Pansy Orchids: Miltonia vs. Miltoniopsis Orchids

Pansy Orchids: Miltonia vs. Miltoniopsis Orchids

When we say Miltonia orchids, we immediately picture the pretty garden pansy look-alike orchids, with large, show-stopping, and sweet-smelling flowers. Little did we know that Miltonia and pansy orchids are actually two different types of orchids with a different set of needs.

What’s the Difference Between Miltonia and Miltoniopsis Orchids?

First of all, it’s important to establish that the ones we call pansy orchids are not Miltonia, but Miltoniopsis orchids.

Are you confused? Don’t worry. You’re not the only one. There’s, in fact, a long history of confusion when it comes to these two orchid genera.

According to sources, Miltonia orchids were first described by English botanist and orchidologist, John Lindley, in 1837, based on the native orchid species from Brazil, the Miltonia spectabilis.

Later on, more orchid species were discovered from the cooler neighboring countries of Brazil, and they were given a different but similar-sounding name, Miltoniopsis.

Miltoniopsis orchids were previously filed under Miltonia orchid genus, until the mid-1970s. Hence, the understandable confusion. Although as we speak, orchid hybrids of Miltoniopsis are still logged under the Miltonia genus.

What’s really the difference between the two Miltonia and Miltoniopsis orchids? Let’s look at the two orchid genus more closely and break down their unique characteristics and differences.

Miltonia Orchid Facts

Botanical Name: Miltonia Lindl.1837
Common names(s): Miltonia orchids, Pansy orchids, Brazilian Miltonia
Subfamily: Epidendroideae
Geographical Distribution: Brazil
Number of recognized species: 11
Growing behavior: Epiphytic, sympodial, pseudobulbs
Blooming season: Springtime

These are warm-growing orchids from central and southern Brazil, the same orchid species described by Lindley. They are sometimes referred to as the Brazilian Miltonias.

Miltonia orchids have flowers that bear similarities to odontoglossum orchids but with much simpler lips, fragrant, and can grow as large as 4 inches across. Their flowers are mostly yellow with brown margins or white with a blush of lavender or violet. Miltonia orchids have two leaves on each pseudobulb while Miltoniopsis have only one.

They thrive in medium light and adapt better to warmer climates.

Miltonia Orchids Species List

Based on, the Miltonia orchid genus is comprised of 10 orchid species from Brazil and Paraguay.

These are the following:

  1. Miltonia candida Lindl. 
    -Blooms in springtime
  2. Miltonia clowesii Lindl.
    -Epiphyte orchid
    -Blooms in spring
  3. Miltonia cuneata Lindl.
    -Has blotchy flowers
    -Blooms in spring to mid-fall season
  4. Miltonia flavescens Lindl.
    -Epiphytic orchid
    -From Brazil and Paraguay
    -Blooms in spring
  5. Miltonia regnellii Rchb.f.
    -From eastern Brazil
    -Blooms in springtime
  6. Miltonia russelliana Lindl.
    -Blooms in autumn to winter time
    -Mount on treefern
    -Needs moderate shade
  7. Miltonia spectablis Lindl.
    -Has white or cream flowers with rose-colored borders
    -Blooms in autumn
  8. Miltonia warscewiczii Rchb.f syn Oncidium fuscatum Rchb.f
    -Also known as Oncidium fuscatum
    -A native orchid species from South Africa
    -Blooms in springtime
  9. Miltonia x bluntii
    - A natural hybrid between M. clowesii and M. spectabilis.
    -Blooms in springtime
  10. Miltonia x cogniauxiae Peeters
    -A natural hybrid between M. spectablis and M. regnellii
    -An epiphytic orchid from the mountains around Rio de Janeiro
    -Thrives in moderate shade, abundant water supply, short dormancy period after blooming

Miltoniopsis Orchids

Botanical name: Miltoniopsis 
Common name: Pansy orchids
Tribe: Maxillarieae
Recognized species: 5 or 6
Geographical Distribution: Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama, Valenzuela, and Ecuador.

Miltoniopsis orchids are the cool-growing type from the highlands of Columbia, Costa Rica, Panama, Valenzuela, and Ecuador.

This orchid genus is closely related to Brassia, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium. Miltoniopsis orchids have flat pseudobulbs clustered closely together while Miltonia orchids have round-shaped pseudobulbs that are far in between.  These are orchids that bear an uncanny resemblance to garden pansies.

Contrary to the Brazilian Miltonia orchids, these types of orchids are very sensitive to daytime light.

In the American Orchid Society’s website, there are five recognized orchid species of Miltonopsis based on the World Monocot Checklist.They are:

  • Miltoniopsis vexillaria
  • Miltoniopsis warscewiczii
  • Miltoniopsis roezlii
  • Miltoniopsis bismarckii
  • Miltoniopsis phalaenopsis

Orchid Care: How to Maintain Miltonia and Pansy Orchids

Are you bringing your first Miltonia orchids home? Here are a few orchid care tips to be successful at it.

  • Know your orchid
    There are instances when stores mislabel their orchid plants. A Miltonia orchid could be tagged as a Miltoniopsis, and you won’t know it until it’s too late. The first step is to identify the type of orchid, whether it’s a warm-loving Miltonia or a cool-loving Miltoniopsis orchid, a hybrid, a cultivar. This matters a lot in determining what kind of care and maintenance your orchid needs.
  • Water
    Miltonia orchids love to be watered. Water generously but allow to drain properly. For Miltonia orchids, check if the potting material has completely dried before watering again. They can tolerate salt build up better compared to Miltoniopsis orchids. When these orchids don’t get sufficient water supply, their leaves become crimped.

    Also read: Orchid Care: How to Maintain Your Orchids Indoors
  • Light
    Both Miltonia and Miltoniopsis orchids are quite sensitive to direct light and get sunburned easily.

    As a rule of thumb, healthy orchid plants should have light, grassy, bright green leaves. Dark green leaves mean your orchid is getting too little and yellowish leaves indicate it’s getting too much. Miltonia orchids often show a slight tinge of pink, which is a signal that they’re getting as much light as they can tolerate. More than this and they’ll likely burn.

    A south-facing windowsill with a sheer curtain to draw during intensely hot afternoons is probably the best spot for your Miltonia orchids. If outside, we recommended putting under a shaded area away from direct sunlight during hot summer months.
  • Humidity
    Maintain an optimal humidity level of at least 70 percent since Miltonia orchids need a lot of water. Too little or too much humidity can cause significant stress to your orchid plant and may make it vulnerable to pesky plant diseases.

Miltonia Orchids in Los Angeles

Miltonia orchids grow in warm regions of tropical Brazil, while the real pansy orchids, Miltoniopsis, grow in cooler South American countries. 

That being said, it’s not impossible to see these orchid plants or an orchid arrangement made of Miltonia orchids in Los Angeles, where it’s always bright and sunny.

Check out local orchidariums and botanical gardens in town. The Arboretum of Los Angeles County, Descanso Gardens, and South Botanic Garden are some of our personal favorites.

However, if you wish to have your own private orchid collection blooming every day just for you, go see our captivating orchid arrangements. A stone’s throw away from the prime addresses of the City of Angels, Orchid Republic offers flower delivery anywhere in Los Angeles and Orange County.


Miltonia, American Orchid Society
Jay's Internet Orchid Species
Ortho’s All About Orchids, Elvin McDonald, 1999

Oct 06, 2019

My name is Shuji and just curious about your “Pansy Orchid” collections. Specially seedings or in flask state.
I look forward to hearing from you.
with best regards

Shuji Sonobe
May 07, 2019

What kind of soil do you grow pansy orchids in. I need to transplant my orchid.


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