Swallowtail Plant Care Infographic
Swallowtail Plant Care Infographic

The swallowtail plant of the Fabaceae family, also known as the butterfly leaves plant, is one of those extremely gorgeous ornamental plants that are not very well known. its butterfly-shaped leaves will surely give a huge surprise to everyone who sees them for the first time.

Find out how to look after this Christia genus plant in this no-nonsense, straightforward guide.

What Is Swallowtail Plant?

Swallowtail plant, known by its scientific name Christia obcordata, is an herb plant. It is also known as the butterfly leaf plant because of its triangular leaves with mahogany variegations running symmetrically along the veins. It can grow up to three feet in both length and width.

Swallowtail Plant Care

Caring for the Swallowtail plant entails keeping it under shade, providing 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures, and maintaining humidity levels near 50 percent. Make sure the soil you use is rich in nutrients and also drains well.

Find out how to grow swallowtail plant in detail below.

LightLight Requirements

This plant needs partial or shaded light to grow properly. Its delicate leaves cannot tolerate direct sunlight and are prone to sunburn.

– Which Windows In The House Are Most Suitable?

The eastern and the western-side facing windows in the house are the most suitable for this plant. Continue reading to find out where to place the swallowtail plant indoors.

– The South-facing Window

Swallowtail Plant Ornamental PlantThis window receives very harsh and intense sunlight for most of the day. Your plant should be at least three feet away from it. Alternatively, you can also place a curtain over the window.

– The Eastern-facing Window

This window receives light of only moderate intensity for a couple of hours in the morning.

Only indirect light comes through for the rest of the day, so you can safely place your plant near it.

– The Western-facing Window

This window receives direct light only in the evening. You can cover this window during this time. Otherwise, your plant can be safely kept near it.

– The North-facing Window

The light from the north-facing window isn’t adequate enough for this plant. 

– Swallowtail Plant Outdoors

Look for a larger tree or plant in your garden and place the swallowtail plant under its shade. You can also place this plant next to a north-facing wall. It will be shaded from light here.

WaterWatering Requirements

This is a water-loving plant that needs its soil to be consistently moist. Water abundantly every third to the fourth day using clean, filtered water.

– How Often To Water This Plant

During spring and summer, water this plant every three to four days, decreasing the frequency of watering in the fall. Make it a habit to check how dry your soil is before watering.

Insert a pencil or stick in the soil. If the top three inches come out dry, you should water the plant right away. It is also a good idea to make use of a moisture meter to check the moisture content in the soil accurately.

– How To Water

Here is the correct way to water your plant:

  • Always water the roots and the soil. Watering the swallowtail plant leaves will lead to fungal infections.
  • Use distilled water or tap water that has been filtered or purified.
  • Refrain from using water that is too cold or too hot. Lukewarm or room temperature water is the best.
  • Use a large volume of water. Allow it to soak entirely through the soil.
  • Don’t let the pot sit on the drained water collected in a pan underneath. This can also lead to the development of fungal rot.

SoilSoil Requirements

Ideally, the soil should be well-draining, moisture-retaining, and rich in nutrients. Make your own soil by mixing the following ingredients.

  • Peat moss or sphagnum moss sponges up water and then releases it slowly over time.
  • Perlite creates spaces within the soil. It improves water and air circulation.
  • Little pieces of bark or coco coir also open up the soil and improve its airiness. Sand can also be used for this purpose.
  • Compost adds much-needed organic nutrients to your soil.

TemperatureTemperature Requirements

A temperature range of 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit is the perfect range for this plant. This means that this plant will survive dips in temperatures, but it must be protected from weather that is too hot and dry.

HumidityHumidity Requirements

Maintain humidity levels at 40 to 50 percent, especially during the dry summer months. If not, you will notice that the leaves of your plant will begin to wilt.

– How to Artificially Increase Humidity

Here are some ways to increase the humidity of a room:

  • Place a moisture tray under the pot and fill it with water and pebbles. The pot should not touch the water.
  • Buy a humidifier. You will need to keep it running all day long.
  • Mist the plant lightly once or twice a week. Early morning is the most appropriate time for misting.
  • Move similar plants close together. This creates a greenhouse effect and increases humidity.

Grooming 1Pruning

Regularly keep removing old and dead leaves. The best time to prune is during the end of the growing season. Always use clean instruments for pruning.

FertilizingFertilizing Requirements

This plant needs only moderate fertilizing. You can go for a liquid or a pellet-based fertilizer.

Pellet fertilizers are slow-release fertilizers. They work by burying them in the soil, where they release nutrients for three to four months.

Liquid fertilizers, on the other hand, need to be diluted first. Apply this at least twice per month.


There are two main methods of swallowtail plant propagation: via seeds and stem cuttings. Propagate in the early springtime. Propagation is especially for those who cannot find the swallowtail plant for sale easily enough.

– Stem Cuttings

Here is how you can propagate by using stem cuttings:

  • Choose a stem in your plant that is neither old nor very young. It should be healthy and pest free.
  • Cut at least four to five inches of this stem. Your stem cutting should have at least one leaf and one leaf node in it.
  • Make the cut at an angle. Don’t forget to use a clean and sterilized knife.
  • Place the cutting on a piece of paper to dry. Allow callus formation to occur at the cut end, then apply rooting hormone over the callus.
  • Place this cutting in compost-rich soil and water daily for the first two weeks. During this time, don’t let the soil dry out at all.
  • Keep the pot somewhere it can receive plenty of warmth, shaded light, and humidity.
  • In a few weeks, your cutting will eventually produce a new plant.

– Seeds

Here is how you can propagate using seeds:

  • Getting authentic swallowtail leaves is not easy. Make sure you buy them from a trusted source.
  • Spread a nutrition-rich medium in a seedling tray. You can add compost as well.
  • Allow the swallowtail plant seeds to soak in clean water overnight, then gently press them inside the medium. 
  • Keep each seed at a distance of at least one inch from its neighbors. 
  • Place the seedling tray in the brightest, warmest, and most humid part of your house.
  • In a few weeks, the seeds will begin to germinate. However, it will be some months before the young plants are ready for transplanting into pots.


Sunscorching, fungal diseases and pests are the most common problems you might face with this plant. 

– Sunburn

More than a couple of hours of direct sunlight leads to sunburn and your swallowtail plant drying. Its classic, patterned leaves will turn yellow and begin to wilt. They might turn brown at the edges as well.

Move to a shaded location as soon as you notice this happening. The leaves that have discolored will not get better, though. 

– Root Rot

Root rot is a fungal infection. It most commonly affects an overwatered plant and can destroy a plant in weeks.

– Causes

Here are some factors that cause root rot:

  • Overwatering the plant
  • A soil that retains undue moisture and is too compact
  • The pot does not have a properly-sized drainage hole

– Symptoms

Here are the visible signs to look out for:

  • A fetid odor
  • Swollen, yellowed leaves
  • Brown rot spots all over leaves and stems

– Treatment

Here is what you can do about it:

  • Remove the plant from its old soil.
  • Take a knife and cut off the rotten parts.
  • Repot in new soil and pot.
  • Spray fungicide every day.

– Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal infection. It destroys the appearance of your entire plant, but it doesn’t really kill the host plants.

– Symptoms

Here are the symptoms to watch out for:

  • A large number of very small spots all over the leaves
  • The plant looks like it is sprinkled with powder
  • The swallowtail plant purple turns white

– Treatment

Here are some ways you can treat this plant:

  • Combine one tablespoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of oil and soap. Spray your plant with this mixture every week.
  • Mix milk and water together and spray every three days.
  • Use commercial fungicides.

– Insects

Mealybugs and spider mites are the two bugs you need to be on the lookout for. Find out how to get rid of them here.

– Mealybugs

Mealybugs are the most common pests affecting household plants like the swiss cheese plant, money plants, etc. they suck nutrients and weaken the plant.

– Common Symptoms

Here are the most commons signs and symptoms:

  • The presence of a waxy layer over the leaves
  • Yellow spots appear all over the foliage
  • Leaves also begin to wilt, droop and fall
– Treatment

Here are the steps to follow:

  • Wash the plant thoroughly.
  • Use insecticidal spray.
  • Apply neem oil on the bugs.

– Spider Mites

Spider mites are very small bugs. They look like tiny spiders under a magnifying glass.

Some signs and symptoms of spider mites include white, web-like substances on the underside of the leaves, yellowing of leaves, and leaf curling.

What you can do after diagnosing your plant with a spider mite infestation is to wash the plant using soap and water and apply neem oil and insecticide.

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