An Alameda Garden: Miltonia Orchids: You Can Grow That!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Miltonia Orchids: You Can Grow That!

I can't say that I'm obsessed with orchids, but bit by bit I'm becoming seduced by them. Cymbidiums were my confidence-builder and from there I succumbed to Phalaenopsis, then Catleya, then Dendrobium. I thought that would hold me for a while but last week when I was at the grocery store, I came to a dead stop in front of a whole table full of Miltonia orchids. I couldn't resist--the handsome specimen pictured here ended up in my cart along with the milk and paper towels.

Miltonia orchids are commonly called Pansy Orchids because some, like the one pictured here, have a flat shape and markings and coloring similar to pansies. Other Miltonias, however, have a flower with a spidery shape more like an Oncidium orchid.

In a mild climate like the Bay Area, a Miltonia would probably do well enough in a protected spot outside, but at least while it's in bloom, I'm happy to keep this Miltonia indoors. The reason? It is intensely fragrant with a heady but not overwhelming sweet scent. The blooms are typically long-lasting--usually as long as 4 to 6 weeks--but when they're done I'll move the plant out to my lathe-covered deck where some of my other orchids reside.

Miltonia orchids originate in the brightly shaded cloud forests of the mountains of Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia and if you keep that in mind, you'll know exactly what conditions you need to provide for them. They like bright indirect light and will sunburn easily if they get too much direct sun. They prefer continuous moisture but need excellent drainage and they can be sensitive to a build-up of salts from the water. They need good air circulation and humidity so some misting is a good idea. They have no dormant period so they require regular feeding (every other watering) with a half-strength balanced liquid fertilizer. Repot every 1 to 2 years after blooming.

I'm really happy I stumbled across this little orchid but honestly, if my grocery store is going to start popping up with all kinds of new orchids for me to try, I can see my grocery budget is going to go all to hell. It will, however, be worth it.

This post is part of the You Can Grow That! monthly blog series. Check here for more posts by other garden bloggers on how to grow all kinds of edibles and ornamentals.  

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