How to Care for Medinilla Flower Plants

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Medinilla magnifica bracts open to reveal clustered flower buds.
Medinilla magnifica bracts open to reveal clustered flower buds. (Image: leungchopan/iStock/Getty Images)

Medinillas (Medinilla spp.), also known as Malaysian orchids, comprise a tropical genus nearing 400 species. The species most familiar to U.S. gardeners is Medinilla magnifica. As its botanical name suggests, the plant bears large, unusual flowers aptly described as magnificent. The Philippine native's foot-long leaves back brilliant pink flower clusters up to 20 inches long that emerge from pink bracts. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 13, Malaysian orchids are epiphytes -- plants that draw moisture and nourishment from air instead of soil. Proper care is essential to their beauty and longevity.

Things You'll Need

  • Porous, peat-moss-based potting mix
  • Balanced, all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer
  • Mister
  • Garden scissors
  • Sharp bypass pruning shears

Plant Malaysian orchids where they receive bright, indirect light and protection from intense rays. As an epiphyte, the plant flourishes when grown in an extremely well-drained growing medium, best supplied by a peat-moss mix in a container. Outdoors, the plants like overnight temperatures above 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool evenings prolong the brilliant blooms. Indoors, provide a place near a south- or west-facing windowsill that receives bright, indirect sunlight.

Water Malaysian orchids by sitting the pots in a sink filled with water and allowing them to soak for 10 minutes, drawing water up into the pots. Drain the sink, and allow excess water to drain from the plants. Repeat this every seven to 10 days. The plants should dry out well and feel light before watering again. If not, your potting mix may be too heavy.

Mist Malaysian orchids regularly to replicate the humid conditions in its native land. Put a saucer filled with pebbles beneath the pot. Fill the saucer with water up to the top of the pebbles, but low enough that the pot stays above water. This helps add necessary humidity, especially during dry winter months.

Fertilize Malaysian orchids only during the resting period when the plant is not flowering. Use an all-purpose, water-soluble fertilizer, such as 15-15-15, at a rate of 1 tablespoon of fertilizer per 1 gallon of water. Fertilize the plant every two weeks, as you see new shoots growing.

Prune Malaysian orchids right after flowering, if desired. In their native habitats, the plants grow up to 8 feet tall. In greenhouses, 3 feet or more is common. Use sharp garden scissors or pruning shears, depending on the size of the stems, and sterilize your blades with household disinfectant to prevent the spread of disease. Never remove more than 50 percent of the foliage, always leaving at least one pair of leaves on each stem.

Repot your Malaysian orchid if the plant outgrows its container. Spring is the best time to make this move, when increasing light fuels the plant with energy for growth. Porous pots, such as clay or terra cotta, that allow air exchange to roots are best.

Tips & Warnings

  • Medinilla plants rarely are bothered by insect pests or diseases when properly care for. Healthy plants discourage pest problems. Overwatering is the main cause of unhealthy plants.
  • If growing in pots outside, move your Medinilla containers inside any time temperatures drop near 60 degrees.

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