Proper Pot Size for Episcias

Question:  What size pot should I grow my Episcia in?  Can I grow more than one plant in a pot?

Answer:  Episcias, like African violets and most gesneriads, are relatively shallow-rooted plants that don’t need a very deep pot.  As your plant grows, you can repot it into a larger diameter, but not much deeper, pot.  This means that “azalea” or “pan” pots are better than standard pots, since they are more wide than deep.  Somethimes this means you need to be creative, since large but shallow pots can be difficult to find.  We’ve used deeper pots that we’ve cut-down to make shallow, and have some of our larger plants in saucers that we’ve drilled holes into for drainage.  None of these pots are more than a few inches deep, even for the largest of plants.

In many ways, episcia and other stolon-producing or spreading gesneriads can be treated much like trailing African violets.  All grow very well in shallow pots.  Our older, larger, trailing violets are grown in the same saucers.  We grow both as “ground covers”, in the sense that we like to cover a large area of soil with dense growth, rather than allow the plant to sprawl over the pot edges.  The “runners” are moved and pinned into the soil surface to fill-in empty spaces, much like we arrange the stolons of an episcia.  Either plant could just as easily be grown as a “hanging basket” by growing in a smaller pot and letting the runners or stolons grow and fall over the edge of the pot.

There is one important difference between growing trailing violets and other gesneriads for exhibition, though.  Only trailing violets and Saintpaulia species can be shown multiple crowned, while all other gesneriads may be properly shown with either single or multiple crowns.  Further, though trailing and species violets can be shown with more than one crown (a trailer, in fact, must have three or more), only one plant is allowed in a pot, whereas there is no restriction on the number of individual plants per pot for other gesneriads.  While it’s perfectly allowable to fill a pot with many episcia cuttings (plants), only one trailing violet plant per pot is permitted (though this one trailer may have many crowns).

Which Varieties are Easiest to Grow?

Question:  Which varieties are easiest to grow?

Answer:  This is a very commonly asked question, and one that’s almost impossible to answer, except to say, “it depends”.  It depends upon what you like, what suits your growing environment, and your space.  All else equal, plants that do best are those that get cared for the best.  “Favorites” become favorites because they are often the most looked-at and cared-for.  So, grow varieties you like–if you  don’t like aplant, it likely won’t do well.

Having said that, choose varieties that suit your environment and space the best.  Those with limited space might want to grow miniature or semiminiature varieties.  Don’t grow more plants than your space will allow.  Hiding a small mini between or beneath a larger standard doesn’t do it much good.  It’s not surprising that minis grown this way don’t do well!  Crowding large plants together won’t help either–give them some room to grow to their desired size.  Have lots of good windows but now windowsill space?  Try growing trailing African violets in hanging baskets.  Variegated varieties will look their best in cooler temperatures.  If your conditions are too warm (consistently above 80f degrees), you may lose much of the variegation on these varieties, especially if crown-variegated.  Still, these varieties may be lovely even without the variegation and can be grown for the blooms alone.

If you’re neglectful about watering and tend to let your plants wilt, larger growing plants may be easier than smaller ones.  Large plants will take longer to die than smaller ones–there’s just more of them to kill.  A self-watering system, such as wicking, self-watering pots, or capillary matting, might be for you if this is the case.  Trailing varieties may be easier if you tend to be neglectful about grooming and repotting.  Though grooming is beneficial, there’s no need to worry about suckers on a trailer–the more the better!

When buying from a commercial grower, ask them for recommendations, since they will have more experience growing these varieties than you will.  After growing many different varieties, notice who the hybridizer was of your best-performing varieties.  It’s quite likely that the hybridizer has growing conditions similiar to yours.  When adding to your collection, you might want to select more from this hybridizer.  The best advice is to join a violet club (if you don’t already belong to one) and ask other members who have similar growing conditions and preferences to yours.  Better yet, pay them a visit!  See how they grow their plants.  See how their growing environment may be similar, or different, from yours, and see what kinds of varieties do best for them

Plants for a Cold Windowsill

Question:  We live in an old home, and most of the windows are quite cold.  I’m afraid that my windowsill will be much too cold for growing violets in the middle of winter.  Any suggestions on what I can grow there?

Answer:  Actually, violets will tolerate a good deal of cold.  We grow some (showplants even) on the windowsills of our glasshouse that, on some very cold days, will be covered with ice on the inside.  Most violets will easily tolerate temperatures down to 60f degrees before showing signs of distress.  Below this temperature, you might notice crowded growth in the plant center, and hairy, brittle, leaves.  It will just “stop growing” and only reluctantly flower.  Even then, the occasional night down to 50f degrees or so may not irreparably harm most varieties.

One solution would be growing some of the Saintpaulia (African violet) species, many of which will actually prefer your cool windowsill–it will remind them of their native habitat high in the mountains of East Africa.  Another solution is to grow some African violet relatives, such as Streptocarpus  or Primulinaa.  These are two very easy to grow gesneriads that thrive in cool conditions.  Care for both is similar to violets, but they’ll easily tolerate your chilly windowsill.  If space is a consideration, you might want to try growing a couple of the miniature species of Primulina, like P.tamiana (probably one of the easiest of all plants to grow and bloom).  Another good choice would be Petrocosmea, most of which are very small in size and will grow and bloom well in a cool location.  There are other choices, but these are some of the easiest to find and grow.

Suggestions for a Cold Windowsill

Question:  We live in an old home, and most of the windows are quite cold.  I’m afraid that my windowsill will be much too cold for growing violets in the middle of winter.  Any suggestions on what I can grow there?

Answer:  Actually, violets will tolerate a good deal of cold.  We grow some (showplants even) on the windowsills of our glasshouse that, on some very cold days, will be covered with ice on the inside.  Most violets will easily tolerate temperatures down to 60f degrees before showing signs of distress.  Below this temperature, you might notice crowded growth in the plant center, and hairy, brittle, leaves.  It will just “stop growing” and only reluctantly flower.  Even then, the occasional night down to 50f degrees or so may not irreparably harm most varieties.

One solution would be growing some of the Saintpaulia (African violet) species, many of which will actually prefer your cool windowsill–it will remind them of their native habitat high in the mountains of East Africa.  Another solution is to grow some African violet relatives, such as Streptocarpus  or Chirita.  These are two very easy to grow gesneriads that thrive in cool conditions.  Care for both is similar to violets, but they’ll easily tolerate your chilly windowsill.  If space is a consideration, you might want to try growing a couple of the miniature species of Chirita, like C.tamiana (probably one of the easiest of all plants to grow and bloom).  Another good choice would be Petrocosmea, most of which are very small in size and will grow and bloom well in a cool location.  There are other choices, but these are some of the easiest to find and grow.

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