Question: Chirita ‘Vietnam’ (usbrg #98-083) grows very well for me, but I’ve never been able to get it to bloom. Perhaps it’s just a poor bloomer. Is that true?
Answer: This was a comment overheard in a showroom last fall. We’ve seen this particular plant more than once in shows, and it always looks terrific, with perfectly symmetrical rows of pointed, fuzzy, leaves and, usually, attractive stolons displayed around the main plant bearing those same leaves. Like this exhibitor, we’ve never seen one shown in bloom. From personal experience, however, we know much differently–it’s a very easy and free bloomer. Most all of the chiritas are.
The secret, as it is for any gesneriad that produces stolons, is to remove the stolons! We’ve grown this particular plant both with, and without, stolons. Those grown without stolons are almost always in bud or bloom. Those allowed to produce stolons almost never flower. Episcias are another gesneriad that usually are not seen exhibited in bloom, and many growers have difficulty getting them to bloom heavily. Because they have such beautiful leaves, and are such vigorous plants, most growers don’t bother to groom them properly. Most swill bloom heavily, and regularly, if their growth is controlled properly. This is what we do. First, remove all stolons until the main crown fully matures and begins to produce flower buds. Then, allow the first set of stolons to mature and produce buds before allowing those stolons to produces stolons, and so on. By doing this, you will have a full plant with many large, fully developed, crowns, each producing bloom.