My favorite flowering houseplant is the gloxinia. You don’t see them very often in the garden centers, probably because their large, stiff leaves make them hard to ship. I’ve also noticed that the large plants that I used to get back in the 70’s just don’t exist anymore – florists and garden centers don’t grow their own plants any longer. But while the plants might be smaller than I remember them, I still enjoy growing them.
Gloxinia isn’t the true name of these amazing flowers. They are a tuberous member of the family Gesneriaceae. I share this information because this is a plant family that I love which includes achimenes, streptocarpus, goldfish plant and african violets and I’m sure to be making more posts about gesneriads in the future. The common gloxinia was once named Gloxinia speciosa but is now named Sinningia speciosa. If you’re shopping at a place that specializes in gesneriads, you’ll want to look for sinningias; at the local florist, just ask for gloxinias.
Call it what you will, it’s a beautiful plant. The large fuzzy leaves look like an african violet on steroids and the bell-shaped flowers come in pinks, reds, whites and purples. Some plants have single blooms while others are double.
If you pick up a gloxinia plant to enjoy in your home, all you need to know is that this plant likes bright light but not direct sun. The soil needs to be moist but not wet. If the plant is full of buds, a gloxinia should provide flowers for at least a month. When it stops blooming you can just add it to the compost bin and keep your eye out for the next shipment of gloxinias to your garden center.
I like to try propagating the plants that I have and I learned an interesting thing about propagating gloxinias. I took a leaf cutting as you would with an african violet. With violets, small leaves will start to appear in a month or two. I was expecting the same thing to happen with my leaf cutting of gloxinia but this was not the case. The leaf was healthy and well rooted but nothing seemed to be happening for months. After about 5 months I gave up and threw out the leaf. But when I did, I removed the soil around the well rooted leaf to see what was or wasn’t happening. I found that at the base of the leaf petiole was a small tuber. I shouldn’t have been surprised since I knew that gloxinias are tuberous plants but I’d never seen anything like this before. I kept the tuber, allowed it to rest for a time and have since potted it up. It has rooted but I have yet to see any buds. I plan to give it a little more time and also to try a leaf cutting from another gloxinia. I’ll give it all the time it needs to form a nice, healthy tuber and then see if I can grow my own gloxinia.