Streptocarpus: You Can Grow That!

The Streptocarpus I ordered came in plastic shot glasses.
Happy New Year! Here is to eventually being able to call myself a neophyte in growing gesneriads. First of all, the term "neophyte" is from the Greek, meaning literally, "newly planted." What is a gesneriad? The term refers to plants like African violets, Gloxinia, and Streptocarpus among others. It's like the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals share the same division (East) within the National League team structure. (This is my contribution to the sports-themed analogies that most people seem to spout, like, "it's the size of a football field," which just means "big.")
Streptocarpus 'Bristol's Boomerang'

One of the best-known gesneriads is the African Violet (Saintpaulia), which I have been struggling to grow for awhile. Another member of the group--Episcia--has also come here to die. If you think that, just because they're in the same group they'd have the same requirements, you'd be wrong.
I finally seem to have hit upon a plant in this group that actually likes it at my house. Streptocarpus is really easy to pronounce once you know how. I think of strep throat-toe-fish-infection. (Okay, so maybe that's not the best way to remember, but maybe it will help someone.)

I ordered two from the Violet Barn, an online shop in Naples, NY that carries a nice selection of gesneriads. These two were hybridized by the shop's owners, Ralph and Olive Robinson, and are designated with the preface "Bristol." I really don't know how I was able to limit myself to just two plants--the variety is astounding!

Streptocarpus 'Bristol's Sally Mander'.
Okay, so they've only been under my care for a little over two months. But they weren't blooming when they arrived and they're blooming now and showing no signs of stopping. I left them in their little plastic shot glasses with the holes in the bottom and slipped them into small ceramic planters filled with between 1/4 to 1/2-inch of drainage material. (In this case, decorative crushed seashells.) This layer serves to keep the pot out of excess water, and brings the plant up to viewing level.

I grew them adjacent to a plant light that was about 10" above them until they started to bloom, which is when I moved them both to my office where they receive light but no direct sun. This is just temporary, a move that will allow me to give myself a pat on the back while I'm ever-so-gently tweaking their really cute little petals. As for culture, I let them get pretty dry before I water them with a dilute fertilizer for blooming plants. 

Streptocarpus 'Bristol's Boomerang' and 'Bristol's Sally Mander'.

After an hour or so of bypassing the completion of this blog, I paid $25 for a one-year membership in The Gesneriad Society, because I wanted to learn more about this fascinating group of plants.

Even if you have trouble with African Violets, give Streptocarpus a try. It's the theme du jour, kind of a post-holiday battle cry:


  1. Nothing like starting a new year out with a new obsession. They are little darlings. No wonder you are smitten. Happy New Year to you too.

  2. Also, be sure that wherever you decide to place the plants, they will not be bothered by young children or animals. Mars Hydro reviews