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What is a Pansy Orchid?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2018
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A pansy orchid is an orchid in either the Miltoniopsis or Miltonia genus. These orchids are named for the distinctive appearance of their flowers, and they are not related to pansies. They are native to South America and in nature, they grow in forest habitats, surviving as epiphytic plants in the forest canopy. They are available for cultivation through nurseries and companies specializing in orchid propagation, and it is also possible to trade plants with orchid enthusiasts.

The pansy orchid has a flattened flower with distinctive pansy-like dark markings on the petals. The flowers are variable in color, depending on the species, and some members of these genera have a physical appearance that differs considerably from a pansy. For those that look like pansies, the resemblance can sometimes be quite eerie. It is possible to fool the eye with a pansy orchid from a distance.

The foliage is glossy, with the plants producing very narrow leaves. When a pansy orchid gets too dry, the flowers and foliage can start to crinkle. Adding moisture to the environment will help keep the plant alive, but will not resolve the crinkling. Instead, new growth will have to be allowed to develop so the old, damaged growth can be cleared away. After the flowers are done blooming, the stalk can be cut away to encourage the plant to store energy for another round of flowering.

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Like many plants native to the forest canopy, the pansy orchid likes shade or filtered light to mimic its natural environment. It needs a dry potting medium and high humidity levels to stay healthy. Providing orchid food in the spring and summer, along with slightly higher moisture, will promote the development of flowers. In the fall and winter, watering can be tapered off, but these orchids do not reach a period of full dormancy like some species do.

People interested in growing pansy orchids need a warm environment. Greenhouses are ideal, as they are warm and humid. These orchids can be grown in the home, if people are able to keep temperature and humidity levels stable. People living in tropical and subtropical climates can cultivate these flowers outdoors, as long as they pick an area with low light levels to protect the orchids from burning in the sun. Outdoors, the orchids can be grown in containers or established on the branches of trees and shrubs, just as they would be in nature.

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