Monica Brandies studied horticulture and landscape design in college and is a Temple University Alumni Fellow. She has written 11 gardening books, seven of which are especially for Florida, about herbs, shade gardening, landscaping with tropicals, a newcomers’ survival manual, cuttings, xeriscaping and a book of lists.

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by Monica Brandies       #Colorful   #Flowers   #Plant Profile

These Espicias or trailing violets, would be worth having just for their foliage, but they also bloom. Depending on the variety, flowers may be white, yellow, lavender, pink, or this orange/red.

If you enjoy African violets and do well growing them, you may already have tried some of their lovely cousins. If you have problems with the violets, you may well find the cousins easier to grow.

Many of these Gesneriad plants were started from seeds.

The family Gesneriaceae (ges ner ee AY see ee) includes more than a hundred tropical plants that like temperatures of at least 60-70 F at night and a moist atmosphere. They make colorful houseplants and can also be grown on patios and porches in parts of Florida.

There are many African violet and Gesneriad societies throughout Florida that have annual shows and sales and monthly meetings where visitors are welcome. You can also find them at the State Fair, the Strawberry Festival, and county fairs.

A few years ago I bought some trailing violets (Episcia spp.). These have gorgeous textured foliage in colors of green, bronze, silver, and brown. That would almost be enough, but they also have tubular flowers of white, yellow, lavender, pink, and orange/red. And, for me, they are easier to grow than African violets. There are at least 10 species and many more varieties. They like a spongy soil like the violets and will grow well near any window but will bloom most with some sun. They bloom profusely under artificial lights that are left on 12 to 14 hours a day.

They do best with wick watering since they don’t like water on their leaves. If you go to a show or meeting, ask about this. It is easy to do using items found in most homes and it gives the plants constant and proper amounts of water. Just add liquid fertilizer to the water twice a month. If you put the plants on trays of wet pebbles for humidity, they do even better, but mine grew great even without. They also do well on a porch or patio when temperatures are not too hot or cold, but don’t expose them to rain. They are easy to multiply from cuttings.

This Streptocarpus ’Chorus Line’ leaves have a unique texture and shape. • Gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) produce large, velvety and brightly colored flowers. • This Streptocarpus ’Chorus Line’ leaves have a unique texture and shape.

I had a cape primrose (Streptocarpus spp.) that bloomed indoors even during the winter. These will grow near any window or under artificial light. While violets usually have one bloom stem per leaf axil, these will produce six to 10 stalks in succession from each leaf so a mature plant has many blooms. They are easy to propagate. Any 2-inch length of leaf will root and can give 20 to 60 plantlets, and each one, potted up, can start to bloom in only one to three months. About every five to six months, repot the plant, dividing it if needed. Remove some of the old soil and root ball, and add fresh soil. These do not like temperatures over 80 F, so don’t put them on the patio.

There are also Chiritas, gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa), lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus spp.), goldfish plant (Nematanthus spp.), and cupid’s bower (Achimenes spp.) and many more. Try some.


A version of this article appeared in Florida Gardening Volume 20 Number 2.
Photography courtesy of Andrey Korzun, Tony Hisgett, NZfauna, Montrealais, Alcie Maxwell, Hans Hillewaert, and Monica Brandies.


Posted: 03/12/18   RSS | Print


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