How to Grow and Care for Gloxinia

gloxinia houseplant with red and white flowers and green leaves on table

@plantcollectorinjapan

With full, beautiful blooms, few houseplants are as striking as gloxinia. This colorful plant comes in a range of bright, cheery colors that can add life and character to your space. Originally native to Brazil, today's hybrid gloxinia variety was discovered in 1845 when John Fyfe, a gardener in Scotland, noticed a mutation among his true gloxinia seedlings.

This plant had symmetrical, bell-shaped, upright flowers, unlike the others, which had slipper-shaped flowers that hung down. Sinningia—the plants sold as gloxinia at nurseries, flower shops, and garden centers today—all descend from this one unique plant. 

  • Botanical Name: Sinningia speciosa
  • Common Name: Gloxinia, florist’s gloxinia
  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Mature Size: 12 inches high
  • Sun Exposure: Bright, indirect light
  • Soil Type: Loose, well-draining, slightly acidic mix like African violet soil or gardenia soil
  • Soil pH: 5.5 to 6.5

Plant Care

Like African violets, these showy flowering houseplants are in the Gesneriaceae family, but gloxinia doesn't bloom throughout the year. Instead, it goes dormant between bloom periods, similar to cyclamen.

Feed your gloxinia once a month with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. Ensure its soil stays evenly moist, but not soggy. You may have the most success with bottom-watering your gloxinias. Fill a small bowl partway with water, then place the plant’s pot in the bowl to soak up water from the bottom (rather than pouring it over the top of the soil). After it's been in the water for about 15 minutes, remove it and allow the pot to drain excess water.

As your gloxinia's flowers begin to fade, stop fertilizing. You can resume feeding after you’ve repotted the plant when it shows new growth. 

Best Growing Conditions for Gloxinia

Use a moist, well-draining, slightly acidic potting medium like an African violet mix or gardenia mix. In terms of temperature, these plants do best with warm days up to 75 degrees and nights that don’t drop below the 60s. 

Choose a spot for your gloxinia that gets bright, indirect light. North- and east-facing windows are best, but windows on the south or west sides of your home are suitable if the plant is placed a few feet away or the window has a sheer curtain. Be sure to keep your plant out of direct light, as the sun's harsh rays can damage this species. 

If you notice wilted leaves on your plant and the soil is wet, it may be overwatered. This can also lead to its flowers dropping. Shriveled leaves with crispy, dry areas indicate that your gloxinia is thirsty.

Types of Gloxinia

Gloxinias are available as hybrids with flowers in a wide range of color combinations ranging from white to gold, red, pink, or purple. Some blooms fade from a lighter to a darker shade of one color, while other varieties like 'Brocade' grow colorful petals edged with white. Others have unique patterns; 'Empress Leopard F1,' for example, has white blooms covered in tiny, royal purple speckles. 

gloxinia hybrid houseplant with big white and magenta flowers on windowsill

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How to Propagate Gloxinia

While their growth cycle may be a little more complex than many popular houseplants, gloxinia plants are easy to propagate. You can grow new plants relatively easily and quickly using stem cuttings or by dividing tubers. Here's how:

How to Propagate Gloxinia by Stem Cuttings

Step 1: Fill a fresh container with moistened potting mix.

Step 2: Examine the mother plant to select a healthy leaf. Rather than opting for the newest or oldest leaves, choose a partially mature specimen.

Step 3: Using a clean pair of gardening shears, remove the leaf by cutting it diagonally where the petiole (leaf stem) meets the main stem.

Step 4: Snip the top half of the leaf to stop it from growing further. Dip the cut end of the stem in optional powdered rooting hormone and plant it 1 inch deep in the soil.

Step 5: Place a clear plastic bag over the plant to boost humidity, which encourages new tubers to grow. Keep the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light.

Step 6: Over the next few weeks, look for new growth from the soil. Once the new leaves are 1 inch long, the cutting can be potted up and cared for as usual.

How to Propagate Gloxinia by Tubers

Step 1: Fill a fresh container with moistened potting mix.

Step 2: Remove the mother plant from its pot and select a few fresh tubers growing from the original.

Step 3: Plant the tubers 1 inch deep in the soil.

Step 4: Cover the container with a clear plastic bag to increase humidity.

Step 5: Once new growth emerges at least 1 inch from the soil's surface, the plants can be potted up and cared for as usual.

Common Problems With Gloxinia

While Gloxinia is an attractive, unique houseplant, it can be finicky. This species is prone to problems related to its light and water needs. Here's how to diagnose and treat your plant:

Wilted Leaves

Gloxinias are very sensitive to soggy soil, so be careful to avoid tuber rot. If your gloxinia's foliage is wilting heavily, the best method is usually to trim off the remaining healthy stems and replant them in fresh soil. Water from the bottom moving forward and keep water away from new leaves and crowns of buds.

Brown Leaves

This species can get sunburned easily, so it's important to grow your gloxinia safely away from the sun's direct rays. Brown leaves are a common symptom, but your plant's leaves may also begin to curl, become crispy, or stop growing completely. Move your gloxinia to a place with darker filtered light.

Wrinkled or Yellowed Leaves

A common issue that many gardeners have with gloxinia is assuming it's dying when it goes dormant. If your healthy plant's flowers are beginning to die off, its leaves may also begin to wrinkle and turn yellow. This is a normal part of its growth cycle. Trim back the plant above the soil and store it in a dry, cool place until spring.

Potting and Repotting Gloxinia

Only repot your gloxinia during its dormant period after the leaves have fallen away. When you see new growth appear after a few months, transplant the tuber into a larger pot with a fresh soil mix. Resume watering and fertilizing the plant.

These plants are very fragile, so be careful when handling or repotting them to avoid breaking their delicate stems and leaves. 

How to Get Gloxinia to Bloom

When your gloxinia’s original flowers begin to die back in the fall or winter, gradually cut back on watering and stop fertilizing. The leaves will wither, at which point you should stop watering the plant altogether and allow it to rest. This dormancy period lasts from two to four months. 

When it’s ready to grow again, the plant will wake up and send new growth through the soil, letting you know it’s time to repot in fresh soil and place it back in bright, indirect light. You can expect to see blooms again in about four months.

FAQs

Are Gloxinia Plants Easy to Grow?

The gloxinia plant requires specific care to thrive, but it's not typically harder or more time-consuming than other popular houseplants. This species does best when watered from the bottom, and its owners should also prepare for the plant's dormant season each winter by pruning back dying stems until spring.

Can Gloxinia Be Grown Indoors?

Gloxinia is a great species to grow indoors. Since these flowering plants do best in bright, indirect light, they can easily stay healthy when placed near windows with filtered sun. Gloxinia also prefers temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees, making them suitable for life inside most homes.

Can Gloxinia Be Planted Outside?

Your gloxinia can grow outside during the warm season of the year, but it's important to note that its tubers will need to be stored indoors over the winter to rebloom once repotted in the spring. This species can live outdoors for the summer in USDA Hardiness Zones 11 to 12, while hardy gloxinia varieties can survive in zones 6 to 10.

Is Gloxinia a Perennial?

Gloxinia is a perennial flowering plant that goes through a dormant period each winter. After the cold weather passes, it comes back with fresh blooms through spring and summer.