Butterfly Flower – Schizanthus x wisetonensis

The Butterfly Flower is one of the most colourful and exotic-looking annuals for home, conservatory or balcony, but surprisingly it does not have the popularity it deserves. Also known as Poor Man’s Orchid, the flowers are prettily marked or spotted at the centre.

Unlike many other expensive exotic plants, anyone can afford to grow schizanthus as the seeds are inexpensive, easy to obtain and germinate well providing they are fresh. The orchid-like flowers come in a wide range of colours. Although the feathery green leaves are attractive, you will hardly notice them once the plant comes into bloom. The flowers are so profuse that they will hide most of the foliage.

Butterfly Flower can reach a height of 40-60cm (16— 24in) and grows quickly to form a bushy plant.Butterfly Flower - Schizanthus x wisetonensis

Schizonthus x wisetonensis is a hybrid, the result of crossing S. pinnatus and S. retusus ‘Grahamii’. The original ‘Grahamii’ are seldom grown today. Among the wise tonensis hybrids you will find all shades of flowers from white to yellow, pink, blue-violet and reddish-brown. When you buy hybrid seeds, be prepared for the resulting plants to vary quite considerably from each other. Not that this matters, as all the colours are equally attractive. Besides, the uncertainty is all part of the charm of growing this plant. All varieties produce masses of flowers with very little effort.

Growing from seed

Schizanthus seeds are normally sown in early April in a pot or a propagating tray. Keep the tray in a window and repot the young plants when they each have 4 to 6 leaves, usually by mid-May. You can sow the seeds in September for spring flowering the following year. Prick the seedlings out when they have 4 to 6 leaves and overwinter in bright but cool conditions. Repot the seedlings in January. Pinch out the tips when plants are about 8cm (3in) high.

Pests And Diseases

Aphids may attack. Treatment: Spray with a solution of soapy water or an insecticide.

Cyclamen mites cause distorted flowers, stems and leaves.

Treatment: Spray with the appropriate insecticide.

The buds drop off if the plant is too cold.

Mildew can appear on overwintering plants due to overwatering, very high humidity, or poor air circulation.

PLANT CARE

Undemanding, but provide suitable winter conditions for plants sown as biennials.

  • Potting: A fertile, well-drained soil-based compost is best. Use a soil-based potting compost with the addition of a little sand and peat. Prick seedlings out when they have 4-6 leaves and if they are to overwinter, repot them again in early spring.
  • Water generously in spring and summer, but allow the surface of the compost to dry out slightly between waterings. Water sparingly in winter and avoid wetting the leaves.
  • Feeding: During the growing period and while flowering, feed with a liquid plant food every second week.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: Needs as much light as possible, but avoid direct midday sun An east- or west-facing exposure will give good indirect light. Overwinter seedlings in cool, light and frost-free conditions.
  • Temperature: In summer keep plants at about 15°-22°C (60°-72°F). In winter, keep seedlings at around 10°C (50°F).

Buying Tips

  • Buy young plants from nurseries from May to June. Buy seeds from a reputable supplier and check the date on the packet. Schizanthus seeds must not be more than two years old or they will not germinate.
  • Make sure that young plants are compact and sturdy and that there are plenty of flower buds.
  • Discard the plants after flowering and grow fresh plants from seed.

Butterfly Flower is an annual or biennial which is both easy and cheap to grow. When in full bloom, the plant is covered with exotically marked flowers.

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