Brazilian Edelweiss – Rechsteineria leucotricha

Small and decorative with its hairy, silver foliage and narrow, tubular bell-shaped flowers, Brazilian Edelweiss dies back each winter and is dormant for a short period before new stems sprout from the tuber.

This plant has caused some confusion amongst botanists who have reclassified it and its close relatives a number of times. Considered as coming in the genus Rechsteineria, it was reclassified under the genus Sinningia and recently has again been classified as Rechsteineria. The two genus are similar in that they both produce brightly coloured flowers and the stems rise from fibrous-rooted tubers.

Stems can grow to 25cm (10in). Leaves are borne in whorls of four. They are about 15cm by 10cm (6in by 4in) in size, oval and coming to a slight point at the tip. Both stems and leaves are thickly covered with white hairs that are velvety to the touch. The undersides of the leaves have strongly marked veins.

Stems grow from a tuber which stores both food and water for the winter while the rest of the plant withers away. The dormant period can be very short; sometimes new stems can sprout before earlier ones have completely died back.Brazilian Edelweiss - Rechsteineria leucotricha


R. cardinalis, the Cardinal or Helmet flower, has blood red flowers in autumn.

The unusual silvery foliage of Brazilian Edelweiss will suffer if it is mist sprayed. Instead, keep humidity high by standing the pot in a tray of constantly moist pebbles.


Sow seeds in spring in the potting mixture described below.

Dividing tubers

Divide when shoots of the new stems appear. Use a sharp knife and make sure that each section has at least one stem. Dry for 24 hours, brush the wound with powdered charcoal or sulphur powder and plant with the tuber top just above the barely moist potting mixture.

Use a potting mixture of equal parts sphagnum peat moss, perlite and vermiculite to which a tablespoon of dolomite lime or lime chips should be added to each cup of mixture.

Taking cuttings

1 Use 2.5-10cm (1—4in) cuttings of young stems in early summer. Insert each cutting in a 3.5-6cm (1 ½-2 ½in ) pot of potting mixture.

2 Enclose in ventilated polythene and stand in bright filtered light for 4-6 weeks.

3 New growth will indicate that a tuber and roots have formed. Uncover for short midday periods then longer periods. After 4 weeks remove completely.

Pests And Diseases

Provided plants are kept in a humid atmosphere they should remain healthy as they are tough and resistant to most pests and diseases.

The leaves become deformed if the plant is attacked by red spider mites. The tiny spiders live in the leaves and can be spread by other pests such as aphids when they suck the sap.

Treatment: First remove the plant from close proximity to any others to prevent the mites from spreading; then spray with a suitable insecticide.


Brazilian Edelweiss is not difficult to grow provided you give it humid surroundings.

  • Potting: Repot with the upper part of the tuber above the potting mixture and use equal parts of sphagnum peat moss, perlite and vermiculite. Add half a tablespoon of dolomite lime or lime chips to each cup of mixture.
  • Water moderately in summer but always allow it to dry out before rewatering. In winter, as dormancy approaches and leaves fade, reduce watering. When stems die down stop watering.
  • Feeding: Apply a high phosphate liquid fertilizer at half strength every two weeks after flowering and until top growth dies down.


  • Light: This plant needs good but filtered light, so a west- or east-facing windowsill is ideal.
  • Temperature: During the growing period this plant does well between 18°— 24°C (65°-75°F) but it needs humidity. Do not spray foliage as it will mark the leaves and flowers. Instead, keep the pot in a tray of constantly moist pebbles.

This unusual and decorative plant, with tubular, bell-shaped flowers, has leaves and stems covered in silvery hairs which almost completely mask the green underneath.

New buds will keep forming to replace the speckled flowers of Rechsteineria macropoda.

Buying Tips

  • Young plants in bloom are sold in summer. Seeds may be available in the spring. If you cannot obtain this plant from a local garden centre contact a specialist nursery.
  • Choose a plant with healthy and unmarked leaves and plenty of buds. Take care when transporting home as leaves and stems are delicate.
  • Tubers can make new growth for several years and can be divided for propagation.

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