GESNERIACEAE       GESNERIA FAMILY

INTRODUCTION:  The gesneriads are herbaceous tropical plants with velvety or fuzzy leaves and attractive flowers.  Some are epiphytic and others are terrestrial.  They do well in relatively little light and many require protection from direct bright light.  Members of this family grow best at moderate temperatures, suffering chilling injury at cooler temperatures and heat injury at higher temperatures. 
 African violet, Saintpaulia ionantha and its hybrids with other species, is one of the most popular of all houseplants.  It is a favorite of hobby hybridists.  There are countless thousands of cultivars.  The plant grows in a variety of sizes from miniature to extra large.  There are a wide array of leaf shapes, color variations and forms.  Flowers also occur in a wide array of colors, sizes and types.  Due to the fuzzy leaves that are sensitive to cold water it is best to water from the bottom.  African violet grows and blooms in low light.  Moderate light will burn or discolor the plant. 
 Aeschynanthus lobbianus
and A. pulcher are known as lipstick plants.  They are trailing plants with green leaves and tubular flowers that have a brownish tubular calyx out of which emerges the bright red flowers that appear to be a tube of lipstick until the petals open.
 
 Episcia reptans is known as the episcia or the flame violet.  Episcias have colorful foliage, often with bright color patterns.  Most produce showy, bright flowers.  The trailing plant is best allowed to grow hanging over the edge of the container.  Each plant produces many plantlets on the runners that develop off the mother plant. 
 Gloxinia is in the genus Sinningia.  It produces large numbers of flowers but most types go into a rest period after flowering.  The rest period may last a few weeks or months.  After the plant has finished opening its buds and the flowers have faded, cut the stems off near the soil line and set the pot in a warm, shaded spot and check periodically for new growth.  Many new gloxinias do not have a rest period. 
 Plants in the genus Streptocarpus are called cape primrose or treptocarpus for common name.  They produce fuzzy leaves and some bear flowers on stems that appear above the basal rosette of leaves.  Others produce trailing plants with pale blue flowers.
 
 
General Care of Gesneriads:  
   

   

temperature: Moderate temperatures are best.  These plants may suffer chilling injury at temperatures below 50oF and heat damage at high temperatures.  Since chilling injury is a common problem, it is best to move violets out of the window during cold spells.
medium: A medium rich in organic matter is best for plants in this family.  Good drainage is essential but a medium that stays moist and well aerated is the ideal condition.
water: Keep the medium moist.  For those that go into rest, withhold watering during this period unless they are excessively dry. 
light: The plants in this group grow a lower levels in tropical rainforests.  They will grow and flower at relatively low light intensities.  They also burn easily.  Some are photoperiodic, flowering more freely in long days.
fertilization: A rich potting medium will release most essential nutrients.  African violet fertilizer, which has an analysis high in nitrogen,  is available in most garden centers.
pests and problems: Mealy bugs are a constant threat to the gesneriads.  Water thoroughly and then let it dry down to avoid “wet feet” which leads to crown rot.
grooming: Remove dead or dying leaves as soon as they have been noticed.
propagation: Leaf cuttings and stem cuttings are common methods of asexual propagation.   Hybridization can lead to many interesting new plants.

 

 
Virtual Garden's Directory of Flowering House Plants