Growing Smithiantha Flowers: How To Care For Temple Bells

Formerly known as Naegelia in Mexico, Temple Bells are beautiful bell-shaped winter flowers that range in color from cream to red, with large heart-shaped leaves sometimes marked with purple veins and red hairs.

These beautiful plants are Temple Bells because their flowers rise above the leaves in late summer and fall and hang down bell-shaped and nodding. These colorful plants are highly hybridized and are often used indoors.

Blooming SmithiathaPin

Smithiantha is also known by several common names:

  • Temple Bells
  • Gesneria zebrina

Quick facts On Smithiantha 

  • Family: Gesneriaceae 
  • Light: Full Sun
  • Temperature: 68° to 77° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Water: Normal to visibly moist
  • Fertilizer: Diluted liquid fertilizer
  • Propagation: Apical Cuttings
  • Common Problems: Aphids, weeds

Blooming Smithiantha Care

How Big Do Temple Bells Grow?

Temple Bells can grow from 1’ to 3’ feet in height.

When Do Temple Bells Flower? Are The Flowers Fragrant?

Temple Bells produce fragrant flowers in the spring and early Summer.

What Are The Lighting Needs and Temperature Requirements?

Smithiantha plants thrive in full or dappled light but grow best in fairly mild temperatures, about 68° to 77° degrees Fahrenheit.

How And When Should Water And Fertilize Temple Bells?

Because the soil texture allows excess moisture to drain away, water your temple bells moderately so that the soil is not soggy but is still moist.

The average plant needs about 1″ inches of water each week. Compost can improve the following factors:

  • Soil texture
  • Water holding capacity
  • Drainage capacity

Mulch can be applied to soil for 3″ inches. Studies have shown that mulched plants are more productive than those without mulch.

Regular watering should be done about twice a week during flowering. You can water a potted Temple Bell by placing it in a container filled with water. Only use soft water.

TIP: Overflowing can cause serious damage. You can water the pot by placing it in a container.

The soil should dry slightly between waterings. The last part of the summer is when watering should be reduced.

When the plant is resting, watering should be stopped, and the rhizomes should be dried.

Liquid fertilizer with a higher potassium content should be applied every two weeks from spring through fall.

An annual or perennial temple bells can be fertilized with:

  • water-soluble, fast-release fertilizers
  • slow-release temperature-controlled fertilizers
  • organic fertilizers like fish emulsion

Use water-soluble fertilizers every two weeks, depending on the label instructions. I use slow-release, controlled fertilizers once during the growing season.

Follow label directions for organic fertilizers like fish emulsion, as they can vary from one product to the next.

You can also fertilize your temple bells houseplants with either water-soluble, fast-release fertilizers or temperature-controlled slow-release fertilizers. Or you could fertilize them organically, such as fish emulsion.

Water-soluble fertilizers should be used once every two weeks or as directed by the label. Only use slow-release, controlled fertilizers once in the growing season.

Follow label instructions for organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion. Allow your houseplants to rest during the winter months.

Stop fertilizing in October and start again in February.

What Is The Best Soil For Smithiantha Plants And When Should You Transplant?

Use a lightweight, breathable primer for your Smithiantha soil. You can use a mixture of the following:

  • 1 part of garden soil
  • 1 portion of coarse sand, perlite, or humus (leafy soil)
  • 1 part wet peat/humus

Drainage is a must.

Do Smithiantha Plants Need Special Grooming Or Maintenance?

There are many types of pruning, such as:

  • Shearing
  • Pinching
  • Thinning
  • Rejuvenating

All of these will keep your Smithiantha plants looking their best.

  • Pinching: refers to removing the tips of young plants’ stems to encourage branching. This prevents you from having to do more severe pruning later.
  • Thinning: the process of removing entire branches from the trunk. Thinning can be used to open up a plant’s interior to allow more light in. It also increases air circulation, which can reduce the risk of plant disease. Start thinning by getting rid of any diseased or dead wood.

How To Propagate Smithiantha Plant?

You can safely propagate your Smithiantha plant in the spring. To propagate, you can do it via apical cuttings.

Place apical cuttings in a greenhouse or cover with polyethylene. Seeds germinate at a temperature of 77° degrees Fahrenheit, then sprouts dive.

You can also multiply your plants by dividing rhizomes when you transplant. Do this by planting 3 to 5 rhizomes sprinkled lightly (about 1 cm) with soil.

Apical cutting: Apical pruning involves cutting immediately before the last knot in the main stem or a plant.

The rhizome from last year is a great way to propagate Smithiantha plants in the late winter or early spring.

Each part should have at least one shoot/bud. The rhizomes are first grown in moist sand and then transplanted into pots in groups of three to five or more.

Apical and leaf cuttings are also used for reproduction in spring

Gesneria Zebrina Pests And Diseases

Though it is not susceptible to many diseases, Aphids can be a definite problem.

Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied, slow-moving insects that suck fluids from plants. They can cause stunting and deformed buds and damage to many plant species.

Their piercing/sucking mouthparts can also transmit dangerous plant viruses.

Aphids produce honeydew, a sweet substance that ants love. This can cause sooty mold, which is a darkened surface.

These pests multiply quickly as each female can produce 250 live nymphs per month without needing to mat.

Aphids are often found in spring and fall when the environment is changing. Aphids are often found at the tips and ends of branches, eating succulent tissue.

Aphids love yellow and will often hitchhike in yellow clothing.

To prevent them, keep weeds at a minimum, especially in areas where there are desirable plants.

Wash infected areas of edible plants. Aphid control products come in both organic and inorganic forms.

I strongly recommend importing a good supply of ladybugs if there aren’t enough in your garden to control the aphids.

Other problems may include infestation by the following:

  • Mealybugs
  • Spider mites

High humidity can also lead to the death of the plant’s neck. Yellow or brown spots can form on the leaves when water gets on them

 When you water your leaves with cold water, you can get stains. Too much sunlight or a lack of nutrients can cause yellow heels.

Is The Smithiantha Plant Considered Toxic Or Poisonous To People, Kids, Or Pets?

The ASPCA reports no toxicity for the Smithiantha.

Suggested Gesneria Zebrina Uses

Gesneria Zebrina makes perfect house plants or grows outside along fence rows.

These beautiful plants need a moist root system. They are best grown in most of the U.S. in a greenhouse.

However, they can also be grown indoors under a cloche, in bell jars, or in an indoor area when they are flowering.