How To Care For A Miltonia Orchid
The Miltonia orchid is native to Brazil and is characterized by long lasting, fragrant flowers. Growing orchids of any type can be a challenge, but most home gardeners can have success with the Miltonia if they pay careful attention to soil, watering, and the general environment the plant has to live in. There are a number of Miltonia species, 9 in all, some of which can be very difficult to work with, while others are relatively easy to grow. The inexperienced orchid grower will probably do best with a Miltonia hybrid, which tends to be a more sturdy plant.
The Miltonia orchid has taken somewhat of back seat to a close relative, the popular Miltoniopsis, or Pansy orchid. Also, as it was long considered to be a warm growing plant, the Miltonia orchid was considered by many to be unsuitable for growing in an environment most orchid hobbyists prefer. In has more recently been determined that the orchid actually requires cool to intermediate growing conditions. The various species hybridize well, and consequently many sturdy hybrids are available to the orchid hobbyist and collector.
General Orchid Handling Practice - There are some general practices that are good to follow when handling any orchid, and the Miltonia orchid is no exception. Cleanliness is a must. Clean your potting bench after each use with a Physan solution or other disinfectant. In addition keep cutting tools sterile, a flame sterilizer is useful here. Tools should also be sharp and need to be replaced when worn out. Most orchid handlers wear gloves, which are frequently dipped in a disinfectant solution. If you don't wear gloves, you'll need to frequently wash and disinfect your hands. If you come across a plant that appears to have a virus it either needs to be destroyed, or set aside until you are certain that it cannot contaminate other plants. Also, it's best not to handle more than one plant at a time if, for example, you’re clipping off dead blossoms or doing some general pruning.
Miltonia Orchid Culture - The Miltonia orchid likes bright light, but not strong sunlight, as the leaves have a tendency to sunburn. You can tell if the light is too bright, as the leaves will turn yellow in such conditions. They also need to grow in a location where there is a constant movement in the air. In its native habitat, the Miltonia receives large amounts of moisture from low clouds, fog, mist, and heavy dew, and does not experience a dry season. High humidity, on the order of 85%, is needed by the plant at all times. Plants therefore need to be watered often, at least daily, and it is only in the autumn, when flowering has finished, that watering can be gradually reduced. Watering can be reduced even more during the winter months, but don't allow the plant to dry out. Once growth starts again, frequent watering practice needs to resume.
The orchid can be grown in small pots using sphagnum moss as the growing medium; however it will do well in many different kinds of growing medium. One problem the grower may face is, because of the amount of moisture required by the plant, the growing medium tends to break down after a while. Sphagnum moss for example will only last for about 9 months, at which time the orchid will need to be re potted.
One drawback the Miltonia orchid has is it is not good as a cut flower. The blossoms would seem perfect for a corsage, but once cut will wilt in a very short time. The nine species of the Miltonia orchid are named Miltonia anceps, M. candida, M. flavescens, M. cuneata, M. spectabilis, M. regnellii, M. russelliana, M. clowesii, and M. kayasimae. Each has its own particular characteristics and growing requirements based upon the local climates where they grow in the wild. Most major orchid societies have access to the information a grower would need to grow any of the above species.