Schizanthus, Butterfly Flower, Poor Man's Orchid

By: C. Colston Burrell  | 
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Schizanthus is a spectacular

Key Takeaways

  • Schizanthus, also known as butterfly flower or poor man's orchid, is a colorful flowering plant native to Chile.
  • It features delicate blooms resembling butterfly wings and comes in various shades of pink, purple, red and white.
  • Schizanthus is relatively easy to grow and makes a beautiful addition to gardens, containers or indoor spaces with bright, indirect light.

Schizanthus, also called butterfly flower and poor man's orchid, revels in cool-weather climates, blooming well in late winter and spring in frost-free climates and other regions with long periods of cool weather in the spring and summer. Where they grow well, the flowers are spectacular. Although flowers are large and open, somewhat resembling butterflies and orchids, they're related to petunias and tomatoes and are native to Chile.


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Description of schizanthus: Large clusters of flowers open above the finely cut, fernlike foliage. Compact varieties can grow up to 21/2 feet tall and, when loaded with flowers, tend to tumble. The range of flower color is wide: pink, white, lavender, blue, gold, red, and magenta, with many flowers marked with other colors.

Growing schizanthus: Schizanthus likes cool, sunny conditions and a rich, moist soil high in organic matter. Under warmer conditions, light shade is good. They must have perfect drainage. Because they bloom best with root restriction, they are most often grown in containers. For garden planting, space them 12 inches apart. Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.


Propagating schizanthus: Start new plants from seeds. Sow seeds indoors 12 weeks prior to the last frost. Cover seeds; they respond to darkness. Seeds germinate in 20 to 30 days at 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Uses for schizanthus: Schizanthus is a natural for containers. It also makes a superb cut flower.

Scientific name of schizanthus: Schizanthus x wisetonensis


Frequently Asked Questions

Can Schizanthus plants tolerate full sunlight?
Schizanthus plants prefer partial shade to full sunlight, especially in hot climates. While they can tolerate some morning sun, they may wilt or scorch if exposed to intense sunlight for extended periods. Providing filtered sunlight or placing them in a location with dappled shade can help prevent sun damage and promote healthy growth.
How often should I water Schizanthus plants?
Schizanthus plants require regular watering to thrive, especially during dry periods or when grown in containers. Water them when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, ensuring thorough watering to moisten the entire root zone. However, avoid overwatering, as soggy soil can lead to root rot. Adjust the watering frequency based on environmental conditions and the plant's moisture needs to maintain optimal health.