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Blooming Plant
of the month


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Streptocarpus spp. (strep-toe-KAR-pus)

Cape primrose, False African violet

Streptocarpuses have short, ovate, fuzzy leaves and tiny, trumpet-shaped flowers. The flowers “float” above the foliage on long petioles.

The blossoms are available in hues of white, pink, red, blue and purple. They also can be bicolor with white or yellow throats or white petal edges.

A single Streptocarpus plant can produce flowers for up to six months. Keep pinching off faded florets to prevent the plant from going to seed.

LIGHT Bright, indirect light will maximize plant quality and flower development. Flowers that open at lower light levels will be pale and irregularly colored, especially on darker cultivars. Choose an east, south or west window to provide the correct light levels.
WATER Streptocarpuses never should be allowed to dry out, even slightly. When watering the plants, avoid getting water on the leaves.
TEMPERATURE Streptocarpuses do best with nighttime temperatures of 60 F to 65 F or warmer and daytime temperatures of 70 F to 75 F.
HUMIDITY Humidity levels should be medium to high. This can be achieved in the home by placing the plant on a pebble tray.
FERTILIZER Use a high-phosphorous bloom fertilizer such as an African violet food product. Streptocarpuses can be fertilized moderately at every watering.
SOIL Use a pasteurized potting mix.
GROOMING Remove individual flowers as they fade. If lower leaves turn yellow, they can be removed without damaging the plant.

ETHYLENE SENSITIVITY Streptocarpuses are sensitive to ethylene gas. The blossoms will wilt when they are exposed, and the plant will not recover. Make sure your plants have been treated with an anti-ethylene agent at the grower level or during transportation.
pests Wipe mealybugs off with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. Keep spider mites down by fumigating, vaporizing or syringing with insecticide.

MEANING The name “Streptocarpus” means “twisted fruit” in Greek.
FAMILY Streptocarpuses are members of the Gesneriaceae family. This diverse family comprises more than 2,500 genera. Perhaps the best-known member is the African violet (Saintpaulia). Other popular plants in this family include gloxinias (Sinningia), lipstick plants (Aeschynanthus), flame violets (Episcia) and cupid’s bows (Achimenes). The genus Streptocarpus contains about 140 species.
ORIGINS Streptocarpuses are native to Africa, Madagascar, Thailand, China and Indonesia.
HISTORY Streptocarpuses were discovered and sent to England by James Bowie (1790-1853), who discovered and named many of today’s popular commercial plants like Clivia, Euphorbia, Aloe and Gladiolus.

BUYING TIP The plants should have 25 percent of their flowers open and others showing color at the time of sale.

Some information provided by:
The Chain of Life NetworkÆ,
The Gesneriad Society,
Virginia Cooperative Extension,
Dave's Garden,
Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association
Society of American Florists’ (SAF) Flower & Plant Care manual

You may reach “Blooming Plant of the Month” writer Steven W. Brown, AIFD, at or by phone at (415) 239-3140.

Photos courtesy of The John Henry Company

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