Question: I love Episcias. Mine seem to grow really well. They produce lots of leaves and look healthy, but never seem to bloom. Are they difficult plants to get to bloom, or am I doing something wrong?
Answer: Most people think that episcias are difficult plants to get to bloom. Even the best growers often have problems getting them to bloom well–it seems that most episcias seen in shows are in thenonblooming classes. This is unfortunate, since they are actually very free and constant-flowering plants. Yes, there leaves alone are usually beautiful enough, but why not have the leaves and the bloom? The secret is not allowing them to produce too many stolons, or runners. A few of the species can be stubborn, but most varieties can be kept in almost constant heavy bloom with good culture and regular pruning.
The basic logic is simple. All plants have two means of reproduction. They can either do this vegetatively by producing suckers, rhizomes, tubers or, in the case of episcia, stolons. These stolons can be rooted, producing additional plants and, so long as it can successfully reproduce itself this way, it will continue to produce them and not bother to flower. The plant will try to reproduce itself sexually, producing flowers that might be pollinated and produce see, only if other, easier, means of reproduction aren’t possible. The lesson: lots of stolons means few flowers. This shouldn’t be surprising, since we’ve all been trained to remove “suckers” (the small crowns growing beneath the leaves) from our violets. Doing so not only improves appearance, but encourages the plant to bloom. Also, mature violets that have begun to bloom tend to produce far fewer suckers than immature plants that have yet to bloom. Your violet has to, if it wants to produce more or its kind. Exhibitors also know that violets that are disbudded (not allowed to bloom) tend to sucker more–trying to reproduce vegetatively since it’s not being allowed to sexually.
Apply the same rules to your episcias that you apply to your violets. Here’s what we do, and we always have lots of episcias in bloom–always let the crown mature and set buds before allowing stolons to grow. For a young plant, this means growing it as a single crown until you see flower buds. At this point, you can allow the plant to produce stolons. Let each of these (secondary) crowns mature and produce buds before you let them produce even more stolons, and so on. If this is done, you eventually can have a large plant, with lots of fully-developed crowns, each producing lots of blooms. Few things are more spectacular than a mature, well-grown episcia in full bloom.