Sinningia regina: Gloxinia

Sinningias are popular, showy house plants. Known to many (possibly under the incorrect name of gloxinia) is the complex hybrid which is descended from the species Sinningia speciosa (syn. Gloxinia regina) and has large, velvety flowers.

Both hybrids and type species, of which there are altogether 15 growing in Brazil, have similar re-quirements: a well-lit spot, shaded from direct sunlight and during the growth period constant warmth and plenty of moisture. Sinningia tubers should be pressed lightly into a nourishing compost composed of a mixture of loam, leaf mould, peat, sand and charcoal. Alternatively, use John Innes potting compost No. 2. Because they are plants that need a very rich diet they must be given regular applications of feed, best of all organic fertilizers, throughout the growth period. If dry cow manure is available, feed the plants the liquid extract obtained by steeping it in water.

Sinningias are readily propagated either by means of the minute seeds, which should be sown on the surface of sterile peat, or else by means of leaf cuttings in the same way as for begonias, that is by laying leaf cuttings on the surface of the rooting medium, or by taking whole leaves and inserting the stalks in a mixture of sand and chopped peat. In all instances, however, the one prerequisite is a warm and moist propagator.

A very important factor in growing sinningias successfully is watering. Water must not come in contact with the leaves, otherwise they rot quickly. Therefore water should be supplied to the roots or else poured into the dish in which the pot is standing.

The species is not commonly seen in cultivation. Nevertheless, it has already been used for breeding purposes and some 20 years ago gave rise to a new line of hybrids. Somewhat more tender than this readily cultivated species is the miniature S. pusilla. The whole plant is only about 2.5 cm (1 in) high and the corolla, coloured white outside and lilac inside, is almost 2 cm (’U in) long. S. barbata is a truly beautiful species with leaves that have a metallic sheen and are coloured purple on the underside. The white flowers are spotted with red inside.

All sinningias pass through a period of complete rest in winter. At its onset the tubers should be lifted and stored in dry and cool conditions until it is again time for spring planting.

15. November 2011 by Dave Pinkney
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