Malaysian Orchid (Medinilla myriantha)
A large tropical plant with orchid-like tendencies, Malaysian Orchid makes a great houseplant with proper care.
Ready to try a slightly advanced houseplant? Malaysian Orchid may be the next plant to add to your collection. This native of the Malaysian rain forests has large handsome green foliage that can spread to three feet or more. The flowers grow in clusters called panicles, starting out pale pink and deepening to rose as they open. The flowers are followed by (inedible) purple berries that add to the interest of this plant for weeks at a time.
Malaysian Orchid is not a true orchid at all. However, it is considered a “semi-epiphyte,” which gives it some of the same growing tendencies as orchids (which are true epiphytes). What’s an epiphyte? Basically, it’s a plant that doesn’t need soil to grow; they go by the common name “air plant“. These plants anchor themselves in the crooks of trees or cracks of rocks, living on the moisture and nutrients they take from the air. As you might guess, epiphytes require very humid conditions to thrive. Malaysian Orchids are sometimes found growing in the wild tucked into trees, but you can grow them in pots if you provide the right potting medium. The soil must be very loose, allowing water to drain easily. Most growers recommend adding about 30% orchid potting mix to regular potting soil to keep it from getting overly compact.
Malaysian Orchid requires bright indirect light. In the wild, these plants grow in the shades of trees and other large plants, so do your best to replicate these conditions to allow your plant to survive. In the summer, you can move Malaysian Orchids outdoors to live in the shade; try planting it in a hanging basket and suspend it from a tree to best enjoy the dangling flower panicles. Remember that this plant requires high humidity to thrive and flower, so if you live in areas with muggy summers, you’ll have the most luck. In drier areas, like the Southwest, you may need greenhouse conditions to try Malaysian Orchid. In zones 10/11 you can grow this plant outdoors year-round; everyone else will need to move it indoors for the cooler months. Ideal winter conditions are temps in the 60s with continued good humidity. Set it in a dish of water and pebbles, or mist the plant daily. (Do NOT expose this plant to frost or freeze conditions.)
When conditions are right, Malaysian Orchid can bloom throughout the year, but don’t worry if you don’t see flowers for a few months. The sturdy green foliage is attractive too, and this plant sometimes skips a season or even a year between flowering. If yours never seems to flower, tinker with the light and humidity you’re providing, and feed with a balanced fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer.