stem is very broad and long. It wants a cold climate in winter and warm in summer. Native to the Brazilian hills.
Miltonia flavescens
It carries beautiful orange and fragrant flowers, from spring to summer. The stem reaches 40 cm in length. Simple to grow in Europe because it likes cold in winter and warm in summer.
Miltonia spectabilis
Small in size, it produces, at the end of the summer, a stem up to 20 cm long that bears a single flower, very large, pink, very fragrant.
Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis
It has flower stems about 20 cm long with up to 5 purple-streaked white flowers that bloom at the end of summer. Small in size, it wants a temperate climate, very humid and very shady, almost dark.
Miltoniopsis vexillaria
Stem up to 50 cm long, very arched and erect. It contains up to 10 pink flowers, very large, produced in spring and sometimes even in autumn. It wants a cool climate and plenty of humidity.
Miltoniopsis warscewiczii
Of medium size, it has a stem up to 30 cm long with up to 6 large white and flat flowers. It can produce them in spring and also in autumn. It wants a cool and very humid climate
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Family, genus, species Orchidaceae, Miltonia, about 25 species and many hybrids
Type of plant Epiphytic flowering plant
Maintenance high
irrigations Frequent, demineralized water
fertilizing Every 15 or 30 days
Growth average
Resistance to cold Enough (some up to 8 ° C)
Place of cultivation Cold or temperate greenhouse
Exposure Slightly luminous (West exposure)
Environmental humidity High: about 70%
Container Vase or raft
Substrate Bark, coconut and palm fibers, a little peat
Height Up to 50 cm
Flowers on stems, up to 10
colors White, pink, orange, red, brown
Perfume Very fragrant
Propagation division