My new plant - Aristolochia fimbriata!

Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

Just got this from Zone 9 Tropicals, along with a Passiflora citrina that is in bud! I sure hope I can provide this plant with enough humidity. I grow indoors only. I'd love to be successful with it.

Thumbnail by Seaecho
Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

While many "exotic" plants of temperate, subtropical or tropical zones are used to high, very high or even extremely high humidity in their native habitat,that doesn't mean that they won't be able to adapt to somewhat different conditions.

I grow some of my micro mini Sinningias in the open with an average of maybe 50% humidity throughout the year without damage. Textbooks, however, state a minimum of 70% at all times.

The trick is to make the transition from high to lower humidity as smooth as possible for the plant. Anything from just a piece of plastic wrap, loosely draped over the plant to an upside down, clear plastic cup will work.

A lot of times, the deciding factor is a somewhat cooler and always moist root system or a significant temperature difference between night and day for example.

In case of tuberous or rhizomatous rooted plants, the challenge can be to keep the seedling/cutting alive until a tuber or rhizomes have been formed.

Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

Thank you, bsimpson. I do appreciate you taking the time to reply. Wow, you grow Sinningias in the open? I'd love to try one, as I really admire them, but doubt I'd be able to keep humidity at 50%, even with a pebble tray and misting.

I will be sure to keep a close eye on the soil to keep my fimbriata moist. I fear rotting the roots, so what would you suggest as far as keeping the roots moist and cool, yet not running the risk of rot? I keep my windows open as much as possible, so if I have 80 degree days (average lately), it normally cools down to the low to mid 60s by morning. Is that enough of a difference? Today, its 95, so we had to shut up the house and run the air. The windows, however, will be opened when it cools outside (around 6-7pm) so the plant won't get much temp difference at all between night and day as long as it remains this hot. And it likely will, as I live in the SoCal high desert. 100 degree days are quite common here. I love this plant and have wanted one for years. I have been misting it 2-3 times a day and it has a pebble tray. I also have a fan running in the plant room 24/7. Any other suggestions would be wonderful. Anyone else here grow these indoors?

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

The most important thing is to keep the mix open in order to make it possible for air to get to the roots. If you mix things like Perlite, pumice or Vermiculite into your regular mix, you do just that.

I grow most of my plants in a mix that is up to 50% Perlite. Gesneriads and succulents alike. Works like a charm. Again: The key is an open and porous mix. You might have to water a bit more but the roots won't get soggy.

In my experience, if you can keep the roots cool and the plant hydrated, a lot of plants can take more heat than the textbooks suggest.

My growing area can get well into the triple digits in July and August and I have found out that a bit of air movement and shade can just so take the edge off the worst parts of the day.

Another thing that can help a lot is to provide a tremperature drop at night. Many plants appreciate that a lot and often times flowering is induced.

Well, living in the desert makes for another set of challenges namely low humidity. There are many simple solutions for that problem. From fish tanks to sweater boxes. Everything clear with a tight sealing lid is a potential candidate for an enclosure. Keep enclosures out of direct sun or you'll wind up with steamed veggies.

I grow quite a few plants in old fishtanks and have had good success with that. Chirita micromusa (an annual species from Thailand), for instance, requires constant humidity above 70%. Any drop below that will result in crisp, brown leaf tips within an hour or so. I put it in the fish tank and it took off...

There was an article on growing Episcias in the desert and the conclusion the author came to was that enclosures work best. It's much easier and way more effective than misting because the climate you're in is so extremely arid. What I found very effective also are little water fountains and things like that to help create the necessary micro climate.

Just be creative. YouTube is full of useful videos on the subject. Just enter "terrarium" in the search box and you'll see. :)

Hope that helped!


Sinningia muscicola growing in the open on a pebble tray.

Thumbnail by bsimpson1972
Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

You've been a tremendous help, Olaf. Your little Sinningia looks so healthy! I've tried containers before, with results that were not so good. It got too hot in the container in the summertime, and I couldn't keep anything alive in it, even in the shade. I'll let you know how my Aristolochia does. So far there have only been a few brown leaves at near the bottom of the plant. Hope it doesn't get worse. Again, thanks so much.

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

It's all a bit a game of trial and error. Good air circulation is essential. This can be a problem if you also have to make sure that the humidity doesn't drop too much. I have had good experiencee with a thick layer of gravel mixed with horticultural charcoal or the charcoal used in fish tanks (it absorbs a lot of chemicals and bad odors) that you keep wet but not flooded at all times. Essentially like a giant pebble tray. This way you can keep the lid cracked and still have enough moisture from the evaporating water which also has a bit of a cooling effect. Also a drip wall or a little fountain or waterfall or even an ultrasonic mister can help to both increase humidity and provide cooling.

Another thing to consider, which I completely forgot to mention is, of course, that your plant might just be adapting to the new environment.

Here's another general rule that's so obvious that it's easy to forget: Tropical plants that grow in the sun in high humidity won't make it in the sun in arid climates. There they need shade or they will scorch quickly.

I think, that's about everything, I can think of. Oh, one more thing A. fimbriata is from South America. I haven't found out where precisely except for a mention in the Flora of Bolivia, which suggests tropical highland conditions (High humidity at all times, temperature drop at night). However, I don't know if my assessment is correct and I also don't know how adaptable the species is.

Have fun growing the species and remember to propagate early and often! :)


Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

I make sure the plant doesn't get any direct sun--just dappled sun for a very brief period (one hour) in the late afternoon, just before the sun goes down. I have a fan on all the time for air circulation. Its the humidity that will be my downfall, I'm sure. I do have it on a pebble tray, but not a large one. It only extends 2" past the outside of the pot on either side. Maybe I should get a bigger one, but Lord knows, I'm seriously running out of space! You know how it is when you are a plant collector. Pretty soon, there is hardly any room left for pebble trays except for the plants that most need it. I do have a table top fountain, but its busy in another room keeping a fern happy!

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

There is a solution for the micro-climate and the space problem. I have two words for you: dish garden.

Plant several plants together in a dish or (my preferred method) put several plants together in a large pebble tray, preferrably an open fish tank or a similar container with higher sides. I find my fish tanks at garage sales, thrift stores and such. They don't even have to be fully waterproof.

Tell me about the space problem. My Gesneriad collection went from a dozen or so to way past 100 different ones (not counting the doubles, the seedlings or the cuttings) in a matter of two or three months thanks to the good folks on DG and flickr...

I have an encroachment problem on every horizontal surface near a window...

Just be creative. From suspended terrariums to every imaginable container - every time I think that I've seen it all, I see another mind blower. Search on YouTube for "lightbulb terrarium" for example...

One thing, I totally forgot (DUH!) is the good, old bathroom. That's one place in pretty much every house with adequate humidity. :)

It's really good talking to you. It makes me browse through my literature and the web in search of unconventional solutions for conventional problems. LOL

Have a great Father's Day!


Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

Hi Olaf,

I've enjoyed talking to you too! Sounds like we both have a serious plant addiction problem! The bathroom is totally out of the question, and probably the only room in the house with NO plants. Reason is, no window except a narrow vent over the shower, so that defintely won't work for me. Its always fascinating to me how people can successfully grow gessies. I have killed AT LEAST 50 AVs. I can grow a lot of other types of plants, but AVs hate me for some reason. Suspended terrariums, wow! That's definitely a unique idea! LOL

Chicago, IL(Zone 6a)

I have yet to figure out how to grow certain old world Gesneriads, namely AVs and Streps, successfully... However, with most of the new world genera that I have tried, I've had pretty good success so far. I've been growing Gessies for about three years now and I have found them rather difficult - to kill, that is... LOL

There are quite a few alpine species of Gesneriads but they need constant moisture and a rather cool micro climate.

If you ever should plan on setting up a terrarium, there are a ton of Gessies and Begonias you can grow in there. Some of them will, if unchecked, take over but I found that it's never hard to get rid of the excess...

Hey, listen: If you want to try a few random Gessies just for the heck of it, I'd be glad to send you cuttings. I also have a few succulents that might be more tolerant of your climate that I can always make cuttings of: Stapelia gigantea, Ceropegia woodii, Haworthia coarctata and Aloe aristata. Most of them should be able to make it outdoors where you are.

Just a thought...


Phelan, CA(Zone 8b)

Thanks so much for the offer, Olaf. I do have some succulents, and do generally have pretty good luck with them. I have Aloe aristata, several Hawthorias, killed a Ceropegia woodii twice in the past, and have a few stapelia right now that are not growing, yet not dying. Just kind of sitting there. Oh, an orbea too, that is hanging on, but not doing much. It would be fun to try a few Gessies to see what kind of luck I'd have with yours. In the past, didn't matter if it was from Rob's or ebay, they all declined and died. It happened too many times to just be a coincidence. I'll D Mail you my address. I will pay for shipping, of course. Thanks so much!


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