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.
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.
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
ORIGINATION OF SPECIES
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
crowd Episcia. This causes them to grow weak and leggy since
there is less light on all sides of the plant
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
Most cupreata-type hybrids with light green or silver leaves
can produce many flowers using only medium 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.
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
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.
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 & MISTING
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.
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.
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.
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
with blue, magenta and pink flowering varieties should be kept on
the wet side and can stand as much water as possible without drowning
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
are heavy feeders yet need no more than ¼ teaspoon fertilizer to
a gallon of water. They enjoy foliar feeding.