Swallowtail, Butterfly Plant (Christia Obcordata)

Swallowtail, Butterfly Plant (Christia Obcordata)

Swallowtail, Butterfly Plant (Christia Obcordata), is a lovely, unique, and exotic plant that is particular about the conditions in which it requires to grow and thrive.

This article gives you the detailed information you need to know about the Swallowtail plant and what it takes to keep this fantastic plant healthy and thriving. It’s all set out below!

This fantastic Asian plant is increasing in popularity across the world. Recently, Butterfly plants have been relatively rare, with most plant lovers growing their own from seed.

What is Christia Obcordata (Swallowtail, Butterfly)? 

This excellent plant’s name is Christia Obcordata, but it is better known as the Butterfly Plant due to its striking foliage.

This perennial plant gets its common name from its triangular-shaped foliage.

Its green and burgundy striping is similar to the veins of a bird’s feather, such as a Swallowtail. It is also known as the Butterfly Plant because the overall leaf shape resembles a butterfly’s wing. 

It is an herbaceous perennial plant known for its striking foliage with triangular burgundy striped, green leaves that look like a butterfly’s opened wings.

It grows on long thin stems, so the broad, variegated leaves flutter with any breeze movement just like a butterfly

This incredible plant is a native of the Asian tropics, wherein it grows in grasslands, waste grounds, and thickets. It is a weed that has even been used effectively as a cover crop in Japan and Malaysia to help improve the soil.

Oxalis christia obcordata in white pots - Swallowtail
Oxalis christia obcordata in white pot

Its demand as an ornamental plant has eclipsed such beautiful uses.

Christia Obcordata or Swallowtail, Butterfly, is a Christia genus of flowering leguminous plants. It comes from the family of Fabaceae that includes peas and beans and thus belongs to the legume.

Consider its symbiotic relationship with the bacteria that dwell on the plant’s root nodules that fix nitrogen; ideally, it improves the soil for this Butterfly plant and other plants.

Christia Obcordata is an exotic plant native to tropical regions across Southeast Asia. It grows as a bush or shrub and may also be known as:

  • Butterfly plant
  • Butterfly stripe
  • Butterfly wing plant
  • Swallowtail
  • Hedysarum Obcordatum Poir
  • Lourea Obcordate 

How to Germinate Christia Obcordata

We’ve mentioned that Christia Obcordata is an exotic and relatively rare plant. You will likely find that getting hold of the seeds is much easier than the plant seedlings.

You can make a great success of growing Christia Obcordata from seed! 

Works best: You may sow your purchased seeds in or on the surface of the moist substrate with good drainage. Keep the seeds warm and humid to encourage germination.

Place the sown seeds in a bright position but not in direct sunlight. The SwallowTail Butterfly seeds will typically germinate after 10 to 14 days.

Soil. Using a good quality potting mix soil with nutrient-rich compost is the key to having success in planting Swallowtail seeds. You may sow seeds at one-fourth depth in the soil. Keep it always containing enough moisture for germination.

Container. You can germinate the seeds on a makeup pad or container with good drainage. 

How To Plant Christia Obcordata Seedlings

1.     Individual Potting.

 Prepare your soil – The existing soil needs to be thoroughly broken up so this vigorous perennial can take root quickly and establish itself. You may add organic matter like peat moss or compost to the soil.

Container or Pot – Always use a pot with good drainage with adequate holes at the bottom for an easy flow of excess water.

It should be given enough space to flourish, and the roots could breathe. A good drainage pot could also help produce and promote proper soil aeration.

Remove the SwallowTail Plant from the container Do this gently to prevent damage to the developing roots. You may tip your pot, tap, and rotate to loosen the soil and slide the young plant out of the pot with some soil.

Place the young plant in the pot and gently add the soil around the roots. Slowly sprinkle with water gently.

2.     Plant Directly into The Soil.

Choose a location where to plant your swallowTail with adequate space. Try to avoid crowding. This plant does not do well in direct sunlight and exposure. So, looking for a location with partial shade and shelter is best.

Dig a hole at least twice the size of the potted plant and should be of a depth that keeps the plant level with the ground when filled in.

Now, put the young plant in the hole and then gently backfill. Add the soil gently around the roots. Gently sprinkle with water.

How To Take Care of Christia Obcordata

Christia Obcordata is a tropical plant that is so popular as a houseplant and typically grown as pot plants. It does not do well in the dark and needs good lighting inside the house.

It should be cared for with weekly cleaning of the leaves, frequent fertilization, and medium to high humidity.

Here are some “care instructions and tips” that could be useful to grow them healthy:


Some plant lovers highly recommend that a Swallowtail ideally requires 70 to 85% sunlight but never direct sunlight.

Rotate the pot or container every week for well-rounded growth.

If the leaves get dull, the plant has experienced slow growth, especially in too little light. It is necessary to understand the lighting needs of your Christia Abcordata indoors.   

If you want to grow it outdoors, then a 40% shade would be ideal.  


This incredible plant appreciates moisture and humidity. It would be best to establish a regular watering regimen so that this plant can thrive.

Watering can on the garden - Swallowtail, Butterfly Plant (Christia Obcordata)

During watering, focus the water on the root area. It generally spreads to a maximum of 6 to 12 inches from the base of the plant.

Reminder to keep: Avoid getting water on the leaves of SwallowTail as this can encourage mold and mildew.


Starting SwallowTail from seed is the most common and widely used method of raising new plants. However, some gardeners also experiment with propagating these rare plants from cuttings.

Using this cutting method provides the opportunity to get a mature plant more quickly rather than raising this plant from seed. 

Final Thoughts on Swallowtail, Butterfly Plant (Christia Obcordata) 

Christia Obcordata is an excellent addition to your home and garden. A very satisfying and fulfilling challenge is raising Christia Obcordata from seeds.

However, there is still more information about your Christia Obcordata, its ability to adapt and survive in more temperate climes, and potential pests and diseases.

We hope you take pleasure in seeing these fluttering butterfly wings for yourself.

Happy Gardening!

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Patricia Godwin

Patricia has many years of experience as a content writer on various subjects, but her first love is gardening. She’s never met a plant she didn’t like and, consequently, she writes about every type of plant you can think of. Once an avid gardener with a herb garden, a succulent rockery, and a rose garden – to mention a few. Nowadays, she’s constantly on the move searching for interesting plants to bring to your attention; and explain to you all the details you need to grow, care and maintain these plants.

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