Few if any flowering plants surpass the beauty of a gloxinia. The large, erect, bell-shaped flowers have a richness and variety of colors that make them superb.
Even the gloxinia foliage is magnificent—large green leaves with a soft furry texture, beautifully formed and well placed on the plant.
When in full flower, hybrid gloxinias are especially enjoyable in the home. They add colors to a room, ranging from blues and purples, through pinks and crimsons to pure white. Sonic of the hybrids with tinted edges and dark spots on lighter backgrounds bring pleasing variety to a window garden display. The gloxinias are an asset in any home.
Today’s Gloxinia Nothing Like The Original
The gloxinia as we know it today little resembles the original found by L’Heritier in 1785 in Brazil. The earliest written word he found about these plants is an article written in 1785 by P. B. Gloxin. whose name they carry. The original gloxinia had small flowers which hung down small. practically stemless foliage—far less showy in every way than our present-day hybrids.
From such unspectacular beginnings have come to the outstanding house plants grown all over the world today. Breeders in this country and abroad have crossed and recrossed the species and their descendants to produce larger, more colorful, and better-formed blooms. Even the foliage shows the mark of the hybridists’ improvements.
Gloxinias purchased from the florist are finished, full-grown plants with a few flowers and many buds on them. A little simple care will assure enjoyment for several weeks. They should be placed in a warm room where they get as much light as possible. Direct sunlight, however, needs to be avoided.
Never Allow Gloxinia Soil To Dry Out
Gloxinias ought to be thoroughly watered at frequent intervals since they must never become dry. A good way to accomplish this is to place the pots of gloxinias in a pan of water with the water level coming about halfway up the pot.
Let them stand for about half an hour, or until the surface of the soil is damp, then remove them. Never allow them to sit in water for any length of time, for excess moisture will rot the roots and destroy the plant.
After all the flowers have opened and died it is time for the plant to rest. Hybrid gloxinias require a dormant period of about two months. Just stop watering them and set them in a cool, dry place, at about 40°.
At the end of six to eight weeks, the tubers may be repotted in the same pot. but in fresh, sterilized soil consisting of about one-half part leaf mold or peat and one-half soil or compost. They will grow and bloom again under the same care given before. In this way, tubers can be kept for many years.
Fun Of Growing
Ever increasing numbers of home gardeners are discovering the fun of growing their house plants. For a first try with gloxinias, it would be wise to purchase 2 1/4-inch plants already started. These plants should not be put back into small pots, since they like plenty of room to grow.
Pot them up immediately into 5-inch azalea pots; that is, clay pots 5” inches in diameter (inside measurement) and about 3 3/4 inches deep. Or, a self-watering pot may be obtained from the local florist. Do not use a glazed or painted pot.
Air And Moisture
Air and moisture, which are necessary for good root growth of any plant, move through a clay pot, but not through the others. Gloxinias should be potted loosely. soft soil. with good drainage. An ideal mixture would be one-half part leaf mold or peat and one-half part sandy loam or soft compost. Clay soil is not suitable.
The growing medium should be sterilized before it is used. Place some of the mixtures in a pan or dish, then put it in a pressure cooker with about one-half inch of water in the bottom and let it steam for approximately 15 minutes. Soil for houseplants should not be sterilized by baking in the oven since oven heat dries out the soil and burns the humus, making the mixture unfit for good plant growth.
If sterilizing is too much trouble, several of the African violet soils on the market today are already sterilized. Mixed with peat, about half and half, they make a good growing medium for the gloxinias. Be sure to check the label on the package of soil to see that it is sterilized. Sterilized soil eliminates the danger of virus diseases and root insects getting into the gloxinias.
Free From Insects
Plants that are clean and free from insects when purchased should require no insect or disease control during the flowering period. If the little green aphis should appear on the plants they are easily killed with a nicotine spray or by using the sodium selenate capsules, which are available in feed and variety stores.
If it is necessary to use the sodium selenate capsules, be sure to read the directions and do exactly as they say. This is a highly poisonous substance and an overdose is toxic to plants.
After the small gloxinia plants are potted in the proper soil, they need proper light, proper temperature, and proper moisture. With these three factors under control, you should be able to grow just as beautiful gloxinias as can be purchased from the local florist.
Lighting For Your Gloxinia
First, let’s consider light. During the summer months, which, incidentally, is the time of year the gloxinias grow fastest and flower best, they must have as much light as possible without any direct sunlight. They will tolerate about 2,000-foot candles of light, providing the soil has a thigh moisture content and the humidity around the plant is high.
If the plants get dry and the humidity is too low, the sunlight bleaches and burns the foliage. To be on the safe side, I suggest putting the plants in a window and using a Venetian blind or some other method of shading them from the sun’s direct rays. Under such conditions, the plants will grow compact and symmetrical and produce a maximum number of flowers.
During Winter Time
In the wintertime, particularly from Dec. 31 to Feb. 28, gloxinias will tolerate full sunlight and be the better for it. While they take a little longer to grow, form buds, and flower at that time of year, still, the plants will be just as good as those grown during the summer – always providing they have the right conditions.
As for temperature – coming originally from Brazil’s hot, humid areas, gloxinias are warm weather plants. They grow best, in summer or winter, with a minimum night temperature of 70° and a high day temperature of 80° to 90′, or even warmer–again, providing the soil has the right moisture content and the humidity is correct.
A warning—in the wintertime, even a bright sunny window may be too cold for a gloxinia plant because of the poor insulation qualities of the glass. An ideal spot during the cold months is a south window with a radiator under it, giving plenty of heat and light.
The third factor to consider is moisture. Gloxinias like lots of water and fairly high humidity, because of their large leaf surfaces which constantly transpire water into the air. They should be watered often and thoroughly, but must not stand in water, so give the small plants the same treatment as is described above for the adult gloxinia.
Although these tropical plants like high humidity, they also like air movement. This may sound like an impossible combination but it is not too difficult to achieve. If there is moisture below the gloxinia, the humidity will be high enough, while moving air will keep humidity from settling around the plant.
Excellent Way To Accomplish Moisture
An excellent way to accomplish this, particularly in the winter, is to place a galvanized tray about 3″ inches deep on the radiator under that south window. About an inch of pea gravel and an inch of sand are put in this container and the gloxinias are set on top of that.
Then the water in the pan is maintained at the level of the pea gravel – just below the sand. To keep track of the water level a 2 1/4-inch pot with a hole in the bottom may be sunk in the sand and gravel at one end of the tray. The water height can be gauged from that pot and water is added by pouring it into the pot.
As it evaporates from the sand it rises with the warm air, passes around the gloxinia, and keeps on moving around the room. High humidity plus air circulation.
The American Gloxinia Society indicates the increasing popularity of this beautiful house plant. Starting in 1951, it is fast growing into a large organization spread across the country.
Members of this social issue published a bimonthly magazine called The Gloxinia; reading a copy convinced me that the gloxinia will soon be found in as many homes as the African violet.
And rightly so. What could add more to a modern home than a well-grown gloxinia with its beautiful foliage and 20 to 30 magnificent flowers, all open at once?
44659 by Karl E. Lewis