Columnea gloriosa is native to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. It is also called Goldfish Plant for the appearance of its flowers. It is a perennial plant and can live for 30 years with good care. This plant is ideal for a hanging basket in a greenhouse or sunroom. It has long, slender, drooping branches with opposite pairs of green, slightly hairy leaves. The branches can grow up to 3 feet (90 cm) long. Flowers are tubular, bright scarlet with yellow throats, and appear at every leaf joint.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Goldfish Plant likes lots of light but not a direct sun that can burn the leaves. Setting it in an eastern or northern facing window works well. It will also do well under artificial lights.
In the summer, water freely and keep the soil moist. During the winter, let the soil dry out more between waterings. However, never let it dry out completely. This regime seems to encourage better blooms.
Columnea plants like plenty of humidity. If the plant is in a regular pot, you can place a saucer full of pebbles under the pot and put water in it. As the water evaporates, it creates a high humidity spot for the plant. Do not let the water touch the Goldfish Plant's pot, however. If it is in a hanging basket, mist the leaves daily to keep them happy. Use room temperature water as cold water will cause brown spots on the leaves.
Fertilize weekly during the growing season with a water-soluble fertilizer with lots of Phosphorus to encourage blooming. Do not fertilize during the winter.
Use good, well-draining potting soil when potting these plants. Columnea plants seem to do better when slightly root-bound and produce better flowers in this condition. Every two to three years, repot the plant in a pot one size up from the one it is in. Gently trim the roots to encourage new root growth. Place the plant in fresh potting soil when repotting for maximum success. Ensure the pot you choose has drainage holes to prevent root rot in the plant from poor drainage.
Pinch off the stem tips often to encourage branching. Keeping the stems 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) long is a good idea so the plant does not look leggy.
Columnea plants are sensitive to high temperatures. If you see the leaves browning or leaf drop, the plant is probably too hot and needs to be moved to a cooler location.
Columnea plants are propagated from stem cuttings. Pick a stem tip that does not have a flower on it and cut it off, leaving 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of the stem. Dip in rooting hormone and plant in a good potting soil mix. Leave in the light until new growth begins. Cuttings will not bloom in the first year because they put all their energy toward growing new roots and vegetation.
Pests and Problems
Goldfish Plants are vulnerable to aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. These can all be combated by spraying the plant with insecticidal soap. Ensure you get all surfaces of the leaves and plant wet with the soap to eliminate the problems.
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