What is Gloxinia?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing
Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Gloxinia usually refers to a lovely, colorful flowering plant with large leaves that is often grown as a houseplant; less commonly it can refer to a small genus of herbs. The scientific name is Sinningia speciosa; it's also known as florist's gloxinia, and it belongs to the same family as the African violet. It grows from a tuber with large fuzzy leaves and bell shaped flowers. It needs a moderate amount of care and can be propagated in several ways.

The large leaves of the gloxinia plant are usually arranged in a rosette pattern. They are bright green, with an oblong shape that comes to a point at the end, scalloped edges and a fuzzy texture. The flowers are shaped like bells with the open ends facing up. The tops flare out into separate petals, and the edges are often ruffled. A wide array of colors is available such as pink, purple, white, or red, and some varieties have shade variations like lighter colored edges and middles, or spots.

The area of origin for the gloxinia plant is the jungles in Brazil, but it is now in cultivation all over the world. It was first discovered 1785, and originally was classified as part of the genus Gloxinia. It was re-classified as part of the genus Sinningia in 1825, when further study revealed that it grew from a tuber unlike the rest of its former genus, and had more similarities to plants in the new genus.

Grown as a houseplant, gloxinia requires a moderate amount of care and can be very sensitive to its surroundings. It requires bright light, but indirect light is best because it can tolerate only minimal direct sunlight. A humid, warm environment is best, with temperatures of about 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 24 degrees Celsius). Occasional periods of dormancy may occur at cooler temperatures where the plant stops blooming and some leaves die.

Gloxinia should be watered frequently; care needs to be taken, however, to avoid over watering which can cause the roots and tubers to rot. The soil should have good drainage and be kept moist. The leaves should be kept dry, and spent blooms can be pinched off to encourage larger clusters of flowers. To bloom well the plant should be fertilized frequently with a diluted liquid or water soluble fertilizer.

Gloxinia plants can be propagated using leaf cuttings which are placed in water until roots appear, then planted; this method can be used any time of year and growth rates vary. Plants can also be grown from seed, and it takes about six months to produce a flowering plant. Plants grown from seed are less likely to survive periods of dormancy than those grown from tubers, possibly because growth from seed consumes too much of the plant's energy. Plants grown from a tuber flower in about four months and seem to be hardier, but can only be planted in the spring when tubers are available.

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