With full, beautiful blooms, few houseplants are as striking as gloxinias. These colorful hybrid houseplants come in a range of bright, cheery colors that will add life and character to your space.
Originally native to Brazil, the houseplant we call gloxinia 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 hang 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
- 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
- Toxicity: Non-toxic
Gloxinia Plant Care
These showy flowering houseplants are in the gesneriad family, just like African violets, and while they’re blooming, you can care for them the same way. However, unlike African violets, gloxinia don’t bloom throughout the year. Instead, they go dormant between bloom periods, similar to cyclamen.
Ensure that your gloxinia’s soil stays evenly moist but not soggy. Feed your gloxinia once a month with houseplant fertilizer diluted to half strength. As the plant’s flowers begin to fade, stop fertilizing the plant. You can resume feeding after you’ve repotted the plant when it shows new growth.
When your gloxinia’s flowers begin to die back, gradually cut back on watering and stop fertilizing. The leaves will wither, at which point you should stop watering the plant altogether and allow the plant to rest. The dormancy period lasts from two to four months.
When it’s ready to grow again, the plant will wake up and send up new growth, letting you know it’s time to repot in fresh soil and resume watering and fertilizing. You can expect to see blooms again in about four months.
Best Growing Conditions for Gloxinia
Use a moist, well-draining, slightly acidic potting mix for your gloxinia, like an African violet mix or gardenia mix. In terms of temperatures, they do best with warm days and nights that don’t drop below the high 60-degree range.
Choose a spot for your gloxinia that gets bright, indirect light, such as in a north or east-facing window or a few feet from a west or south-facing window. Be sure keep them out of direct sunlight, which can damage the plant.
You may have the most success with bottom-watering your gloxinias. Fill a small bowl partway with water, then placing the plant’s pot in the bowl to soak up water from the bottom rather than pouring it over the top of the soil. Make sure not to leave the plant sitting in the water for too long.
Gloxinias are available as hybrids with flowers in a wide range of color combinations ranging from white to gold to red to pink to purple. Some blooms fade from a lighter to a darker shade of one color, while other hybrids 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.
Common Growing Problems
Gloxinias are very sensitive to soggy soil, so be careful not to over-water them. It’s also important to keep water away from new leaves and crowns of buds. These plants are also very fragile, so be careful when handling or repotting them to avoid breaking delicate stems and leaves.
Otherwise, the main issue gardeners have with gloxinias is assuming they’re dying when they go into their dormancy cycle as described above. Now that you know how to take care of this unique plant, you’ll be able to enjoy its colorful, cheerful blooms for many seasons to come. With proper care, some specimens have been re-blooming for 50 years or more.
How to Propagate Gloxinia
While their growth cycle may be a little more complex than that of other houseplants, gloxinia are pretty simple to propagate. You can grow new plants relatively easily and quickly using leaf cuttings, similar to African violet propagation. Gloxinia can also be propagated by dividing tubers or with stem cuttings.
What You Need
- Healthy mother plant
- Clean, sharp pruners or knife
- Small plant pot
- Seed-starting mix or other light, well-draining soilless mix
- Rooting hormone powder (optional)
- Fill the container with potting mix. Moisten the mix well and allow it to drain fully.
- Examine the mother plant to select a healthy leaf. Choose neither the newest nor the oldest leaves—a partially mature leaf is ideal.
- Use your shears or knife to remove the leaf by cutting where the petiole (leaf stem) meets the main stem. Make a diagonal cut at the very end of the top side of the petiole.
- Snip off the top half of the leaf. This step stops the leaf from growing and reduces stress on the new root system.
- Dip the cut end of the leaf stem in rooting hormone powder, if using. Plant the leaf about one inch deep in the moistened potting mix.
- Place a clear plastic bag over the plant to create a humid environment, which will encourage the formation of new tubers. Keep the cutting in a warm place with bright, indirect light.
- Keep an eye on the cutting over the next few weeks and look for new plantlets emerging from the soil. When its new leaves are at least an inch long, the cutting can be potted into a small container and cared for as usual.
Potting and Repotting
Only repot your gloxinia during its dormant period after the leaves have fallen away. When you see new growth, transplant the tuber into a pot one size larger with fresh African violet soil. Resume watering and feeding the plant.