Spring- and summer flowering annual

Family: Nightshades (Solanaceae)
Genus: Schizanthus
Species: x wisetonensis

Common names

Butterfly orchid, butterfly flower, fringe flower, poor man’s orchid

Origin

The forebears of Schizanthus ‘Bavarian Butterfly’ come from the dry, mountain plateaus of Chile. This plant therefore tolerates hot and cold weather very well, making it perfect for early spring.

The butterfly orchid – the orchid that isn’t actually an orchid

 

The beautiful blooms of Schizanthus ‘Bavarian Butterfly’, a butterfly orchid, are reminiscent of the elegant beauty of orchids. But the name ‘orchid’ is misleading as the plant is not a member of the orchid family. The botanical name of this flower is Schizanthus x wisetonensis and it is a member of the nightshade family. Other family members include the potato, aubergine and tomato. So Bavarian Butterfly is in fact a distant relative of these vegetables!

To complicate things even further, Bavarian Butterfly is sometimes confused with Himalayan balsam. The botanical name of this plant is Impatiens glandulifera and, as its name suggests, it originates from the Himalayas. Himalayan balsam feels very much at home here as it self-seeds very readily. You see it everywhere. Bavarian Butterfly, on the other hand, is very self-contained and is happy in a border or in a container, either on its own or growing in harmony with other plants.

Bavarian Butterfly can be planted outdoors as early as the second half of March. It is not troubled by late spring frosts. Even temperatures as low as -7°C hardly cause frost damage. This means it is ideal for planting outdoors in a pot or container early in the season. Or pop it in the ground in a flower bed or border.

The unusual orchid-like flowers have five petals forming two symmetrical halves. The colour range consists of three variants in which white has an important role: bright scarlet with white, deep purple with white and powerful pink with white.

These multicoloured variants all have yellow and black markings in the centre of the flower that resemble an eye. Bavarian Butterfly also comes in single colours such as bright scarlet and pure white. The range is rounded off with a variety in subtle pink shades. Its wealth of colourful flowers is the best feature of Schizanthus x wisetonensis. Something that all varieties have in common are the extraordinarily intense colours of the blooms.

Since the upsurge in popularity of the cottage garden, Bavarian Butterfly has enhanced many a pot or tub planted up for Easter. It can also be used to decorate tables or to place in planters on the patio. They even frame entrances and adorn stairways. Bavarian Butterfly prefers a sunny spot with a little shade, where it will thrive and put on a magnificent display.

On its own in a pot, in groups of three or four on the patio or simply planted out in the flowerbed, this spring flowering plant with its natural look and idyllic blooms will be a true show-stopper long into the summer. Bavarian Butterfly can also be kept indoors.

Being such a versatile plant both inside the house and in the garden, the butterfly orchid is definitely one that captures the spirit of the times. Plants with a natural, so called ‘wild’ look are very much in vogue . Balcony, patio and garden owners are increasingly opting for a more natural and cottagey style to recreate a rural idyll. Bavarian Butterfly is a perfect match for these schemes.