Green Culture Singapore Articles

Contributor: Nancy Robitaille • Photos: Various GCS members

Available online 3 September 2005

The culture of Episcia is very similar to African violets and growers can even "get by" by raising them exactly like African violets. However, there are subtle differences. When you know these differences you will be able to raise more luscious, more colourful Episcia thriving with health.

The first thing on the voyage to lovlier Episcia is to learn from where each hybrid's parents come. Episcia were originally found in Northern and Southern Mexico, Central America, South America, Brazil, West Indies, Southern island of the Lesser Antilles and other tropical areas. They are seen growing in the wild from full sunlight to tropical shaded woodlands. Most Episcia need as much or more shade than African violets. When you know from where they were discovered you get a better idea of the ideal conditions under which they should be grown.

According to research there are over forty species of Episcia but only ten or so are well-known. Those grown and used as hybridizing parents are: E. cupreata, calyx green inside, sometimes flushed red outside. Narrow, hairy, not toothed, pointed lobes orange-red, approximately three-eights inch; E. lilacina, with flowers of white with lavender blue throats boasts having the largest flowers of all the Episcia species, and E. reptans, oblong hairy lobes, pale rose red outside, inside, blood red. These have translucent papillae at the throat. Lobes are toothed and are about one-half inch long which widens slightly toward the throat. E. cupreata and E. reptans are two highly variable species which can change continuously.


E. cupreata is from the Pacific Island Ecosystems, Figi, Guam, Marshall Islands, Palau, Central and South America, etc. E. cupreata prefers shade to partial sun and grows in the range of nine to twelve inches tall by two feet spread. It needs regular watering.

E. lilacina is very suspectible to temperature variation and may die when temperatures go below 16 degrees Celsius. This Episcia and its hybrids prefer shade. Its origin is Panama to Nicaragua. E. lilacina grows to six inches tall and needs abundant watering. This species can be difficult to bloom indoors but the very fine foliage makes it worth growing.

Some of the other species are E. dianthiflora (requires very high humidity), E. punctata, E. fimbriata (may have disappeared from cultivation), E. xantha, E. viridifolia, E. prancei, E. melittifolia (transferred to Nautilocalyx). Several species of Episcia have also been transferred to other genus.


Episcia flowers are tubular with five petals (lobes) which sometimes show pinked or fringed edges. The range of colour is wide: red, scarlet, orange, orange-red, orange-yellow, wine, pink, yellow, lilac or blue and white. These have patterns as well. Foliage colours are just as wide: light emerald and jade green, bronze, copper and silver-leafed as well as brown, pink and white. These have texture of smooth or pebbled, glossy or matte finish as well as iridescence and have scarab-like markings of bronze, copper, green and silver. Foliage variations are numerous.

Healthy Episcia should be able to flower when requirements are met. Episcia can be propagated from most any part of the plant. Stolon propagation is quickest. Cut the stolon from the parent plant, pin it down onto fresh soil and place a plastic bag for humidity. Plantlets may be obtained by setting an Episcia leaf in soil although this method is much slower than propagation by planting the stolons. These plants can also be propagated by seed.


Sixteen degrees Celsius is about as low as an Episcia should have to endure and 18 to 32 degrees Celsius is a much more welcomed temperature. When temperatures are lower than 16 degrees Celsius, the edges of the leaves turn brown or the whole leaf will shrivel up and often will fall off.

Amazingly enough, a temperature of 43 degrees Celsius will not be injurious to the plant if you provide daily mistings. Episcia roots should never be allowed to dry out. Sudden drops in temperature should be avoided.

All the light green, medium green and silvery E. cupreata type hybrids will grow well in the range of 18 to 32 degrees Celsius. All the dark brown and bronze hybrids as well as the pink, lilac and magenta coloured ones thrive in the range of 18 to 43 degrees Celsius. Episcia cultivars can overlap these temperatures, of course.

Top growth will be killed at 10 degrees Celsius. Even though the plant looks like it is really finished, it can resprout in three to four weeks if the old leaves and soil mix are shaken off and replaced and a plastic bag is put over the plant. Actually making a new plant from a stolon will grow faster than the plant that has suffered such neglect.


Experts give conflicting data concerning light for Episcia. In "African Violets Gifts From Nature, Robey, on page 70, says, "All the members of the genus Episcia perform best when grown in bright light. In fact, Episcia are outstanding bloomers when provided with more light than most African violets receive." Virginie and George Elbert, authors of "The Miracle Houseplants," say, "There have been very misleading indications from experts that Episcia require even less light than African violets. If we grew them only for their leaves, this might be true but, since we want flowers, considerably more light is needed. The confusion results from a difference between indoor and greenhouse growing." …"The majority of Episcia require 500 to 800 footcandles for good flowering under fluorescent lights."

If I am not mistaken, African violets need 1000 footcandles of light. The majority of Episcia require 500 to 800 footcandles for good flowering under fluorescent lights, kept around 6 inches from the lights, which is slightly less than African violets.

Episcias are tolerant of less light than most gesneriads. In fact, the name "Episcia" comes from "espiskios" which means "shaded." Episcia can take dense shade or full sun depending on the variety and from where its parents come.

The cupreata-type hybrids will make beautiful large leaves but offer few flowers in low light. The darker the leaf the more light they need so place darker varieties in the middle of a light stand.

Don't crowd Episcia. This causes them to grow weak and leggy since there is less light on all sides of the plant

Lower light.
These varieties can grow very well under low light: 'Acajou', 'Boston Grey', 'Daisy', 'Fantasy', 'Filigree', 'Frosty', 'Jade', 'Emerald Queen', 'Noel', 'Painted Warrior', 'Shades O' Erin' and 'Wine Brocade'.

Medium light.
Most cupreata-type hybrids with light green or silver leaves can produce many flowers using only medium light.

Strong light.
Light green and silver leaves do poorly in strong light. Dark brown or copper colored leaves grow well and bloom well in strong light. All blue, violet, blue and pink varieties require strong light to bloom well, requiring also, high temperatures and humidity.


Shallow pots are better than deep pots since roots like to grow up nearer the surface of the soil. Episcia placed in expositions are often grown in large saucers. Episcia do not like to be pot bound.


Good African violet soilless mix is adequate for Episcia, using the 1-1-1 formula. Many growers prefer live sphagnum moss or suggest the use of bark with perlite and vermiculite.


Forty per cent to 50% is adequate, but 70 to 75% humidity is much better. Humidity is important to Episcia culture. Thirty percent and less will not produce beautiful plants. Forty percent to 60% is tolerated but the ideal humidity for Episcia is 65% to 75%. This higher humidity percentage produces larger, more luscious plants with vividly marked leaves. High humidity is also a must if you expect to grow large and numerous flowers. This is especially true on blue, pink and magenta hybrids as well as most of the dark leafed E. cupreata-types.


Fans are important in an Episcia's growing room. These distribute mist and keep humidity at the desired level and provide air circulation to keep down mildew, mealy bug and other pests. It helps with carbon dioxide, which is necessary for photosynthesis and respiration.

Misting cleanses the leaf pores and the stomata. Cleaning dust particles and other things in the atmosphere that have landed on the plants insures better health. Be sure to use hot water in spray bottles since sprayed hot water flying through the air becomes cooler. Certain Episcia are shocked with cool water, especially plain dark brown or bronze hybrids.

Darker varieties tend to have leaves that are higher in temperature than light green or silver varieties since dark leaf surfaces absorb light while light or silver surfaces reflect light. It is suggested that you mist early in the morning to allow the foliage to dry during the day. Keep away from bright light when foliage is wet.


Keep on the slightly dry side: 'Adam's Rib', 'Amazon White', 'Chocolate & Cherries',' Cleopatra', dianthaflora, 'Filigree', 'Fire & Ice', E. lilacina virdis, 'Mrs. Fanny Haga', 'Noel', E. reptans, 'Star of Bethlehem', 'Toy Silver', 'Topical Topaz' and 'Rose Brocade'. The small root systems of these are can easily be over-watered.

Episcia with blue, magenta and pink flowering varieties should be kept on the wet side and can stand as much water as possible without drowning them.

"Episcia do not have a dormant season in the sense that tuberous or rhizomatous plants have, but they do have periods of slower, or no growth and water should be slightly withheld gradually during the late fall and winter months…." Max Dekking, "Episcias: The "Peacocks" of the Gesneriad Family, Gesneriad Saintpaulia News January-February 1975.


Episcia are heavy feeders yet need no more than ¼ teaspoon fertilizer to a gallon of water. They enjoy foliar feeding.



© COPYRIGHT 2004 - 2006 • Green Culture Singapore • All rights reserved
Best viewed with a resolution of 1024 x 768