Christia Obcordata Care Guide (Swallowtail Butterfly Plant)


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Do you love butterflies? Then you should definitely check out this houseplant care guide for the Christia Obcordata, also known as the Swallowtail butterfly plant.

This plant will resemble having beautiful butterflies in your yard and garden because their triangular foliage look like a butterfly’s wing. 

In this care guide, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about caring for Christia obcordata plants. It contains everything you need to know to keep your butterfly plants healthy and happy.

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Christia Obcordata Overview

Christia obcordata is a beautiful and unique plant that will certainly grab anyone’s attention.

The common name of the plant comes from its triangular foliage with green and burgundy stripes. It is similar to the veins in a bird’s feathers, such as the Swallowtail bird. The leaf shape is similar to that of a butterfly’s wing. 

The Swallowtail Plant is great for planting in pots and hanging baskets. It adds a nice splashy pop of color and contrast to planted containers. Brightens up your windows and home indoors. 

  • Common Names: Swallowtail Plant, Butterfly Plant, Butterfly Wing Plant
  • Botanical Names: Christia Obcordata; Hedysarum obcordatum Poir.; Lourea obcordata (Poir.) Desv.
  • Plant Type: Tropical Plant, Bush or Shrub, Herbaceous Perennial Plant
  • Mature Size/Height: 18-24 in. tall, 18-24 in. wide
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light; Partial Shade
  • Soil Type: Moist, well-draining, rich
  • Soil pH: 7.0 to 8.0 (alkaline)
  • Bloom Season: Spring, Summer
  • Native Areas:  Southeast Asia including India, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, and Laos
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to pets and humans
Christia Obcordata (Swallowtail Butterfly Plant)

Christia Obcordata Care Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to take good care of Christia Obcordatas. This includes information on when to water them, fertilizing them, growing them indoors, and more.

Soil for Christia Obcordata

The Christia Obcordanata does best in moist, well draining soils. Soils with high organic matter content are ideal. Using peat moss will help increase moisture retention in the soil. If you have clay based soil, then it may be beneficial to add some sandy soil to the mix. 

To ensure that the plant has enough room to grow, existing soil needs to be thoroughly broken and worked up so that the plant can establish itself quickly.

Adding organic matter like peat moss or compost to the soil can help improve its quality. This is also the time when you can add fertilizer to help supply the soil with nutrients. 

Light for Christia Obcordata

You can grow Christia Obcordata under bright, indirect sunlight. However, if you live in an area where there is lots of direct sun exposure, then you may want to move your Christia Obcordata to a shadier spot. 

Just make sure they receive enough light so that they don’t become leggy.

Water and Humidity for Christia Obcordata

This plant needs lots of water to grow properly. Watering regularly is essential. Focus on watering the roots and avoid overwatering.

Make sure the pot has good drainage holes, so the excess water will drain out. Otherwise, standing water will lead to root rot and harm the plant. 

You can tell if a plant needs more water by looking at the soil around the roots of the plant. If the first few layers of soil are dry, it’s time to water the plant.

Note to not get any water on the leaves of the plant as that can lead to mildew and mold.

Temperature for Christia Obcordata

If you live in a warm climate, then you can grow Christia Obccordata outdoors year round. You can also grow them indoors during cooler months.

Ensure that the minimum temperature range is 40° – 50°F (4° – 10°C) wherever you place them. 

It will grow best in USDA zones 11 and 12. 

Fertilizer for Christia Obcordata

Using a balanced fertilizer will help the butterfly plant grow healthily. You can use different kinds of fertilizers: liquid, organic, granular slow release, or chemical fertilizers.

Granules are spread around a plant to help it bloom. Liquid fertilizers come in bottles or cans. Organic fertilizers are made from natural sources such as composted manure. Synthetic fertilizers use chemical compounds instead of natural ingredients.

Be careful when applying fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can damage the swallowtail plants and cause them to wilt. Follow instructions when using fertilizer to ensure you apply the correct amount.

Christia Obcordata (Swallowtail Butterfly Plant)

Propagating the Christia Obcordata

Propagating the Christia obcordata from seed is the best method of growing the plant. There hasn’t been enough consistent success from horticulturists when propagating from cuttings. 

To do this, first make sure that you have enough space to grow your plant. Then take some seeds and put them into a paper bag or container. Put the container in a dark and cool place, such as a drawer or cupboard.

Keep the container away from heat sources such as radiators or heating vents. After three weeks, check if any of the seeds have sprouted. If they have, then gently remove them from the container and plant them in soil.

You should be able to see roots emerging after two months. Once the roots are well established, you can move the plant outdoors.

Potting and Repotting the Christia Obcordata

Put the young plant in the ground, and then carefully fill in the space around the roots.

Make sure the soil around the planted butterfly bush is flat and even.

The new planting should be watered regularly to keep the soil moist. 

Pruning the Christia Obcordata

Prune plants regularly to keep them at their desired size and shape. Pinching plants to encourage them to grow back thickly stimulates dense, bushy growth and encourages more flowers to bloom.

To keep plants looking healthy and prevent seed formation that depletes the plant’s energy at its expense, remove old flowers.

These plants are often grown for their beautiful leaves, such as the dusty miller, coleus, and flowering kale.

They don’t produce very showy flowers and any buds should be cut off to keep the foliage looking great.

Is the Christia Obcordata Toxic to Cats?

The Christia Obcordata (swallowtail plant) is not toxic to cats, dogs, and humans. However, similar to other non-toxic houseplants, if your pets eat large amounts of the leaves and plant parts, that could lead to an upset stomach.

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Christia Obcordata Final Thoughts

All in all, Christia Obcordata plants are easy to care for and maintain. They require regular watering and feeding, but these tasks aren’t difficult. The main thing you need to remember is not to overwater your plants.

Here are some other houseplants you might be interested in: 

Christia Obcordata FAQs

Is Christia an Obcordata?

The Obcordata is actually in the Christia genus family. The Christia obcordata (Poir.) is also a flowering leguminous plant that’s in the Fabaceae family. It’s the same family of legumes like beans and peas. 

Like the Obcordata, there are at least ten other species in the Christiaceae family that are prostrate herbaceous perennial plants.

How Do You Germinate Christia Obcordata?

If you want to start your own Christia obcordatas, you’ll need to buy some seeds first. These will germinate easily once sown in warm, bright light. 

Sow seeds directly onto the surface of dampened potting mix, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm room until seedlings start to appear. Lift the plastic daily to give it some oxygen and ventilation. 

When you’re ready to transplant your seedlings outside, use only fresh potting mix and place them into larger pots filled with fresh potting mix. Water thoroughly before placing the pots in a warm and humid location.

Is the Butterfly Plant an Indoor Plant?

Yes, the butterfly plant is one of the best indoor houseplants because it grows quickly and doesn’t require much attention. This makes it perfect for beginners who just want to get started growing their own houseplants. Provide them a warm and humid place indoors and they’ll grow well. 

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Written by:

Amy Walsh
I love to grow houseplants and herbs at home! Growing plants has always been a hobby of mine, but it turned into an obsession when I moved out on my own. My apartment is now full of shelves of various plants and stacks of pots waiting for new life. It’s not uncommon to find me checking out the latest indoor plant trends online.