Miltoniopsis Care Guide: How-To Grow, Culture, & Care Sheet

Miltoniopsis have had the fame of being a difficult, non-forgiving orchid, that will die on you if not given the exact conditions of its preference. They once were sold left and right, but now, given their bad name, they’ve dropped off the center-stage. With this Miltoniopsis Care Sheet, you can change that.

Miltoniopsis are not hard orchids to grow. Just like any other orchid, they have their growing climates well-defined, and if you can meet them, you’ll be rewarded will beautiful Miltoniopsis in flower for almost two full months at a time.

Miltoniopsis Care Guide
“File:Miltoniopsis Herralexandre 0zz.jpg” by Photo by David J. Stang is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Most Miltoniopsis will rebloom after a few months, so you’ll have them in bloom most of the year.

If you follow this complete care guide for Miltoniopsis, you’ll be two-thirds of your way there to cultivate these beautiful orchids.

This Miltoniopsis culture sheet is quite long, but in it, you’ll read about:

Characteristics of Miltoniopsis,
where they are found in nature,
the difference between Miltoniopsis and Miltonia orchids,
life cycle,
light conditions,
water requirements,
humidity preferences,
proper fertilization rations,
potting media and proper soil,
grooming and after bloom care,
propagation of Miltoniopsis,
and the most common problems.

Since this Miltoniopsis care guide is quite extensive, I’m working on a free downloadable PDF, which should be up in a few days.  If it’s still not here, check back in a few days. At the end of this post, there are pictures from my Miltoniopsis Pinterest PageOpens in a new tab..

Militoniopsis Culture Sheet & Care Guide

Pronunciation: mil-toh-nee-OPP-sis

Tribe: Maxillarieae

Subtribe: Oncidiinae

Geographic Location: High Elevation Regions near the Andes Mountain Range in South America, which crosses border lines of Peru, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. Note: the warm-growing Miltoniopsis, called Miltonias, and been separated into their own genus, are only found in Brazil.

Recognized number of species: Depends on who you are citing. I’ve read from 5 to 11, but I still stay with 5.

Blooming Time: Spring, with occasional reblooming in early fall.

Light: Low light, 1000 to 1,000fc

Temperature: Cool, from 60 to 80 F

Humidity: 70%

Watering: Constant, always moist

Fertilizer: 30-10-10

Potting Media: Sphagnum Moss

Care Guide for Miltoniopsis: Characteristics

The first thing to know about Miltoniopsis is what orchid we are talking about. They are most commonly referred to as the Colombian orchid or the pansy orchid since they resemble the pansy flower in many ways. (Some say they resemble Oncidiums more than pansies.)

These amazing blossoms are extraordinarily huge compared to the plant and can display a waterfall pattern on their leaves, with white, yellows, red, oranges, and peach colors. The blossoms are usually flat, with broad/wide lips. They have long, thin, tender roots, which tend to be extremely fragile.

These roots like to be in an always damp medium, where humidity is high and access to water is ever-present all the time. There’s a fine line from this to becoming soggy and prone to root rot, which is what usually happens to them.

Miltoniopsis Orchid
“Miltoniopsis Eastern Bay ‘Claret Punch’ [新加坡濱海灣花園 Gardens by the Bay, Singapore]” by 阿橋花譜 KHQ Flower Guide is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The pseudobulbs will be longer, more elongated than their close relatives, the Miltonias, which are more circular. They shouldn’t have wrinkled pseudobulbs, but flat and even. The shiny light green color indicates a healthy pseudobulb, with a smooth texture.

If the pseudobulbs are wrinkled, it’s a sign that either there isn’t enough water or the roots have problems and aren’t’ absorbing the water that is provided. One or two spikes form from each pseudobulb, and four to seven pansy-shaped flowers emerge form each spike.

The inflorescence, most commonly called flower spikes, ranges from 8 to 20 inches long (20 to 50 cm). Some have reported them to blossom for almost two months, not quite that. I find that it’s a bit shorter time span, ranging more in between five to six weeks.

Each flower, which is around 4 inches wide, or around 10 cm, will remain open for about a week and a half, and by the middle of the second month, they’ll start to fall off. After a month or two of rest, they’ll rebloom. This guarantees that the orchid will stay in bloom for most of the year, which makes the payoff worthwhile.

When not in bloom, the Miltoniopsis will largely assimilate resemble the Brassia, Odontoglossum and Oncidium orchids. Miltoniopsis was once a huge genus, but due to some pseudobulbs having two leaves, others having one; some being cooler gown and other withstanding hotter temperatures, the genus has been divided into Miltoniopsis and Miltonia.

Miltoniopsis Orchid Identification: What’s the difference between the orchids Miltonia and Miltoniopsis?

The main difference between the two groups is where they’re found in nature. Because the Miltoniopsis grow in high altitudes, around the base of the Andes Mountain (mainly Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and even in Costa Rica), and Miltonia are found in hotter, more arid climates, they have adapted to either retain more water or not—that’s what distinguishes them apart.

Both orchid genus once were in the former, larger genus, commonly named “Miltonia”. Later, Miltoniopsis were excluded (or formed their own genus). The “opsis” suffix means pertaining to, or similar to.

According to Woody Carlson, author of the article “Culture of the Genus Miltoniopsis” published in Orchid Digest, “In 1837 John Lindley, a distinguished English botanist and orchidologist, established the Miltonia genus based on the warm-growing Brazilian species spectabilis (Lindl.), and dedicated it to the Earl Fitzwilliam, Viscount Milton (1786-1857)… In 1889 Godefroy-Lebeuf recognized that the Columbian-type species was structurally different from the Brazilian-type species and established the genus Miltoniopsis.” It was only recently that the Miltoniopsis and Miltonia genus have in fact separated for good. “In 1976, Garay and Dunsterville reestablished the genus Miltoniopsis of Godefroy-Lebeuf for all the Columbian-type species of Miltonia.” *Source: see the end of the article

Miltonias can only be found in the inland lower mountain ranges in Brazil, around the state of Minas Gerais. Having lived in Brazil for a good part of my adult life, these orchids are very familiar and in my biased opinion, easier to cultivate in our North American homes and offices than the Miltoniopsis.

If you’re wondering why I went to Brazil, and what brought me back to Kansas, please check out my Author page. I wrote a heart-wrenching memoir about my experiences there, and it will also give you a good idea about who is writing theses tutorials and guides—aka Amanda Matthews.

Anyway, back to the hotter, hilly plains in Brazil… Because Miltonias are not grown in such high altitudes and with considerably less humidity, they have adapted to warmer climates.
The differences don’t stop there. Another variance between Miltoniopsis and Miltonias is that the pseudobulbs on Miltonias will have two leaves protruding from each pseudobulb, not just one. The round, circular-shaped Miltonia pseudobulbs will grow closer together, more compacted into the pot, as compared to the Miltoniopsis, which grow in the mountainous regions of the Andes, will be more elongated.

The cooler weather, found in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Venezuela will call for more humidity since Miltoniopsis like the foggy, humid, overcast rainforest of the tropics. Imagine a hike on a nature trail where hardly any sun will poke through the overhead leaves and it’s so humid you can smell the sweet scent of approaching rain. In this habitat, it will rain every single day, and when it doesn’t the humidity levels are approaching 90%. Miltoniopsis prefer this kind of weather—Miltonias don’t.

Since it’s a muggy, humid, but cooler climate, Miltoniopsis can afford to take up some space in the pot, and won’t grow so close to each other. Each pseudobulb will prefer to distance itself from other pseudobulbs. They will spread out in the pot, having more distance on the rhizome in between pseudobulbs.

Warm-growing Miltonias, on the other hand, will grow crammed together, like childhood neighbors that know no limits to their friend’s house and theirs. It’s one big conglomeration of pseudobulbs inside a pot—exactly like my Brazilian friends, all hanging out together. Personal space is unheard of in the Brazilian culture.

Miltonias and Miltoniopsis are distinct, yet similar. This care guide is for Miltoniopsis, and not Miltonias. Care is somewhat similar in both, so you can read this guide as a Miltonia Culture Sheet, too, but just take note of what is what. Where cultivation differentiates, I’ll try to mention it.

Found in the hilly plains of Brazil, more specific to the state of Minas GeraisFound in higher altitudes along the Andes Mountains, crossing the borders of Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador
2 leaves per pseudobulb 1 leaf per pseudobulb
Round Pseudobulbs formed in tight clustersElongated or Oval Pseudobulbs
Spread out in the pot, long rhizome
Gray-green foliage Yellow-green, mid-green
Resemble the OncidiumLook like a Pansy

I’ve said this before, but it’s a good time to repeat it: Miltoniopsis are not difficult to grow, though many consider them to NOT be a beginner orchid. I disagree with the second part.

The main point to strengthen my argument is that to grow your Phalaenopsis (or any other beginner orchid) you had to read up on the culture, care, cultivation requirements, and the proper way to grow it at home. Without that information, you probably wouldn’t have made it.

The same is true about the Miltoniopsis. Do the research before, and it’s a breeze to grow. A strong breeze, tending slightly toward tornado, but still doable.

Without a Miltoniopsis orchid culture sheet or a fact-check to verify that the orchid is in its proper growing conditions, it won’t grow properly. The only difference is that a Miltoniopsis will not be as forgiving as a true beginner orchid might be, as Phalaenopsis or Cattleya.

Buyers tip: I hate to say this, but don’t just purchase one. Buy three or four, because until you get the proper conditions that are suitable in your climate or indoors, a few will die on you. It’s part of orchid care and learning.

So, don’t take it as a negative experience if your first Miltoniopsis dies on you. Some do. Some don’t. It can be that you did everything right and still it died. That’s just part of orchid care and education. Everything is a learning experience. In summon, Miltoniopsis orchids aren’t difficult to grow, just different. Once you learn to meet their conditions, they’ll thrive.

Let’s dive into the Miltoniopsis Orchid Care Guide: Tips, Secrets & Ideas to Best Grow Your Miltoniopsis

Culture Sheet for Miltoniopsis: Life cycle – when in bloom

Miltoniopsis run a strict calendar schedule and will bloom in spring. If you are in North America, spring will mean from April to July. Some Miltoniopsis will rebloom in the fall. Depending on the type of Miltoniopsis you have, (there are 6 known/registered species but hundreds of man-made hybrids…) the inflorescence (flower spike) will emerge from the top or sides of the pseudobulb. Rarely will it emerge from both, but if it does, that it’s not something to worry about.

Consider yourself lucky.

The life cycle of a Miltoniopsis Orchid will be the following: During high, hotter temperatures, they tend to go dormant. This will usually be in summer. If your home environment is too hot, it may cut back the Miltoniopsis from blooming, since they don’t tolerate higher temperatures. Keep them cooler and they’ll thank you.

Once they have stopped their tiny dormancy period, Miltoniopsis will start to grow roots in late August and early September. (If you’re not in North America, then read this as of late summer, early fall.)

You’ll need to repot as soon as you see signs of new growth in the roots, but before the roots meet the old potting medium and start to bury. All your repotting needs to be done by October. If you missed it, then just wait a year.

Miltoniopsis will not be forgiving in an old potting medium since they can’t tolerate decomposing or decaying medium well, but that is preferred than trying to readjust a root that has made its way into the old medium. Talking about repotting, which I’ll cover later in this article, you will need to repot every year, a maximum two. Keep this in mind when you come to the repotting part of this Miltoniopsis culture guide.

Miltoniopsis Orchid
“Miltonia * Orquidea ‘pensamiento'” by jacilluch is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Miltoniopsis will not be forgiving in an old potting medium since they can’t tolerate decomposing or decaying medium well, but that is preferred than trying to readjust a root that has made its way into the old medium. Talking about repotting, which I’ll cover later in this article, you will need to repot every year, a maximum two. Keep this in mind when you come to the repotting part of this Miltoniopsis culture guide. Once the orchid has a new medium and is happily settled in its home, this should be October or November, signs of early winter. This is also the best time to purchase a Miltoniopsis. Orchid it online or get it from an orchid nursery, but buy it now. Don’t wait until summer to buy it. This will give it plenty of time to adjust to your home environment and adapt before it’s time to produce a flower spike. Too many changes and it will “shut down” on you.

So…buy it, change the medium, and let it grow roots and healthy leaves during the winter, so it’s ready to bloom in spring.

In spring, Miltoniopsis flourish to the fullest. They will stay in bloom for around two months, not quite that. If you happen to get yours to stay in bloom for more, please tell me how. Please write in the comments, because I’ve never managed that.

After they bloom, the orchid will need to recuperate for a month, and in some cases, will send out new blossoms after this short resting period. It’s not really a dormancy period but could be compared to one. In this case, you’ll have flowers up to the end of summer, when it’s time to repot again.

…and that brings us to another year in the Miltoniopsis cycle of blossoming.

Orchid Care for Miltoniopsis: Light Requirements

Think back again to how Miltoniopsis grow in the forest. Imagine yourself walking on the uncharted path of a Peruvian rainforest, next to a waterfall with parrots and macaws flying overhead. Small micro monkeys are jumping from branch to branch, as bright, turquoise blue butterflies open and close their wings next to you. You can smell the humidity, and even though the sun is strong, it’s not hitting you in the face. The leaves above from the tall forest make a closed canopy above you.

The sun rays that actually touch your skin are the bare minimum, (making you wonder why you ever wore sunscreen in the first place) even though it’s bright enough to wear sunglasses. The sun isn’t pouring down on your face but tiny light spots speckle the forest floor.

This is how much light your Miltoniopsis will need—next to none. But they’ll like it bright. Don’t push them off into a forgotten corner of your living room, waiting to rot away in blackness. Considered low light orchids, Miltoniopsis are good for bathrooms, and the shelf furthest away from your light source if using LED Grow lights.

If you want a measurement, they range from 1,000 to 1,500-foot candles (fc), situated best with 1200 fc, which is very low. They are lower than the Phalaenopsis orchids. If you grow African violets, then mimic the same conditions to light as they like: shade, filtered light, and no direct sun.

There is a special note here: this applies to the cool growing Miltoniopsis. If you have the Miltonias, the genus from Brazil which is warm growing, you can increase the light level to 2000 foot-candles for warm growing.

Both are considered relatively shaded, but the Miltoniopsis is more, requiring 75% shade. Again, if you have a warmer growing one, then it will tolerate more light. Place a Miltoniopsis in more sun, and the tender, fine leaves will sunburn on you quicker than I will when I forget to apply sunscreen.

The leaves are not used to direct sun, and won’t tolerate any kind of direct sun unless it’s early morning sun. Even late, afternoon sun that is fading into the evening shadows is too harsh for a Miltoniopsis. This means that if you have an east-facing window, that gets early morning sun no more than one hour, then the Miltoniopsis will appreciate it. Anything more than this, your orchid is a goner.

South-facing windows also don’t work that well. The light isn’t the problem here—the heat is. The south window is usually warmer and will stay warm all day long. Miltoniopsis are cool growing, and won’t bloom is held in temperatures that are too high. (*Miltonias don’t apply here.)

If you have grown or are growing a green leaf paphiopedilum, then the light conditions would be the same. Miltoniopsis can take more light, if you drop the temperatures, so check the leaves to see if they are hot. If they are, it’s too much.

To know if your light is too much, just right, or not enough (the Goldilocks story) look at the leaves. A pinkish-red tinge is just right, almost pushing the upper light limit. If your leaf turns purple or a pale yellow (it can go either way) it’s way too much light and you need to back off the lighting.

Push your orchid away from the window sill, or place in on a lower shelf on the orchid rack. If your orchid has bright green leaves, like a juicy apple tending toward spinach or broccoli colored, it’s too dark and you need to increase your light levels. Aim for a healthy lettuce-colored leaf.

Fact Check for Miltoniopsis: Water Preferences

Miltoniopsis grow in the humid, damp, overcast rainforest under the Andres Mountain range. They love water. If it’s not raining there every day, the humidity is in the 90%, ready to downpour any minute. Then they dry out fast, caressed by the soothing wind currents that make the leaves in the overhead canopy play in the wind.

Since the Miltoniopsis leaves are thin, they don’t have anywhere to store water. After, why would they need to with it raining every day? Unlike Phalaenopsis, with thick, leathery, coarse leaves, the Miltoniopsis leaves will aid in water evaporation. If they’d absorb all the humidity in the air around them. They’d be quickly affected by edema—a swelling in the leaving provoked by over-watering. The thin, fine roots cling to trees, which makes them epiphytes. They collect the humidity in the air and quickly transport them throughout the orchid. At night, the stomata or air pores, on the underside of the leaves open to release the gases and extra water droplets that have accumulated during the day.

Miltoniopsis Orchid
“Miltoniopsis” by mahinui is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Now take all that information and apply it to our home offices and living rooms. 🙂 First, you’ll need to water every day if you have a potting mix of orchid bark. If you use pure 100% sphagnum moss, then every five to six days should be sufficient.

Depending on your medium, which I’ll explain later on, you can hold off watering every other day or every third day. Don’t go more than that without water. The medium will hold the water, but the roots don’t like to be soggy.

It’s better to water every day with a medium that evaporates quickly, than to water every third day with a medium that retains too much water. Both these mediums need to promote quick water absorption and water release.

During overcast days and cooler months of the year, you can hold back on watering. The plant won’t work as hard to produce energy and require less water to live. If you over-water the cymbidium, the little fine roots will root off, as it’s quickly prone to root rot.

Note: If you have a warm-growing Miltonia, you can water less, leaving a few more days in between the watering periods.

Both Miltonias and Miltoniopsis are very intolerant to the salt build up in the medium. This means that you’ll need to be flushing out the medium once a month, with water that is either rainwater, reverse osmosis water, or some other type of water that doesn’t have as high a mineral count like tap water does.

Miltoniopsis prefer water with a pH of 6.5. Normal tap water is around 7.5 to 7.8. (Mine happens to be outrageously high, but that’s another topic. Anything you can do to bring the pH down is highly appreciated by your plant—or just use reverse osmosis water, distilled water, rainwater, or some other cleaner form of water.

The excess minerals at the top of the medium (and consequently in the potting medium itself) need to be flushed out—this is a process we call leaching. The salt build-up can happen because of the fertilizer, too. Once a month water normally, and after the watering, run clean water through the pot to rinse out any excess chemicals that have grown up inside your pot.

To know if you are watering a Miltoniopsis too little, the first signs will be wrinkled leaves and the second sign, a shriveled up pseudobulb. This may happen because the roots have all rotted away, so don’t assume it’s only because of under-watering.

The leaves will have long pleats in them, like an accordion. This will not recover, even if you water every day. Once pleated, pleated for leaf life. You can recover the plant, but that leaf will always show signs that it’s had a day at the job.

There is a popular saying with Miltoniopsis that if you think that they may need water tomorrow, water them today. But how do you know you need to water tomorrow? The roots are leaving their healthy green bean color and turning a silvery-white color.

You can check by the color of the roots, or by pushing your finger through a bottom third hole in the pot. Unlike the Phalaenopsis, where you can test using the top portion of the medium, the Miltoniopsis won’t work with this method since you never want the pot to dry out extremely. Phals like to be a little dry every once in a while—Miltoniopsis don’t.

If you feel the Miltoniopsis potting medium is wet, you still have to water it. That’s why it’s best to check the bottom holes on the pot. If they feel dry, then you’ve really under-watered the poor Miltoniopsis.

Q&A for Miltoniopsis: Do Miltoniopsis Grow in Hydroponics?

Let me start with a disclaimer. I have never grown Miltoniopsis in water culture—full, semi, or hydroponically. I haven’t. So, this part will be from the research that others have done and I’ll write about their experiences.

Semi-hydroponics works best with Miltoniopsis since the orchids don’t like to be in water all the time (compared to Full Water Culture). The two inches at the bottom of the pot will provide them with the humidity and the water they need to make it for five days. The two days drying off period needs to be supervised, since they aren’t like most Phals, which need this extra time.

Reduce the dry time to one day, and keep the roots constantly misted.

Instructions for Miltoniopsis: Temperature

These instructions apply to the cool-growing Miltoniopsis, since the warm-growing ones will have different, higher temperatures.

During the day, you’ll want to aim for no higher than 80ᵒ F (26ᵒ C) degrees. If you can keep it around or under 75ᵒ F (23ᵒ C), the orchid will appreciate it. Don’t drop under 70ᵒ (21ᵒC) for daytime. Above 80ᵒ F (26ᵒ C), you’re at risk for losing blooms or not even blossoming at all.

Miltoniopsis Orchid
“Orchidaceae – Miltoniopsis sp.” by Ettore Balocchi is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At night, you’ll want to drop that temperature by 10ᵒ degrees, going no further cooler than 59 (12 C).
55 F (12 C) is better.

So, in summary, keep the temperatures from 55ᵒ to 65ᵒ F (12ᵒ to 18ᵒ C) at night
70ᵒ to 80ᵒ (21ᵒ to 26ᵒ C) during the day. 

Orchid Care for Miltoniopsis: Correcting the Humidity

You need to do research on the internet, but be careful of who you read. I actually found this advice, “If well-watered, humidity is not a problem for Miltoniopsis.” This is a pure, flat out lie. There is no way ever that a Miltoniopsis will survive indoors without a humidifier. It’s almost a tent-grown orchid, or greenhouse orchid because the humidity requirements are so high.

Think back to the rainforest under the Andes Mountains. They are in a high elevation climate, where the temperatures are cooler most the year. The humidity from the waterfalls, streams, constant and daily rainfall, and the bubbling brooks keep the humidity high, around 80 to 90%.

In our houses, we can adjust that humidity (relative humidity, or rH) to around 70%, and they will thrive just as good. Except in our living rooms, the basic humidity ranges from 25 to 30%. That’s because we are prone to using air conditioners and central heating units.

Both these appliances suck the humidity out of the air in order to raise or lower the temperature.

Miltoniopsis will not survive on a humidity tray alone. Humidity trays—pebbles soaked in the water underneath the orchid pot—will only raise the humidity around the base of the orchid around three or four percent, so a humidifier is absolutely necessary.

When I was searching for a good humidifier, I kept all my notes: warm-growing, cool-mist, ultrasonic, and others… and researched more than 200 different humidifiers. I read thousands of comments, recommendations, and really inserted myself in the subject.

This article is the by-product of that research, where I evaluate the top five and write about the one I chose for my home office. If you’re looking for humidifiers, I highly recommend that page.

Anyway, you’ll need a humidifier. I have grown orchids in my bathroom, but have not had much luck with that. The humidity rises but doesn’t stay high most the day (unless you have about 8 kids and they all take 30-minute showers).

Humidity levels for Miltoniopsis need to be at least 50% during the night and around 80% during the day. You can keep it at a regular 70%, and the results are about the same.
If you live in a hotter climate, then you’ll need to upgrade your humidity.

The higher temperatures will open the stomata even more, and the gas exchange will occur more often, but this will also dry out your orchid more. More water will be absorbed through the roots, but also more humidity will be lost at higher temperatures. If you like a heated living room in the winter, keep the humidifier on high.

Care Guide for Miltoniopsis: Choosing the Fertilizer

Miltoniopsis will need very little fertilizer, but regularly. The best solution for this is to dilute the fertilizer and use it every week, except once a month. On the day you don’t fertilize it, you’ll need to leach the orchid pot.

You can use less fertilizer during the winter months, or when it’s very overcast and cloudy—almost the same routine as you would hold back the watering cycle. During blossoming time around spring, I recommend a 10-30-20 but during all other periods, a balanced on with high nitrogen is suggested, like 30-10-10.

Whatever fertilizer you use, dilute it much more than you would with a Phalaenopsis. A Cattleya and a Phal will forgive you for over-fertilizing, but a Miltoniopsis is a sentimental little dude and holds grudges. As we all know, grudges only harm the person that holds them, so your orchid will die from over-fertilizing and from excess salt build-up.
Very profound, I know… But the physiological reasons are that the orchid is prone to be leached by nature every day and watering in abundance cleanses the excess nutrients out of the orchid roots. Miltoniopsis have thousands of fine, tender roots and collect tiny particles over a scattered period of time. Too much fertilizer and the plant goes overboard with chemicals, having no way to rid the excess.

Miltoniopsis Orchid in Nature
“miltoniopsis at treehouse” by mahinui is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The first sign that you’re over-fertilizing is the blackened crusty tips at the end of the leaves.

Cut the ends of these leaves off—they won’t grow back or recover. Tip: Miltoniopsis do not recover well from anything. That is why they have the fame of being non-forgiving. But any ailment that affects them will most likely kill them if not treated soon. Even root rot is hard to cure in a Miltoniopsis.

Orchid Care for Miltoniopsis: Soil and Potting Media 

Since Miltoniopsis prefer to be soaked daily, yet depend on the air currents that sway through the trees, the potting medium needs to recreate these to the last drop. Any water retaining media with adequate drainage is what you’ll be aiming for.

New Zealand Sphagnum moss is the perfect candidate for this. Not many orchids so well in sphagnum moss alone since it retains so much humidity. Let me phrase that—no orchids do well in sphagnum moss alone. Only seedlings can tolerate the constant humidity around the roots, which is what the Miltoniopsis like.

I had “technical” problems potting in sphagnum moss alone, so I kept around 20% orchid bark, just to say I had something else rather than sphagnum moss. I’ve had too many newly acquired orchids that came in sphagnum die on me… Too much humidity in the pot.

Since I usually get them on the promotion/sale table, they’ve had their death sentence written way before I even got ahold of them, but it still makes me turn my head against pure sphagnum as a potting medium.

Other orchid growers use it without restriction. This just reinforces that you have to try various potting mediums and see what works for you. Don’t go blindly into what one person says, and that person only.

Anyway, 100% pure sphagnum moss—I’ve turned against it. To ease my conscience, I had to pot the Miltoniopsis with something else. At least it made me happy.

Miltoniopsis have been known to be potted in seedling bark, tree fern, and extremely fine orchid bark, too. If you’re like me, there are other options, just keep the sphagnum more than 50% of your mix.

Without the sphagnum, your Miltoniopsis will dry too quickly.

Orchid Instructions for Miltoniopsis: Repotting 

Since Miltoniopsis are epiphytes in a highly humid environment that get flushed out almost daily, they do not tolerate broken down potting medium. If you keep your orchid in the pot for more than two years without repotting it, it will die. The decomposing potting medium will hinder the quality of the absorption of the water through the roots.

When you repot, chose a pot that is the same size or near the same size as your actual pot. Miltoniopsis love to be root bound. Since you’ll have to repot next year anyway, it’s not worth getting a pot 2inches larger than the original, like you would for a Phalaenopsis or Cattleya. Keep to the same size and only upgrade when it’s absolutely necessary.

Low Light Orchids Miltoniopsis
“File:Miltoniopsis Hajime Ono 2zz.jpg” by Photo by David J. Stang is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

As for mounting, the Miltonias will do better on mounts than the Miltoniopsis will.

This is because of the warm-growing qualities: it’s harder to keep a cooler environment on a slab than it is in a pot on your orchid shelf.

Not sure why that is, but it’s the way it is.
While your repotting, try to do this before the new roots actually touch the older potting medium. Once they have a taste of what the old potting medium is like, they will have a hard time adapting to the new medium. They grow roots very fast, so don’t worry about not having good roots, as long as the new ones grow into good, fresh potting medium.

Miltoniopsis Care Guide: Grooming (Care after blooming) 

You need to cut off the old flower spikes after the blooms have dried up and fallen off. Since the new growths that appear will be from a new inflorescence, you can cut off the old one without hesitation. If you absolutely want to, you can leave it on until it dries up.

This will provide some extra nutrients to the orchid, as it reabsorbs the nutrients it already has. But since it’s not as thick as a Phalaenopsis spike, there isn’t much to be absorbed, so I generally cut it off. No use keeping an ugly spike in the middle of something beautiful.

The second blooms will not last as long as the first since the months will be entering summer, and Miltoniopsis do not tolerate the hotter climates at all. The higher temperatures will stunt their growth, and the flowers will not remain open as long.

Tip: When you are cutting back the flower spike, be EXTRA CAREFUL to not snip into the pseudobulb or other leaves. Miltoniopsis do not forgive cuts and scrapes so easily and this mark could become a hazard for future life.

Orchid Care for Miltoniopsis:  Propagation

If and when you decide to divide your Miltoniopsis, make sure the division has at least 3-5 healthy pseudobulbs. Anything less than that will not make it. If possible, aim more towards five.

The best time to do this is when you are repotting, which coincides with late spring after they have flowered. You might lose the second inflorescence, but it’s better to have a healthy potting medium for two years than to have a few sprays of flowers that won’t last long in the first place.

Verify that the bulbs are in fact healthy before you divide them. If you happen to get a sick pseudobulb, chances are all the energy needed to survive will be transferred into trying to make the sick bulb recover. Miltoniopsis are not that hardy, compared to Cattleyas.

You can make a whole bunch of mistakes on Cattleyas and if they get root rot, they just grow new roots. Not so with Miltoniopsis. These orchids are finicky in that aspect. If your orchid is looking sickly, treat it immediately. Don’t divide it, don’t mess around too much with it, and let it heal.

Chances are, once it’s sick, it will not do so well… So, heads up on that. That is why we do everything in our power to avoid the sickness before it even installs in the orchid. Curing a sick Miltoniopsis is quite a job.

Don’t pick an orchid pot that is too big, either. When you divide your orchid, remember that it probably won’t grow as much that year. Since it does prefer to be root-bound, the orchid pot for Miltoniopsis can be tight, snugly hugging the roots.

Whatever you do, do NOT bury the pseudobulb into the medium. It should be above the medium and showing (visible). Since your potting medium will be moist most the time, anything that is brushing up against it is a potential cause for stem rot.

Miltoniopsis are also prone to all the pests, insects, bugs, critters, and little creatures that should not inhabit the earth. But they do. And they’re here to stay.

I wrote a page on the most common pesticides and insecticides used for all orchids which you can read by clicking here, but specifically pertaining to Miltoniopsis, be careful with Neem Oil. It will burn the leaves. All other insecticides are safe to use.

Miltoniopsis Pests, Insects & Problems

The worst problem that Miltoniopsis have is the high humidity and constant water cycle leading to root rot. The roots are very fine, tender, and sensitive. They are prone to root rot since it’s not an easy task to get the cycle just right.

Cattleyas and Phalaenopsis are more forgiving when it comes to getting over root rot. With them, you can let the roots sit out, apply hydrogen peroxide, and the roots will grow back. Miltoniopsis are harder in that aspect. Even though they are avid growers, they don’t recover well from diseases and have a hard time fighting it off.

Fungal infections are in second. This mainly happens because fungus feeds of bacteria, and if you didn’t control the bacteria that caused the rot in the first place, it just adds up. Once fungus sets in, your potting media will decompose rapidly, and a repot will be necessary.

To treat both these, it’s advised to keep a fan circulating at all times.

The constant airflow will prevent water droplets from sitting too long on the top of leaves, in the crown, and next to the pseudobulbs. The air current dries up the water while making the available humidity circulate in between the orchid structures.

Miltoniopsis Fact Check: Hybrids – Varieties

There aren’t many species of Miltoniopsis, only 5:
Miltoniopsis bismarckii,
Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis,
Miltoniopsis roezlii,
Miltoniopsis vexillaria
and Miltoniopsis warscewiczii.

These have been crossed with each other and also with Vandas, Oncidiums, and Phalaenopsis to create hundred of different hybrids.


When choosing a Miltoniopsis to purchase, always check and see who the parents are.

This can influence minor adaptations in the culture and care guide. If you don’t know, or that information is not specified, then the care will not differ from this care sheet for Miltoniopsis.

Don’t Stop Learning!

If you want to be included in more information and get a 14-page fertilization guide, please sign up for my newsletter. I don’t spam, but send emails out bi-monthly with some curious topics of interest. If you want more information, click here to go to a specific page on this website where I explain it more in detail.

Orchid Fertilization

Also, if you are looking for an orchid journal to keep your notes specifically about orchid care, check out my 2 solutions for that on this page. If note-keeping isn’t your thing, then there is a free excel spreadsheet that you can download. Click here for more information on how to do that.

If you subscribe to my newsletter, I will send you a 14-page guide on the main tips of orchid fertilizer. It is downloadable and you can print it out on your computer. I designed the guide to double up as a coloring book, just to make it fun.

More Pictures of Miltoniopsis

If you want inspiring pictures of Miltoniopsis, then take a look at my Pinterest Page, where I repost pictures of several orchid genera, Miltoniopsis included. I did not take these pictures. I just reposted them and included the appropriate credit information to each picture. You can scroll through those pictures below or go directly to the Pinterest pageOpens in a new tab.. Orchideria Cultivating Orchids & Crafting TerrariumsTypes of Orchids: MiltoniopsisFollow On Further Reading Suggestions:

Don’t just take my word for what is written here. Continue researching other articles about Miltoniopsis orchid care, because everyone has a different point of view and unique techniques that work for them. Here are a few other articles from other websites if you’d like to continue your research on Miltoniopsis Care Guide:

-“Miltoniopsis Culture: Colombian-Type Miltonia (Miltoniopsis) CultureOpens in a new tab.” 
written by Ned Nash,  published on American Orchid Society talks about general guidelines of caring for Miltoniopsis.

Orchid DigestOpens in a new tab., Volume 63, Number 3, July, August, September 1998, pps. 101-111. Copyright 1998 Orchid Digest Corp.
It was from this article that I cited direct citations.

-“Culture of the Genus MiltoniopsisOpens in a new tab.
written by Woody Carlson, published on Robert Bebdard Horticultre talks about a lot more in depth care guide to Miltoniopsis than I could provide here, especially about pests and diseases. 

Happy Cultivating!

Signature Amanda Matthews

Amanda Matthews

Amanda Matthews is a theological professor, author, pastor, and a motivational speaker. She's passionate about spreading hope and teaching. Her hobbies include biking, cultivating orchids, and exploring nature trails. She now lives in Kansas, while raising her two children. To read more, go to

5 thoughts on “Miltoniopsis Care Guide: How-To Grow, Culture, & Care Sheet

  1. I’m interested in your newsletter and emails about Militoniopsis. I am determined to learn how to grow these successfully, and I like your writing style. I’m just not 109% on how to sign up for that.

  2. I absolutely reading your articles! I’ve been struggling with keeping a miltoniopsis and I’m embarrassed to say all 7 died on me. I don’t want to give up, but my wallet has put me at a firm stop from purchasing any more miltoniopsis.

    I recently just decide to purchase a seedling miltoniopsis – that’s all I can afford right now! This time, I really want to succeed!

    Please upload a video about your care, maintenance, your potting medium for miltoniopsis! I would love to see it!

    Thank you!

  3. I live in south Louisiana and I grow nothing but miltoniopsis. During the learning process I have killed many plants. A friend of mine told me to try what she does for her African violets. I took her advice and tried her method. I haven’t killed a plant in ten years. I grow mine in the house and I put them in a spare room. They get early morning sun and bright sunlight the rest of the day. I have an oscalating fan that is always on. I learned why I killed my miltoniopsis in previous years. My tap water killed them. I use nothing but distilled water and an organic fertilizer called Doctor Earth. WalMart and Home Depot sells this fertilizer. By using an organic fertilizer I don’t have to worry about root burn or salt build up. I have about twenty-five plants and I always have some in bloom. I love how they smell in the room when some varieties bloom. My African Violet friend taught me how to grow miltoniopsis. I did what she said that she did for her violets. BTW, I got tired of buying distilled water that’s a dollar a bottle. I purchased a water distiller for seventy-five dollars and it is used constantly by me.

  4. Thanks,
    Amanda, for posting so much information and including the links to more resources on growing miltoniopsis orchids. I haven’t killed mind, but I definitely need to dilute the fertilizer more or switch to the organic type. Your information is exactly what I needed. 🙂

  5. I am growing a miltoniopsis indoors without a humidifier, for 2 years in a northeast window. It’s a Lennart Karl Gottling “Alex” and I have it potted in sphagnum moss and perlite. Indoor NE window temps range from 60 to 85 degrees. Indoor humidity ranges 20 to 50 percent. It’s been down to 15 percent some days and the plant just grows even in the dry weeks. The leaf tips can get brown but the whole plant has been potted up and has many more pseudobulbs and roots than when it was purchased.
    Occasionally it goes outside in zone 7b southeastern spring or fall. It spends 2/3 to 3/4 of its time indoor in that window with no humidifier and it is now spiking. It bloomed at least twice in the 2 years I cared for it, usually in the spring.
    On this orchid I use only organic liquid fertilizer such as seaweed extract, banana peels soaked in water, or fish fertilizer. Moss holds a lot of minerals so I hardly fertilize, just a little in spring and summer. I don’t always use filtered water, sometimes I use tap water. But it gets rainwater sometimes. I water it only when the potting mix is drying on the surface.
    So, it is not always true that “There is no way ever that a Miltoniopsis will survive indoors without a humidifier.” I think modern domesticated orchids are more likely than species orchids to survive and thrive without a humidifier. Plus, some people blame their orchid problems on humidity when it’s actually caused by something else such as fertilizer, too much sunlight, too much shade, or bad potting mix.
    BTW I don’t use a humidifier on my other plants (african violet, phalaenopsis, many other orchid varieties) because it is hard to raise humidity that much. 70 or 80 percent daytime humidity in a window? No thanks, mold growth will explode. Usually humidity slightly rises at night naturally.
    In summary, I don’t take the best care of our miltoniopsis but it does bloom at least once a year and it’s growing thick leaves and roots.

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