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What Is Streptocarpus?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 December 2014
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Streptocarpus is a genus of flowering herbaceous plants native to Southern Africa. There are numerous species in this genus cultivated ornamentally all over the world in both outdoor and indoor settings. These plants are very well suited to indoor cultivation as houseplants and are very easy to care for, making them popular with gardeners who have difficulty keeping houseplants healthy. Nurseries and garden supply stores often carry Streptocarpus species and can order specific species and cultivars by special request from customers. These plants are also available by mail order and through exchanges organized by enthusiasts.

Some of these plants grow from basal rosettes of leaves, producing flowering stalks. Others are unifoliate, growing from a single leaf. Both can be induced to flower year round if they are well cared for, and can last several years, depending on the species and when the plant flowers. Streptocarpus species commonly used in ornamental gardens may be bred to produce hybrids with unusual traits including distinctive leaves and flowers in a variety of colors and patterns to make them more appealing to gardeners.

Outdoors, these plants can grow between USDA zones 10 and 11. They need a warm, humid environment and should be grown in light to full shade. Outdoor gardeners will want to select acidic, well-drained soil for their Streptocarpus plantings. Depending on the species, some of these plants bed well, while others may be more like trailing plants, suited to plantings on stone walls and in terraced plantings.

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Indoors, Streptocarpus thrives in a variety of light levels, as long as it is not kept in direct sunlight. Potting soil mixes with excellent drainage are recommended and the plants may need to be misted for humidity if a house is naturally dry. These plants are remarkably hardy and can withstand some neglect and abuse when they are grown indoors, unlike some of their more fussy cousins. The trumpet shaped flowers are often purple but can come in a range of other colors.

Common names for Streptocarpus plants include “Cape Primrose,” a reference to the fact that these plants sometimes resemble members of the genus Primula, and “false African violet,” referencing another plant they resemble. These plants are much less fussy than African violets and can be easier to cultivate indoors; people who have fought with African violets as houseplants and lost may want to consider trying the hardier Streptocarpus instead, as they may have better luck.

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