Ask anyone if they have Streptocarpus in their garden and the response is likely to be a bemused “Strepto…what? Yet, this indigenous little forest plant that was first discovered in Knysna in the 1800’s and also occurs naturally in the Drakensberg, is one of our most adaptable, and freely flowering garden shade plants. Streptocarpus have been hybridized in England and the USA to yield easy growing plants that flower from October to April producing masses of flowers in a range of colours.
Possibly because it looks so exotic there is a perception that it is difficult to grow and is susceptible to diseases. However, streptocarpus grows easily in dappled sunlight as well as in full shade, as long as there is good light. Too much sun burns the leaves and fades the flowers. It is also remarkably free from pests and diseases and sails through cold winters. Some varieties may die back but they sprout again in spring.
It does best when planted in slightly acid, light and well drained soil, so it’s a good idea to dig in organics like peanut shells, peat, pine needles or bark compost before planting. It grows well indoors, needing fairly shallow small pots and plenty of bright light but no direct sunlight. I have found that a few drainage holes in the lower third of the pot seem to make plants grow even better!
Regular watering is essential but be careful not to overwater because they develop root rot. Either too much water or too little water can cause wilting leaves. If the plants are in a pot, make sure the potting soil is dry before watering. Water less often in winter.
Streptocarpus benefit from a monthly dose of potassium rich food like Multifeed food or Nitrosol. To produce more flowers, cut off dead flowers. Plants that produce more leaves at the expense of flowers may not be getting enough light or receiving too much fertiliser.
There are many different hybrid varieties, ranging in colour from all shades of blue (the most common colour) through to maroon, pink and white. Gardeners wanting to establish an indigenous wooded garden can combine them with Plectranthus and indigenous ferns because they have the same kind of light, soil and moisture requirements.
Our streptocarpus are potted into 12cm pots. They are removed from the pots and packed for mail orders.