Cape Primrose – Streptocarpus hybrids

The Cape Primrose produces its very pretty flowers for much of the year. It is a good plant for the indoor gardener who wants a flowering plant that is a little out of the ordinary.

To grow this plant successfully, you should understand something of its likes and dislikes. It dislikes draughts, great fluctuations in temperature and rough handling. The leaves are easily damaged and flowers fall from the plant if the plant is constantly moved about.

The leaves are stalkless, rather wrinkled and grow in a rosette. Some species only produce one leaf that lasts throughout its life. The flower stalks grow from the base of the plant. Each one carries 2 to 5 flowers. The whole plant can grow to a height and spread of 45cm (18in), although this depends on the variety and the growing conditions.Cape Primrose - Streptocarpus hybrids

The best varieties for growing as house plants — and those less prone to problems — are those known as the John lnnes hybrids. They have a longer flowering period and carry more flowers at any one time.

One of the best varities is Streptocarpus x hybridus ‘Constant Nymph’, with purple-blue flowers. Many cultivars have been developed from this, such as pink-flowering ‘Fiona’.

Looking after your plant

Give your plant as much light as possible, without standing it in direct sun. The sun’s rays will scorch the leaves and discolour the flowers, which tend to drop easily.

Water generously 2— 3 times a week during active growth, but only from the bottom, into the saucer. The leaves may rot or brown spots may appear if water is spilled on them. To increase the humidity around the plant, stand the pot on moist pebbles.

Cut the flower stalks off right down to the base as the flowers fade, and remove all deformed or discoloured leaves. Gradually reduce the amount of water in the autumn, and in the winter water only when the compost is dry to the touch.

If you want to repot your plant, do this in early February. It is not absolutely necessary to repot every year, but it does improve growth. Fairly shallow pots are most suitable.

Plant Problems

The leaves may rot if the light is poor or the temperature too low. Prevention: Place in partial shade and do not let the temperature drop below 10°C (50°F) in winter.

Brown spots on the leaves are caused either by scorching or water spilled on the leaves.

Prevention: Never stand in direct sun and always water from the bottom.

Webs on the leaves are caused by red spider mite Prevention: Stand the pot on moist pebbles and mist spray frequently to keep atmophere moist.


This plant needs some care but if you follow the instructions carefully your Cape Primrose will thrive.

  • Potting: Repot in early February. Use a light and nourishing compost— a commercial African Violet compost is ideal. Put gravel in the bottom of the pot for drainage.
  • Water only from the bottom, into the saucer. Water generously from spring until autumn, and very sparingly in the winter, so the compost is just moist. Do not leave surplus water remaining in the saucer.
  • Feeding: Feed twice a month with a standard liquid fertilizer diluted to one-quarter of its normal strength.


  • Light: An east- or west-facing window is ideal for the Cape Primrose, as the plant should be placed in partial shade.
  • Temperature: Keep your plant cool in winter, at 10°C (50°F). During the growing season, temperatures should be 13°C (55°F).

When to buy

  • Cape Primrose is available from garden centres and nurseries from spring until autumn, but plants bought in the spring will flower the longest.
  • Choose a plant with healthy leaves growing in a firm rosette. Make certain it has lots of flower buds.
  • Given the right conditions you should be able to keep your plant for many years.

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