Gesneriads for the Windowsill

More Great Windowsill Plants That are NOT African Violets

The lipstick plant is a trailing gesneriad family member botanically called Aeschynanthus.  Most of the flowers in this group are bright red or reddish-orange and tubular in shape.  One type, Aeschynanthus lobbianus has a flower structure when in bud that looks like a burgundy lipstick case that is winding open to reveal bright red lipstick inside. 

Sinningia (gloxinia) is a large and diverse group of plants that contains the large showy trumpet flowers of the florist gloxinia.  Also included are miniature plants that are not much larger than a quarter. 

 Episcia are a gesneriad group that are grown more for their colourful foliage than for their small, single flowers.  Episcia ‘Cleopatra’ is one of the favourites because of its leaves which are pale pink, white, and light green.  It is very striking but a challenge to grow because of its requirements for a terrarium-like environment with warm temperatures, constant moisture and high humidity.  Other Episcias, such as the ones with coppery-green foliage and red flowers are easier to grow.  Treat these like African violets. 

 Newish to the gesneriad scene are the Chiritas which are mostly from damp, semi-shady sites in tropical China.  Some people like Chirita sinensis for its leathery, silver foliage, but other members of this family are also attractive for their beautiful lavender, white or yellow miniature Gloxinia-like flowers. 

 The gesneriad genus called Nematanthus sometimes has a common name of gold fish plant for its small orange, puffy flowers.  The orange fish shaped blooms are a nice contrast to the glossy dark green foliage of their mainly trailing plants. A minimum temperature of 15 degrees Celsius will keep these plants sporadically blooming through the winter. 

 Achimenes are easy to grow tuberous plants that are dormant during the winter and have showy blooms in a wide range of colours during the summer.  If these plants inadvertently become too dry during their flowering phase they will just go into dormancy early.  Let them rest in a dry location with temperatures above freezing and they will be ready to bloom the following summer.  This plant has a common name of hot water plant because water is just about all that this plant needs to spring to life.

 Dainty tubular blooms that hand down from downy, upright plants are characteristics of the Kohleria genus.  This plant also has an underground rhizome and goes dormant similarly to Achimenes. 

 The Streptocarpus group of plants are becoming increasingly popular for people who want easy-to-grow houseplants.  These plants, also known as cape primrose, are best grown in the same conditions as African violets.  They have long strap-like leaves and numerous showy blooms held high above the leaves. 

 Columnea are mainly trailing plants that have masses of brilliant flowers cascading from along the stems.  For maximum production of flowers, water this plant sparingly during the fall for six weeks.  Once flower buds appear, water columnea regularly.

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