Back in September I wrote about sinningia, an African violet relative with an unusual tuber that grows above the soil. At the time my plant was in full bloom. It is now going into dormancy and has been losing leaves. The photo above is what it looked like yesterday in its current home underneath lights in my basement. [Please note that the leaves are green. They look yellowy/red because of the back light coming from fluorescents.]
I was prompted to write about the plant because I received an email this week from Tim Tuttle, the person who created the hybrid I am growing, ‘Kevin Garnet.’ A few of you asked if the plant was named for the pro basketball player of the same name. Well, Tim has answered. Here’s what he had to say:
I had to laugh about the comments about the name being in honor of the basketball player. It is NOT named for the basketball player, but rather for my nephew who happens to have the same name. I made this hybrid about ten years ago and named it in honor of my older nephew Kevin.
If you’re interested in learning more about less common Gesneriads (African violet relatives), Tim keeps a blog called A Passion for Petrocosmea, the focus of which is on this peculiar genus. I find the conditions in my home are too dry to grow them well — my single attempt to keep one failed miserably and I have shifted away from most humidity-loving plants as a result. More room for succulents! Still, I find Petrocosmea incredibly fascinating as many of them grow in an almost unreal, nearly-perfect, circular form. They’d make an interesting step forward if you have a lot of success with African violets. I only wish I’d tried them when I had better growing conditions.
I’m bringing back the Daily Botanical feature. Since I stopped doing them regularly I have sorely neglected to write about the new and interesting plants that I am growing or run into in my travels. It feels like the right time to bring them back.
The Sinningia you see in bloom here was the topic of a Daily Botanical dating back to September 16, 2010. It is only because I have this record that I now know that it blooms annually literally to the date.
Inspired by a tour of Erika’s unusual houseplants, I bought myself a Sinningia. I purchased it for 2 bucks at the spring Toronto African Violet Society sale, which happened to be taking place at the Toronto Botanical Gardens at the same time as the Ontario Rock Garden Society annual sale, which I was helping out with. This is all by chance, as I am not a member of either group.
But I digress (again). The Sinningia I bought is called ‘Kevin Garnett’. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting, nor a choice for that matter — I was just happy to find one at all, and so cheaply, too. Given a choice, I would have selected a plant that produces a much simpler, red flower. Regardless, I’m happy with this one, despite the fact that it’s not really to my taste. The novelty of keeping it alive and making it bloom hasn’t worn out yet.
At home, I repotted the plant up in a little terracotta pot and placed it alongside my other African Violet Family plants. I used African Violet soil and planted it shallow, exposing the caudex like Erika’s. Mine did not come that way, but I prefer the look.
It is still early days in my Sinningia growing experience and I am not well-read on the subject. To be honest, I’m kind of winging it, going on instinct more than anything else. Whether or not exposing the caudex is good or bad for the plant is beyond me; however, months later and ta-da, my plant is blooming. I must be doing something right.
One of the things I brought back with me from our month-long Caribbean trip (did that really happen?) was a renewed enthusiasm for some of the tropicals we grow here at home as houseplants and annuals. Seeing them in their natural habitat provided new, helpful insights into their growth habits and needs, and an appreciation for what they are capable of.
I returned home eager to grow cosmos again, with a respect for caladium (although I will never grow them), and a wish to expand beyond African violets and into growing other Gesneriads (African violet family plants).
The first gesneriad that caught my interest was the episcia shown above. I spotted it growing out of a wall at Papillote Gardens in Dominica. I recently acquired a little cutting of a different episcia and boy do I wish I could grow it in the crack of an old wall like this one. But alas, while our summers are sometimes hot and steamy like the tropics, the rest of the year is not. Mine will be living life in a pot.
I showed a photo of this plant when the leaves are fully emerged in the post about Erika’s unusual house plants.
This is what it looks like when the tuber is just beginning to come out of dormancy. At this stage the plant brings to mind a flattened potato crossed with an African violet that has exceptionally soft and velvety leaves.
Here’s a photo of a flower that had just fallen from the larger plant:
If you’d like to learn more, I’ve found this page to be very helpful. It includes photos of other Sinningias in their native habitat in Brazil, which goes a long way to explaining the kind of growing conditions it prefers.