The Flame Violet(Episcia cupreata) is easily my favourite among all of the Gesneriads. This easy to care for plant will bloom nearly all year long. In my frozen climate this is a good quality for a house plant to have. During the long, cold months of winter any colour indoors is a welcome sight. When not in bloom, the foliage is impressive as well. Episcias are tropical trailing plants related to the African Violet that most of us have somewhere in our homes. You too can grow this beauty. Easily.
Bright light is important. The Flame Violet can not handle full sun. Since I don't have the perfect exposure of an East facing window, I have mine to the side of a South facing window. It gets maybe 2 hours of early day sun. Please note, this is Canadian sun, probably equivalent to bright shade in the Southern States. I have found that with a touch of sun I get more frequent blooms. They also grow very well under lights, set 8 to 10 inches above the foliage, and preferring 12 to 16 hours of artificial light per day.
Episcia prefer a light, airy growing medium. They have a very fine root system. African Violet soil will work although I have had better success with a mix of 2 parts AV soil, 2 parts sphagnum moss and 1 part perlite. Light, airy, and well draining.
A temperature between 65F and 80F is ideal. The minimum temperature is 60F. In areas where temperatures are higher than 80F the humidity must be increased using pebble trays, terrariums or misting around the plant. When misting be careful not to get the leaves wet, just like the Afican Violet they do not appreciate wet leaves.
Flame Violets like to be consistently moist, without being soggy. This is why they are ideal for the terrarium environment. If allowed to dry out they will reward you with dead or browning leaves. Brown, curled leaves are a good sign of underwatering. They do not like to be watered with cold water, it is best to use room temperature water if you can.
Episcia, like most other plants, like to be fertilized. I feed mine 1/4 strength every watering. Use a well balanced fertilizer and water with plain water once a month, at least, to flush any residues from the soil.
Flame Violets provide us, conveniently, with Stolons, or runners if you prefer. Those little stems that shoot out with a new plant at the end of them can easily be cut off and rooted in soil. Cover lightly with a baggie for humidity and wait. If you don't like the idea of cutting them without roots, no problem. Fill a little pot with soil, place it on a table or shelf within reaching distance of the main plant. Place the stolon, still attached, on the soil surface and hold it down with a hair pin or paper clip. Once roots have formed you can cut the stem that is still attaching it to the main plant. Some people have had success with rooting them in water, I'm not one of those people. It never works for me but don't be afraid to experiment.
NOTES AND USES
Episcia, being natural trailing plants, are great for a hanging basket. To make a thicker, lusher basket, pin down the stolons in the pot as they form. Once the basket is full, let the stolons hang. Flame Violets are suitable for a terrarium, or mini terrarium. They look sharp growing on a shelf with their stolons dripping down. The stolons will eventually grow and send out their own stolons and, when blooming, this makes a wondrous display.
Occasionally a plant can become stubborn about blooming. Some people have had success "forcing" them by removing the stolons. Remember, every stolon removed is a possible new plant. Stick them in some soil to root for future sharing.
There are hundreds of new hybrids available. These showy, easy to care for plants should be in every home. They will brighten the darkest, dreariest of days.
In order of appearance:
Episcia "Metallica", photo by Plantcrazii
Episcia "Unpredictable Helen", photo by begoniacrazii
Episcia "Tiger", photo by Plantcrazii
Episcia "Malasian Ruby", photo by begoniacrazii
Episcia "Pink Panther", photo by plantladylin
Episcia "Silver Dust", photo by Keyring
For more information, and photos please go here.
Information on the Gesneriad family.