Yes, You Can Grow Miltoniopsis
Miltoniopsis have long been lumped in with the likes of Masdevallias and rupicolous Laelias as too difficult too grow for the average person. Because of this many growers who are perfectly capable of growing these majestic orchids are turned off from even trying. Here at Life With Orchids, we simply disagree. I want to take a moment to talk about the keys to success when in comes to growing the famous Pansy Orchids - skip down to the bottom for the basics (and who should actually think twice).
It is important that we understand that these plants are more or less 'Goldilocks' plants when it comes to temperature. They really, really don't want to get too warm and care should be taken to keep them below 80F although they will survive short spells up to 90F if they are watered very well and kept in deep shade.
However, if the heat lasts for too long without relief the plants will begin to turn rust-colored and wither. At the first signs of rust, they should be immediately moved to a cooler location. They also really don't want to be cold and 55F should be considered their minimum temperature. Although these are most often classified as cool growers, they really are strictly intermediate growers.
The good news is that we as a species also tend to enjoy the intermediate range and keep our homes at around levels that Miltoniopsis require. In the winter, we heat our home and in the summer we cool them with AC. The 10F temperature drop required overnight can easily be achieved while also simultaneously saving you a buck or too on your heating or cooling costs. At LWO, we turn the thermostat down to 60F at night during the winter months and up to 78-80F during the day in summer. In many climates, like the Pacific Northwest, these plants can be grown outdoors for much of the year, no tinkering required.
While using climate control in the home, you may run into issues with humidity, particularly with pleated or 'accordioned' new growths. We try to maintain relative humidity at or above 40%, preferably above 50%. All of the plants we have available for sale have been acclimated to these levels and should not be shocked if your home is comparable. If you have trouble maintaining humidity in your home, I highly recommend a humidifier - your sinuses will thank you too. You can also try misting their foliage daily to create a temporary pocket of humidity around the plant.
In relation to humidity, it's important to understand that these plants are water hogs. They will tolerate an occasional dry spell when it's not too warm but there should be some effort made to maintain moisture at the roots nearly all the time. This, of course, is not to say that they should be soggy. They should be kept in a mix that drains well with good airflow to the roots. This may seem like advanced grower territory, but I assure you, there is a work-around. Semi-Hydroponics has been a life saver for many orchid growers in eliminating the guessing game that comes with watering orchids. I find Miltoniopsis to be naturally suited to this growing method and highly recommend it. Learn more about Semi-Hydroponics from the creator himself over at First Rays. Water quality can also be a concern. If you have hard water, I do recommend flushing every month or two with rain, R/O, or distilled water to thoroughly remove fertilizer salt build-up.
As with all orchids, lighting in the key to flowering. Miltoniopsis can be grown alongside Phalaenopsis and Oncidiums. They do well in bright, diffused light but don't care for strong sun. We recommend 1000-2000 foot candles (somewhat fuzzy shadow of your hand). Avoid direct sunlight except for in the early morning or later evening. We have also found these plants do very well under daylight LED lights.
As promised, here's the TL;DR
- Miltoniopsis are strictly intermediate growers. If you keep them between 55F at night and 80F during the day they will be happy. Plants will bloom and grow better if there's 10-15F different between daytime highs and nighttime lows.
- They love water but don't want to be soggy. Keep them moist in an airy medium. We highly recommend semi-hydroponics. They also like good humidity, keep them at 40% or higher for optimal growth with minimal pleating.
- These are essentially shade loving plants that don't want direct sun for most of the day. Keep them between 1000-2000 foot candles of light for the best growth and blooming. They are great candidates for growing under artificial lights.
People living in dry, arid and hot places such as in the south-west will have a particularly difficult time growing these plants because their conditions are very counter to the requirements of Miltoniopsis. It is not impossible but there will be little room for error.
Here's my top pick for your first Miltoniopsis:
Miltoniopsis Rouge 'Picardie' is an easygoing plant. Warmth tolerant and forgiving of mistakes, it's the ideal introductory plant for the genus.