Gloxinia- Sinningia speciosa hybrids

Gloxinia’s large, trumpet-shaped flowers are held upright above heart-shaped leaves that are covered with soft down.

Gloxinia is an excellent example of how plants can be improved by hybridization. This not only gives stronger plants but allows the development of new colours and flower shapes.

The leaves have short stalks about 5cm (6in) long and are arranged in a rosette. Flowers come from the centre of the rosette.

Gloxinia will thrive at room temperatures that are higher than normal. It blooms from April to October, when its natural resting period begins. First it stops flowering and then the leaves turn yellow and wither. At this stage you should stop feeding and watering your plant, and place it in a cooler position. In February, take the tuber out of its pot, shake off the old potting mixture and repot the tuber in fresh peaty compost.Gloxinia- Sinningia speciosa hybrids

Flowers and flowering Originally, Gloxinia had drooping, purple bell-shaped flowers. Today many varieties are available in a range of colours — red, pink, mauve and white. Some flowers have frilled edges, which may be touched with white. Others are bicolored, with pale centres and deeper edges to the petals.

Propagation

Dividing large tubers Once the tuber puts out shoots in spring it can be divided.

1. Use a sharp knife and cut the tuber in half on a hard surface, making certain that each half has growing points. You can see these better if you rinse the tuber.

2. Dust the cut edges with sulphur powder to prevent infection.

3. Plant each half in a pot filled with equal parts peat and sand. For the first week, keep at 20-22°C (68-72°F).

Growing from seed

Growing from seed is cheap, but it is difficult. Sow them in November or December.

1. Mix the tiny seeds with fine sand so they are easier to sow, and distribute them evenly on moistened peat moss. Place in the dark for 2-3 weeks and maintain a temperature of 20-40°C (68-75°F).

2. Prick plants out and pot individually. Repeat in 5 weeks. As the plants need 14-16 hours of light each day, you may have to use artificial light.

Taking leaf cuttings

1. Fill a tray or pot with equal parts coarse sand and peat. Moisten the mixture.

2. Cut a large healthy leaf from the plant and make two cuts across the main rib vein. Pin leaf firmly to mixture with a hairpin.

3. Cover the tray or pot with glass and keep at 20°C (68°F). New plants develop from the cuts.

4. When they are rooted, plant up individually.

Plant Problems

Pale yellow or folded leaves are caused by underfeeding and too much sun.

Prevention: Feed regularly and keep your plant in a partially shaded position.

The flowers and leaves rot if you overwater. Treatment: Allow the potting mixture to dry out and water less often.

Ugly brown patches on the plant are the first sign of grey mould. Treatment: Cut off the infected parts and spray the whole plant with a fungicide.

The leaves become deformed if the plant is attacked by red spider mites or aphids.

Treatment: Spray with an insecticide.

PLANT CARE

Extra care with feeding, watering and positioning the plant will result in a plant that blooms throughout the summer. Keep tubers dry in winter and then repot to bring into flower the following year.

Potting: Repot dormant tubers in peat-based potting mixture in February.

Water moderately from below in spring and summer and stand plant on a tray of moist pebbles— high humidity is essential. You can mist around the plant but avoid spraying flowers and leaves. Keep dry during the winter.

Feeding: Feed while active once a week with a liquid fertilizer high in potash. Dilute to half normal strength.

GROWING CONDITIONS

Light: Keep plant in a partially shaded position — strong sunlight will burn the leaves.

Temperature: Choose a warm position in summer: 20-22°C (68°– 72°F) is ideal. In winter, let the tuber rest at 15°C (60°F). Don’t allow it to become cool at night and avoid placing the plant in a draught.

When to buy

Buy in spring or summer from garden centres, nurseries or florists.

Never buy plants with soft, pale leaves and few buds. Look for one that has lots of buds and firm green leaves. Take extra care when you transport the plant home — the leaves break easily.

Tubers can make new growth for several years, but those over two years old lose their vigour and should be discarded.

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