Common Name: Cape Primrose
Country of Origin: South Africa, Madagascar and Asia
Fig.1 Streptocarpus flowers intermittently throughout the year.
It's been two and half years ago since I first saw a Streptocarpus in full bloom and the plant was not mine. This time I have a clone of that same plant which has been growing in my kitchen.
Streptocarpus is probably one of the most beautiful flowering houseplants. It is regarded in high esteem by plant enthusiasts not only because of its pleasing beauty but also because of its durability as a plant. It is an evergreen, herbaceous plant that grows well in shade - making it a great indoor plant. This stemless plant blooms almost throughout the year as long as it is regularly fed with complete fertilizer (preferably with a high phosphorous content). They are related to the African violets but have a different morphological structure that makes them more appealing than their shorter relatives.
Fig. 2 Flower buds originating from the petiole of a leaf.
One of the most interesting observations on Streptocarpus is that flower buds originate from the basal section of the leaves (Fig. 2). That's right; the flowers emerge from the leaves. The first flower bud always grows closest to the axil as seen on the picture above. The flowers come in clusters and indeterminately arranged on long slender peduncles that extend well above the top of the leaves giving the appearance of floating flowers (Fig. 3 and Fig. 1). The flowers open in succession which allows a prolonged flower show (Fig. 1 and 5).
Fig. 3. Clusters of unopened flowers.
Fig. 4 Delicate tubular flower on slender peduncle.
The flowers come with a delicate tubular corolla which extends out into deeply scalloped lips that resemble individual petals (Fig. 4). The tube of the flower is usually clear white with increasing pigmentation towards the lobes with the lower lips being darker than the upper lips. The peduncle (stem-like structure that supports the inflorescence) starts out curled and slowly uncurls as it elongates to display the ethereal inflorescence (Fig. 4).
Fig. 5 Flowers open in succession
1. Provide sufficient moisture but not soggy soil. Over watering is a common cause of damage on the plant. Water only when the top of the soil feels dry.
2. Position plants in light but not direct sunlight. East facing window sills work best. Putting plants on a hot sunny window sill will cause burning on the leaves.
3. Feed regularly. Fertilize during watering using low fertilizer concentration (about 25% of recommended rate).
4. Allow sufficient room to grow. Divide or re-pot only when the pot is full of roots to the next size using peat-based multi-purpose media.
5. Deadhead regularly. Remove spent flowers (including dead leaves) to encourage continued flowering and to avoid Botrytis (Gray Mold) infection.
6. Monitor the occurrence of pests. Regularly inspect plants for white and greenflies, aphids, mildew, and mealy bugs. (These pests can be a problem but so far I have not seen them on my plants.) It is easier to control pests at the early stage of infestation.
Streptocarpus: a sturdy and delightful flowering houseplant.