Several species of columnea are available, but not all are easy to grow as houseplants. Columnea x banks 'll is one of the most tolerant. Its dark green leaves are smooth and almost succulent.
They are carried in opposite pairs along trailing stems that can reach 3ft/90cm or more, making this columnea an ideal plant for a hanging basket.
The bright red tubular flowers, about 2V2-3in/6.5-8cm long, have yellow throats, with the upper petals forming a hood. They are borne in profusion in winter and early spring and occasionally at other times.
ORIGIN Tropical America; hybrids.
HEIGHT Stems trail to 3ft/90cm or more.
POTTING MIX Peat-moss-based.
REPOTTING In spring, when the roots fill the pot.
PROPAGATION In spring or summer take cuttings from stems that are not flowering. Root them with bottom heat or sow seed in spring.
KEEPING PLANTS In good conditions, plants will last for several years.
PLANT CARE of COLUMNEA X BANKSII Nematanthus GOLDFISH
- Columneas need bright light but not direct sun. Warm conditions, with a minimum of about 60°F/16°C in winter.
- Keep the soil just moist, allowing the top third to dry out between waterings.
- Reduce watering in lower winter temperatures.
- A humid atmosphere must be maintained at all times. Mist the foliage with tepid water daily.
- Liquid-feed with a high-potash fertilizer every 10-14 days during the growing season.
Columnea gloriosa has leaves that are densely covered with fine brownish hairs and produces large, striking orange-red hooded flowers with yellow throats. The leaves of C.g. ‘Purpurea’ are covered with purple hairs.
Among the many hybrids are ‘Alpha,’ with bright yellow flowers freely produced sporadically throughout the year, and ‘Chanticleer,’ one of the easiest and most popular varieties, with a compact, branching habit and orange flowers produced all year.
‘Mary Ann’ produces unusual deep pink blooms at intervals during the year, and ‘Stavanger’ has smooth, glossy leaves and large, orange-red flowers.
The bright orange-red hooded flowers give columneas their common name of goldfish plant.
Columnea gloriosa has slender stems that trail to about 3ft/90cm before they branch. It bears brilliant orange-red singleflowers, which can be 3in/8cm long. These are followed by large white berries.
All columneas need the high humidity provided by frequent misting.
Smooth-leafed varieties are easier to grow than the hairy- leafed types.
Small brown spots on the leaves can be caused by misting with cold water; use tepid water instead.