Columnea x schiedeana

Columneas may be said to be the aeschynanthas of South America, for not only do they have the same requirements but they are also very similar in appearance. However, they may be readily distinguished by the fruit which in the genus Aeschynan-thiis is an elongated capsule and in Columnea a berry, usually coloured white. Also, the flowers of columneas are not arranged in terminal clusters but are produced along the entire length of the stem.

The species is from Mexico. Specimens exposed to the sun have leaves coloured such a bright red that they look like flowers from afar. In the wild the separate stems may be up to a metre (yard) long (in cultivation about 60 cm [2 ft]), the leaves are approximately 10 cm (4 in) long and the flowers about 7 cm (2-3/4 in) long.

Of the many cultivated species and hybrids of this large genus (comprising some 120 species), Columnea microphylla from Costa Rica is a fine example. It has small orbicular leaves with a heart-shaped base measuring less than 1 cm (½ in) and covered with a relatively thick coat of white, red-tipped hairs. The flowers are about 5 cm (2 in) long and coloured a glowing orange red. C. x kewensis is a cross between C. magnifica and C. schiedeana. Its stems are thickly covered with appressed hairs, the leaves are about 3.5 cm (1-¼ in) long and very narrowly ovate, the flowers a glowing scarlet and up to 7 cm (2-¾ in) long. The last-named hybrid is the hardiest for indoor cultivation; it will flourish even if placed freely in a room, where it bears a profusion of flowers and fruits.

Columnea crassifolia Deutsch: Rachenrebe Engli...

Columnea crassifolia Deutsch: Rachenrebe English: Goldfish Plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Members of the genus Columnea are somewhat more sensitive to low atmospheric moisture than Aeschynanthus and so, with the exception of C. x kewensis, it is better to grow them in a glass plant-case. Though the plants may be grown directly on bark together with small ball of sphagnum moss growth is slow and thus it is better to put them in a very porous mixture composed of pine leaf mould, sphagnum moss, cut-up beech leaves and perhaps, also, cut up fern roots and crushed charcoal. A bit of dried cow manure added to the mix is recommended as a supply of nutrients. If these ingredients are unobtainable, one of the proprietary soilless composts would suffice. Plants are readily propagated by means of cuttings, which should be about 5 cm (2 in) long, inserted in a peat and sand mixture in a warm propagator, where they quickly form roots.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, House Plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Columnea x schiedeana

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