How To Grow Christia Obcordata (Butterfly Plant)

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By Arthur Mbanefo

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If you plan on adding Christia Obcordata to your garden but don’t know how to grow or care for one, this article will teach you just that. 

‘The more beautiful the flower; the more demanding they are’ has never been more true.  

We are all Wowed by the amazing color contrast and fanciful wing-shaped leaves and want it nestled in with other plants. 

But not everyone knows how to grow Christia Obcordata (butterfly plant), especially from seed. 

Well, this article teaches you everything from the proper type of soil needed to the amount of sunlight, water, fertilizer, propagating, potting, and repotting —all you need to grow a thriving Christia Obcordata. 

But first, how much do you know about the butterfly plant? 

What Is Christia Obcordata (Butterfly Plant)

Christia Obcordata (preferably known as swollen tail or the butterfly plant) is a flowering plant in the Fabaceae family. 

The plant got its name from its unusual triangular-shaped foliage with green and burgundy stripping that resembles a butterfly’s wing in some sort. 

Also, this attention-grabbing plant is quite versatile. You can have it hanging baskets and containers.  

You can use it as a nice splash of color and contrast in mixed container planting. Or as an indoor plant to brighten up your windows. 

The Christia Obcordata is native to Brazil and Southeast Asia. The Christian genus has around eighteen different species. So you have ample choices to add to your collection. 

However, this plant is delicate, so shipping it to your country could be impossible. This is why growing them from seed is preferable, although it can be tricky. 

 Add to your problem, finding definitive growth and care tips that suit your demands can also be challenging. 

Some people would love to grow it as a perennial outdoor plant in the garden. Whereas most homeowners find it appealing to have an evergreen house plant. 

Either way, it is hard to get what REALLY works since there is a lot of conflicting advice on how much water, light, humidity, and all of them are different kinds of things. 

And there isn’t much article online that talks about sowing the seed. 

And this is why in our guide, we consider everything about the Christia Obcordata. 

How To Grow Christia Obcordata (Butterfly Plant)

Note: If you live in a warm climate and want to grow this plant outside, the sun might be too harsh on the foliage. So it prefers shady conditions and likes to stay consistently moist. 

And if you come through growing this plant from seed, you want to keep it in indirect light, warm, and humid conditions. 

I love experimenting by growing them in many different positions to see which one thrives best. 

You can groom them underneath grow lights, the windows, or bio bear. 

So, let’s get the seeding started without wasting much of your time! 

Prep The Seed And Sowing Ground

I always start with five seeds and see how they get one. I have an extra five standing by. 

And if everything goes to plan, I process with the rest. 

So I got my seeds from a seller in esty with good reviews. There are quite a number of them on that platform. 

I start sowing the seeds underneath my spider farmer’s grow light after giving them a nice soak in room-temperature filtered water for about 24 hours. 

The heat map is also essential as the seed likes to be grown warm at about 80 °F, around 26.67 °C. 

I grow the seeds in some makeup pads in a little propagator on top of the heat map —all underneath the grow light. 

Time To Sow! 

Start by giving the makeup pads a good sock in room temperature filtered water so they are moist. 

Then transfer the seeds to the makeup pads. Each cotton pad should ONLY accommodate one seed and be placed in the middle. 

Transfer both the seeds and the makeup pad inside the propagator separately. 

Add a little bit of water to the base of the box. I often give them a little spray on seeds as well. 

Next, you should close the box and plug on the heatmap. Let the seeds be.

It could take up to two weeks to germinate or longer. 

NOTE: it is not compulsory to have a heatmap, grow lights, or any of that. 

You can simply rest the seeds on a bright windowsill to ge sufficient sunlight. 

Inspect And Adjust

It is possible to notice primary root growth on day 4, although not every seed will sprout simultaneously. 

Sometimes, it takes longer, and then the secondary roots follow. 

I also suggest you get a mini thermometer hygrometer to keep track of the conditions. 

If you use a heat map like me, it should be one 24/7. But switch off the grow light once it is night. 

Twelve hours per day is enough light for the seeds.

Add little filtered water to keep the pads moist every couple of days. 

And once they have started growing and have some decent roots, the time is ripe for a transfer. 

Transfer them into some teeny-tiny plastic pots with drainage holes. 

And the type of soil you would be using, fertilizer, and more will all be discussed below:

How To Care For Your Christia Obcordata 

1. Best Soil For Christia Obcordata

This butterfly plant is very picky with soil.

Your Christia Obcordata won’t do well without organic-rich, well-drained soil. It MUST be moist, peat moss, well-drained soil with a pH slightly Alkaline. 

I mentioned peat moss, but you can also use rich compost. 

NOTE: these two are not the same thing. But they are all-natural soil amendments but s that play a vital role in the success of Christia Obcordata. 

Peat moss is layers of moss that grow over one another –probably the bottom layer. Meanwhile, compost is everyday waste material meant to decompose into the soil.

Not only do they increase moisture retention, but they also benefit the plant nutrient-wise. 

2. Ideal Light For Christia Obcordata

The sunlight require is straightforward. They DON’T like direct sunlight. 

They are preferably grown under bright, indirect sunlight. So for those who live in areas with scorching sun, get a shadier spot for your Christia Obcordata. 

On the contrary, they will become leggy if they don’t get enough sunlight. 

3. Amount Of Water And Humidity For Christia Obcordata

Christia Obcordata loves their bath routine. But that doesn’t mean you should drown them. 

I first recommend growing them in a pot with drainage holes. 

This part is critical because if overwatered, the holes will send off the extra —preventing flooding and standing that leads to root rot or diseases.

Still, moderation is key. 

If it is a baby Christia Obcordata, you can water it daily for a few weeks. Then, depending on the weather, you can water every two or three days. 

Avoid getting water on the leaves, as it attracts mildew and mold.

Instead, aim for the root zone —roughly 12” (15-30cm) from the base of the plant.

In addition, a soaker hose would help control and reduce water loss. But if you have a watering wand with a sprinkler head, that is also a good option. 

4. Fertilizer For Christia Obcordata

Firing the belly of the soil with some balanced fertilizer will SURE keep the plant hale and hearty. 

However, this is a BIG question mark on what fertilizer to use.

You have liquid feeds, granulated, slow-release, organic, and synthetic, all waiting to be chosen. 

I will let you decide on that one. But I prefer organic fertilizers made from natural sources like composted manure.

Other fertilizers could come in handy. But Synthetic fertilizers would be resting at the bottom of the list. 

The key takeaway is not to fertilize too much, as it would damage the plant. Always stick to the package directions for the best result.

5. Propagating The Christia Obcordata

As demonstrated above, propagating from seed is the best way to this plant. 

If you are within Asia or Brazil, where the butterfly plant is predominant, you can purchase them already grown. 

That is preferable since it saves you the hassle of tired complaints and woe-is-me defeatism. 

6. Pruning The Christia Obcordata

Pruning plays an essential role in thriving Christia Obcordata. It is like going to the Gym to keep in shape.  

Shred off the dead or dying leaves and stem.  Regularly pinching and pruning will stimulate growth.  

Ensure the scissor is sterile before applying it to the plant. And do not panic if the leaves are yellowy or drying out, as is familiar with this plant, so long as you stick to the rules.


So that is how to grow Christia Obcordata (butterfly plant) 

Is it more straightforward than you have imagined?! 

But if you have another surefire way of propagating the Christia Obcordata more successfully, I would appreciate it if you let us in on your secret. 

You should bare in mind that all isn’t sunshine and rainbows with this butterfly plant. They are also toxic to humans and pets. 

However, they won’t cause severe damage only when large amounts of the leaves are eaten.