Miltonia orchids and miltoniopsis orchids are often confused for one another, not only because of how similar their names sound, but also because they come from roughly the same part of the world.
For the first couple of years, after the miltoniopsis orchids were discovered, they were included under the Miltonia genus, further adding to the confusion.
Pansy orchids are actually miltoniopsis orchids, even if most people think that pansies are miltonia orchids.
In this article, we will discuss the differences between miltonia and miltoniopsis orchids, and how one can correctly tell these two genuses apart.
If you want to learn more about these plants, keep reading.
What do miltonia and miltoniopsis orchids look like?
Although these two orchid genuses have similar-sounding names and come from the same part of the world, they actually do not look that much alike.
The miltoniopsis orchids are what you know as pansy orchids, and they only have one leaf on the side of their pseudobulb. Miltonia orchids, on the other hand, have two leaves either side of their pseudobulb.
Miltonias’ pseudobulbs are far apart and more rounded, while those of miltoniopsis orchids are less round and much flatter. The latter’s pseudobulbs also tend to cluster tightly together.
Miltoniopsis flowers are showy and large, while those of miltonia orchids are more slender.
Nevertheless, both plants have beautifully striking flowers.
Miltonia orchid care
Miltonia orchids prefer bright, indirect light. Do not place them directly under the sun because they will get sun-damaged. If you keep the plant indoors, make sure you keep it near a north- or east-facing window. If the only available windows are letting in harsh light, you can diffuse it using a sheer curtain. During the winter, when light is scarce, use a grow light to help your plant get its recommended amount of light each day.
Temperature and humidity
These orchids do just fine at room temperature, so they will be alright when kept inside most houses. In the winter, bring the plant indoors and make sure you do not place it where it is directly in the path of warm or cold drafts. This means keeping it away from heaters and air conditioners. Also keep it away from places where cold air from cracks in doors or windows can reach it. Both warm and cold drafts can dry out your plant.
These plants are from tropical regions, so they appreciate humidity levels that are higher than normal. The inside of most homes normally has a sufficient level of humidity, but if you live in a place that is drier than most, you can mist the plant once in a while or place a pebble tray with water under its pot. You can also position the orchid near other plants that like humidity, so that they can all create a microclimate around one another. If it fits your budget, you can also purchase a humidifier to help automatically regulate the humidity in the room where the plant is kept.
There is no set schedule that you should follow when it comes to watering this plant. The most important thing is to ensure that the potting medium is never too wet or too dry.
If you neglect the orchid and forget to water it for too long, it will dry out and possibly die. On the other hand, if you give it too much water, the roots will drown and become susceptible to pathogens that cause root rot. The rot can spread to the other parts of the plant until the entire plant is affected. Another consideration to avoid overwatering is to make sure that the potting medium is airy, porous and well-draining.
Feed the plant once a month by mixing the fertilizer into the water that you are going to use to water the plant. In the winter, the plant will not actively grow as much, so you can reduce the frequency of fertilizing to once every two months.
You can use moss or bark as the main component of the plant’s potting medium. Remember that these plants are epiphytic, meaning they live on the bark of trees in their natural habitat, and rely on nutrients from the air. They are used to having air flow freely through their roots, so this should also be the case when you grow them in your home. Do not place the plant in regular soil, because it is too dense and will just result in root rot.
The most important characteristic of the potting medium should always be its ability to drain excess water well and quickly.
Miltoniopsis orchid care
Just like the miltonia, the miltoniopsis orchid prefers bright, indirect light only. It also needs noticeably less light than the miltonia orchid.
Place the plant near a north- or east-facing window. If the only window available provides light that is too harsh, you can use a sheer curtain to diffuse the light. During the winter, buy a grow light to help the plant get the light it needs every day.
Temperature and humidity
The temperature in most homes is usually enough for the plant, so you should not need to take any extra measures in that regard. In the winter, remember to take the plant indoors so that it is not exposed to cold temperatures, and keep it away from cold or warm drafts, such as from air conditioners and heating vents. If there are cracks around the doors or windows that are letting in cold air, this can also dry out your plant.
As long as the humidity around the plant is above 50 percent, it should be fine. If you live in a place that is drier than most, you can keep the plant from drying out by misting it once in a while, placing it on top of a pebble tray filled with water, placing it near other plants to create a microclimate, or using a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity in the room where the plant is kept.
The miltoniopsis orchid likes its potting medium to dry out between waterings. In the summer, it may need to be watered as often as three times a week. In colder weather, it will only need to be watered twice a week, at most.
If you see the leaves on the plant becoming shriveled and dry, you may be underwatering it. Increase the frequency of watering if this is the case.
If you give the plant too much water or if you are watering it too often, this can lead to overwatering. Overwatering causes root rot, which is when the plant’s roots drown and die because there is constantly too much moisture in the potting medium. When the roots are dead, they become susceptible to opportunistic pathogens such as fungi and bacteria which help the rot spread faster to the rest of the plant, so that eventually the entire plant is affected and dying.
If you suspect that your plant is overwatered, remove it from the pot and check the state of the roots. Remove any brown or black roots because those are dying or dead. Use sterilized pruning shears or a knife to cut them off.
The miltoniopsis is very particular when it comes to the type of water you give it, so try to use only filtered water or rainwater. These kinds of water have minimal mineral content so they will not cause any buildup in the soil over time.
If you are using filtered or rainwater on the plant, you can give it fertilizer as often as once a week. During the fall and winter, when the plant is not actively growing as much, you may need to reduce the feeding to once every two weeks so that you do not end up with any mineral buildup in the potting medium or around the plant’s roots.
As with the miltonia orchid, miltoniopsis orchids like an airy, porous and well-draining potting medium. You can use sphagnum moss, wool mix or bark. The most important aspect is always going to be adequate drainage. Even if the plant’s roots become a little bound in the pot, that is alright; you only really need to repot it once a year.
The miltonia and miltoniopsis orchids are often confused with one another because the miltoniopsis orchids, or pansy orchids, were classified under the miltonia genus for a long time. This has since been changed, but most people still think of the two as the same genus.
Miltonia orchids have rounder, more spaced-apart pseudobulbs, and their flowers are more slender. They have two leaves on either side of a pseudobulb.
Miltoniopsis orchids have flatter pseudobulbs, larger flowers, and only one leaf next to their pseudobulb.
Care for both plants is similar, except that the miltoniopsis orchids are more sensitive to light and to higher temperatures.
Nevertheless, both plants produce beautifully striking flowers that will bring joy to any home.
Image: istockphoto.com / gurineb