November 19, 2012

The Surreal Pansy Orchids-
Plants for Cooler Climates

M. Celle 'Wasserfall'

Pansy orchids, in the orchid genus Miltoniopsis, are a staple at orchid shows in cooler climates. This means almost anywhere north of Florida. This plant group grows to amazing dimensions in the humid "marine"climates of both coasts, especially so in the Pacific Northwest. Pansy orchids revel in cool foggy climates with mild winters. The flower show these modest plants can produce is hard to imagine, as are the surreal colors and patterns. One breeder in Hawaii is producing plants with almost totally black "masks" on the flowers, often set against vibrant background colors. 

M. Nicholas Yuan 'Maui Moon AM/AOS
x M. Hajime Ono 'Maui Falls' AM/AOS
courtesy of Exotic Rainforest


M. phalaenopsis
the species that started the program

The species which make up this genus are native to mountainous areas, mostly in Colombia and Peru, in cool foggy area with constantly moving air. These points are key to cultivating the genus. The plants like an open and well-drained consistently moist medium, bright light , with moving humid air at all times. This group of plants likes intermediate to cool conditions, meaning their daytime temperatures should not exceed 82 F, and night temperatures should be in the the 60-65 F range, with occasional night minimums down to 55 F. Given these conditions, the plants grow well and flower well.

The species are fairly petite plants, rarely growing more than a foot tall, with 2 inch flowers. Some of the hybrids can be much larger in all respects, as much as two feet tall, several feet across, with 5 inch flowers on long stems. The range of colors in the hybrid group is impressive, ranging from pure white to a deep ruby red, sugar white to the softest yellows, and combinations in between that are hard to describe.

M. vexillaria

M. Hajime Ono 'Black Falls' AM / AOS
courtesy of Angelsorchidsphotos

Although these plants will be hard to grow well in Florida, they can be easy to grow almost everywhere else. We have a specialized climate and can grow a great many plants types here. Pansy orchids are suited for many other states, and even windowsill culture if there is enough humidity. I remember growing them in my windowsill garden in Milwaukee, and the plants thrived in the cool draft near the glass in the winter. I would grow the plants outdoors in the summer under a shade tree, and "winter" them inside in an east-facing window. If you have the conditions, consider growing a few of these plants. They need a bit of extra attention, but the rewards are worth the effort . The plants are fairly fast growing, are fairly inexpensive, and readily available via mail order nurseries.

M. Jean Inouye 'Kalapana'
courtesy Angelsorchidsphotos

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens