Friday, September 19, 2014

How to care for a Streptocarpus

This bright and lovely blooming plant was given to me by a dear friend. He did not know what kind of plant it was and was told it was a petunia! Fortunately I have a large north-facing window which is just about the perfect lighting for it. It has handsome velvety leaves and usually blooms for a few months at a time, then rests for awhile. It's red-violet flowers, by good coincidence, complemented the room's decor very well.

Its long and almost-medical sounding name is Streptocarpus x hybrid. Its common name is Cape Rose, although I've only seen it sold as a Streptocarpus. Maybe growers just enjoy saying its unusual name! They come in an array of different colored blooms and you should find these available at garden centers and nurseries.

The Streptocarpus is closely related to the African violet and they are both native to Africa and grow there as perennials.  You won't find this one as an indigenous species growing in Africa (unless someone planted it) because it is a hybrid, although its antecedents did originally live there. 

Care instructions-- 
  • Sitting in a north facing window is the very best place for them.  Otherwise,very bright indirect light or some morning sun, works too.  Full afternoon sun is too strong.
  • It's been recommended for ages to water them from the bottom,  meaning put water in their saucer or a bowl and let them absorb as much as they will take for about 15 minutes. This works well but I have found they do not mind being watered from the top if you are careful not to damage the leaves.  
  • They do not like water to sit on their leaves for very long.
  •  Water as soon as the top is dry. 
  •  Fertilize with African violet food regularly.  Schultz Instant African Violet Plus works beautifully.  Regular houseplant food works, too,  although African Violet formula was developed to promote blooms.

***For a variety of  video clips on houseplant care from my 90's TV series, click here: 

The Indoor Garden TV show


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