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.
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.
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:
||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.
||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.
||Keep the medium moist. For those
that go into rest, withhold watering during this period unless they are excessively
||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.
||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.
||Remove dead or dying leaves as soon as
they have been noticed.
||Leaf cuttings and stem cuttings are
common methods of asexual propagation. Hybridization can lead to many
interesting new plants.