If you are looking for an ornamental plant that looks both adorable and unique, Christia obcordata a.k.a. the Butterfly plant is a great option.
One specimen of this exotic beauty is more than enough to attract the attention of your visitors, whether they are connoisseurs of the gardening world or not. Owning a butterfly plant will be a delightful experience, as this plant has so much to offer.
If you are a secret admirer of butterflies, but you do not have a spacious flower garden to attract them, the Butterfly plant is the perfect alternative.
Its butterfly-shaped leaves will inevitably remind you of butterflies, particularly in the second part of the day. The weak beam of light specific to sunsets is all this plant needs to put its mesmerizing foliage on display.
There is no doubt that, although not very well-known around the world, the Butterfly plant enjoys lots of appreciation from gardening enthusiasts. This buddy is more than meets the eye, and it comes with other benefits, not just its looks.
The Butterfly plant has a way to win our hearts, especially through its easy-to-grow feature. If you spoil it with bright, indirect light, nutrient-rich soil, and regular watering, you will have a friendly plant by your side for as long as the story can go.
Are you excited to find out everything that is there to know about Christia obcordata a.k.a. the Butterfly plant? Keep reading our guide!
|Botanical Name||Christia obcordata|
|Common Name||Butterfly Plant, Swallowtail Plant, Butterfly Wing Plant|
|Plant Type||Prostrate flowering perennial|
|Mature Size||up to 60 cm (24 in) tall and 50 cm (18 in) wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial sun, light shade|
|Soil Type||Moist, peat moss, well-drained|
|Bloom Time||Spring to Autumn|
|Flower Color||White, light pink|
|Hardiness Zones||11-12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Australia, India, Thailand, Laos, and Taiwan|
About Christia Obcordata
- Member of the Fabaceae family, Christia obcordata is native to various tropical regions across Southeast Asia. These include India, Taiwan, Thailand, and Laos. It can also occur in Australia.
- Christia obcordata gets its common name “Butterfly plant” from the triangular-shaped foliage that shows up adorned with colourful striping, resembling the eye-appealing wings of butterflies.
- This fascinating plant has another common name that you can find when buying this plant – the Swallowtail plant. The name has a similar history, coming from the striped foliage that looks very much like the veins of a bird’s feathers a.k.a. Swallowtail.
- The spectacular patterns of its leaves will stay in perfect shape as long as you avoid keeping this plant in direct sunlight. Too much sunlight can cause the foliage to wild and turn yellow or brown. If you want to protect its delicate butterfly leaves, indirect light and shade are your go-to comrades.
- Prized for its medicinal qualities in Japan and Indochina, the Butterfly plant can be an excellent treatment for some health problems, such as urinary blockage and acute and chronic nephritis.
- The most common ornamental use of Christia obcordata is as a houseplant. It provides the greatest view when you plant it in hanging baskets, but it will also look fabulous in a cute ordinary pot of your choice. Likewise, the plant can do nicely outdoors in areas that mimic the conditions of its natural habitat.
- Christia obcordata can make for a wonderful companion plant to other attractive species. The best companions for it are Coleus, Cladium, and Sweet potato vine. You can even mix it with some tropical plants you already have in your collection that come along with similar growing needs overall.
- The fact that Christia obcordata is a relatively rare plant might make it a bit difficult to obtain. But once you manage to find it, you will be able to easily propagate the plant you already have using stem cuttings and seeds.
- There is no evidence that any part of the Butterfly plant is poisonous to humans, cats, or dogs, but it might be mildly toxic. Grow this plant in a location where curious pets won’t reach to avoid any unpleasant incidents.
Christia Obcordata Features: An Overview
- This plant belongs to the Christia genus which contains about 11 species of flowering plants. Even if its siblings are also worth our attention, Christia obcordata is still the most popular species in this genus and somewhat its representative member.
- It is important to mention that Christia obcordata is an exotic ornamental that is pretty rare so finding actual plant specimens might be a bit of a challenge. In some cases, it might be easier to find seeds and the good news is that growing this plant from seed isn’t very difficult.
- The Butterfly plant is a prostrate herbaceous perennial plant which means that it has a natural habit of spreading horizontally. Christia obcordata can also grow as a small shrub and will reach around 16 inches (40 cm) in height with time.
- This plant has great ornamental value and you can train it to grow vertically by using different types of support.
- The Butterfly plant emerges from a rhizomatous rootstock. It has a symbiotic relationship with specific soil bacteria, which form nodules on its roots and fix atmospheric nitrogen.
- Its foliage is the focal point of any specimen, consisting of many butterfly-shaped leaves. While some varieties have large, dramatic leaves, others feature smaller ones. The foliage can exhibit shades of green, maroon, or yellow.
- Christia obcordata blooms from spring to autumn. During these seasons, the plant can produce numerous tiny flowers. They can show up in pink magenta or white hues.
- The Butterfly plant will benefit from regular pinching and pruning as this will stimulate growth. If you want your plant to have bushy growth, all you have to do is pinch it every once in a while. Another thing that you can do is remove old flowers to prevent your plant from putting too much energy into seed formation.
Growing Christia Obcordata
Although Christia obcordata may seem delicate when you first look at its foliage, this plant is actually a badass. It can adapt to a wide variety of environmental conditions in little to no time. And when it receives exactly what it asks for, Christia obcordata can even become its own manager.
All we can say is that it is a pleasure to have this plant around and witness its progress through maturity. Now let’s find out what this plant really needs!
In terms of lighting, Christia obcordata will have a wonderful time in almost any kind of exposure you can provide it with. This plant usually thrives with plenty of bright and indirect light, especially if you grow it indoors.
However, it can also perform pretty well in partially shaded locations. This particular lack of lighting is beneficial for your plant in case you live in a region with warm, harsher afternoons. In general, Christia obcordata requires about 6 to 8 hours of sunlight to reward you with nice growth and blooming.
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Christia obcordata will not have a problem experiencing temperatures that are more on the cooler side. The ideal temperatures for this plant range from 68 to 95 °F (20-35 °C) all year round. But as mentioned, it will grow just fine even in temperatures that drop to 40-50 °F (4-10 °C). If your home is in a zone with cold winters, it is better to keep your Christia obcordata indoors until spring comes with its warmth.
This versatile foliage ornamental is one of those strong plants that do not fall victim to pest infestations or fungal diseases easily. You might want to watch out for flies to prevent any future infestation, but this is not a serious issue nonetheless.
The only thing you should pay more attention to is how you water your Christia obcordata. Make sure you avoid touching its foliage with water when you give it the drinks it deserves, as it can encourage mould and powdery mildew.
Planting Christia Obcordata
Christia obcordata loves moisture but does not appreciate having its feet soaked in water. Because of this, the perfect growing medium for it would be a substrate that has very sharp drainage.
Besides the well-draining feature, your Christia obcordata will benefit from soil that comes along with lots of organic matter. Providing this plant with its preferred type of soil is much easier than it sounds. You can add some compost or peat moss in good-quality soil and call it a date.
As long as you grow your Christia obcordata in organically-rich soil, you can fertilize it from time to time to meet its nutrient needs completely. You can opt for any type of fertilizer, such as granules, slow-release preparations, or liquid products.
It can be an all-purpose fertilizer or a 5-10-5 one designed for blooming plants. Feed your Christia obcordata with the chosen product according to the instructions provided.
If you are not interested in the small flowers this plant can produce, we suggest you take more care of its foliage for the best look out there. You can achieve this by pinching any buds off to provide more space for the foliage and allow it to do its thing.
Since Christia obcordata is not a huge plant and does not spread like crazy, it will not demand frequent repotting to keep its health at maximum levels. This means that you can move your plant to a larger pot when you feel the need for a change, spoiling it with a fresh growing medium and more space to develop. It would be wise to transplant your Christia obcordata during the beginning of its growing season.
Watering Christia Obcordata
Like most ornamentals, Christia obcordata requires a container with drainage holes that allow the excess water to drain out. Even though this plant thrives in moist soil, soggy conditions can still lead to root rot. You should also avoid getting water on this plant’s leaves as they are quite sensitive and water can damage them.
When you first bring a Christia obcordata home, it will probably be a young plant that requires more attention than a mature one. Thus, you will have to water yours daily for a couple of weeks until it settles in its new home. As mentioned earlier, you must avoid touching the leaves of Christia obcordata with water to prevent fungal problems.
Once your plant adjusts to its new environment, you can also adjust the watering frequency to once every two or three days. It will generally depend on the overall environmental conditions, but the soil type is also important. Keep in mind that sandy soils hold moisture for a shorter time than clay soils, so you should expect to water your Christia obcordata more frequently if you grow it on a sandy substrate.
When your plant reaches maturity, its watering routine will change, giving you more time for yourself. You can check for soil moisture using your finger and, if the first inch (2.5 cm) of substrate feels dry, it is time for another drink.
Propagating Christia Obcordata
There are two popular methods that you can use to propagate your beloved Christia obcordata: through stem cuttings and seeds. Propagation is typically a life-saver if you think about adding more specimens to your plant family, especially for a rare plant like this one. It will also help you save some money along the way and maybe even have some fun in the process.
Propagating your Christia obcordata requires you to first wait for the early springtime to come up. When the time is right, you can start looking for healthy stems that are neither very young nor old. Cut about 4 to 5 inches (10-13 cm) of these stems at an angle just below a leaf node. Each stem cutting should contain at least one leaf in the upper half and no leaves at all in the lower part.
Place your cuttings on paper in a cool, shaded spot to allow callus formation to show up at the cut end of each. Once this happens, dip the calloused cut ends in a rooting hormone for better root development.
Plant each cutting in its individual container filled with compost-rich soil. Water the substrate each day for the first two weeks to prevent it from drying out. If you place the pots in a location where the cuttings can experience shaded light, warmth, and humidity, you will have roots attached to them in a few weeks.
You can also propagate your Christia obcordata through seeds. Before doing this, you should know that getting authentic Christia obcordata seeds is not easy. But if you manage to get them, you can start your own plants just fine with minimal effort.
Take a seedling tray and spread a nutrition-rich growing medium in it. You can take an all-purpose soil and mix it with some compost to achieve this easily. Soak the seeds in water overnight, then sow them on the prepared substrate. We recommend you spread each seed at a distance of a minimum of one inch (2.5 cm) from its neighbours.
Press the seeds inside the substrate, provide them with water, and move the tray to the warmest, brightest, and most humid spot of your house. If you do this accordingly, the seeds will begin to germinate in a few weeks or so. Still, you can transplant the seedlings into their own pots only after several months.
As you can see, Christia obcordata a.k.a. the Butterfly plant is a great ornamental to grow both indoors and outdoors. It thrives in partial shade and its presence is undoubtedly one of a kind. With proper care, the Butterfly plant will keep you company much longer than other plants as it will thrive indoors without much effort on your part. If you do not have this gorgeous plant in your house, go on and find one, as they are pretty rare!
Are you growing Christia obcordata? Let us know in the comments!