Columnea is a genus of tropical plants, known also as Goldfish plant (Because of their red and orange petals), belonging to the Gesneriaceae family which is a large family with more than a hundred species. They are all native to the tropics and subtropics of America, the Caribbean and India. In wild, they are epiphytic plants that grow on tree trunks but can be also used as ornamental houseplants. These beautiful indoor plants produce thin, trailing and branching stems covered with oval, fleshy, dark green leaves covered with red hairs. They also produce tubular flowers in winter or spring. The flowers can be yellow, orange or red and give an attractive appearance to the plant.
Popular Columnea species
1- Columnea gloriosa
This showy tropical species has a semi-erect, branched and slender stem. The cascading leaves are rolled with a purple tint. Long, orangey-red, tubular-shaped flowers appear like leaping fish during spring then large white berries are produced. Furthermore, Columnea gloriosa is not very difficult to care for and can be ideal for hanging baskets indoors.
2- Columnea microphylla
C. microphylla is a dropping plant native to Costa Rica. It has long, thin, hanging stems with small nested dark green leaves tinged in mahogany and covered with reddish hairs. The first bloom of long, pubescent, bright orange or scarlet flowers appears in spring then begin to become sporadic all the year. This houseplant is also suitable for hanging baskets but is seen to better effect lower down.
3- Columnea x banksii
C. x banksii is a trailing evergreen perennial which is one of the most tolerant plants. This Columnea species has small, glossy, ovate leaves carried by dropping stems. Furthermore, long-tubed, two-lipped bright scarlet flowers appear in winter and early spring and occasionally at other times.
4- Columnea crassifolia
C. crassifolia, known also as Flying Goldfish plant, is an upright clump shrub Native to Mexico and Guatemala. The plant has long, elliptic, hairy leaves and dark orange-red flowers that bloom in spring.
How to grow Columnea?
Goldfish plant propagation can be done in two ways:
- By stem cuttings: take cuttings from not flowering stems and root them during spring or summer. Keep them warm (between 20 and 25 ° C).
- By sowing: Take seeds and put them in moist soil during spring. Be sure to keep the substrate moist without excess. Germination takes 1 to 2 months. Then, transplant the small plants into individual pots as soon as they can be handled.
Goldfish plant care
Columnea is not an easy to care for plant, but if you give it particular requirements and you follow these simple tips, we promise you’ll be a flourishing plant parent.
All Columea species like bright light without direct sunlight. You can place it next to the window away from direct sunlight, heat sources (fireplace, radiator) and drafts.
Water your plant when the potting mix starts to dry to the touch. In short, you can water 2-3 times a week in summer and water less often in winter (about 1 time a week).
Columnea plant needs light, well-drained soil rich in peat and fibers (sphagnum moss, leaf mold, bark…).
Temperature and humidity
Like many tropical plants, Columnea needs a temperature ranged between 15 and 28 ° C and high humidity (50%). If you are growing your Columnea in a container on a pedestal, you can place it on a bed of clay balls with a little water at the bottom, which will evaporate and humidify the air surrounding the plant.
Don’t water and spray the foliage too much because Columnea can rot easily.
Use a liquid fertilizer rich in phosphorus, special for flowering house plants. Fertilise every 2 weeks in spring and summer and make sure to follow the directions on the packaging.
With bad growing conditions, Columnea can be attacked by spider mites, mealybugs and white flies.
Repotting is done every 2 or 3 years, in early spring for species that flower in summer and all year round for those that flower continuously.
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