Streptocarpus Hybrids

Streptocarpus hybrid

Sometimes known as Cape primroses, these frost-tender perennials belong to the Gesneriaceae family of plants, which includes African violets (Saintpaulia) and gloxinia (Sinningia) - usually considered to be indoor plants. However, in Sydney, Streptocarpus Hybrids (ht 20-30 cm) perform quite well in the garden, except in the very coldest of suburbs. My experience is only with a tough purplish-blue flowered cultivar, but I have seen many other sorts growing happily in the gardens of my friends; however, I don't know any of their names! Most of the hybrids have Streptocarpus rexii, from South Africa, as a major parent.

Streptocarpus hybrid in the garden of Sandra Wilson in Sydney

The exquisite flowers, which may appear from summer to autumn,are like flared trumpets held on long tubes. The flowering stems arise from a rosette of long, wrinkly leaves. Flower colours range from purples to pinks, blues, whites and burgundy, and the size of the blooms varies from cultivar to cultivar. Some cultivars have flowers marked with patterns of other colours. They need a reasonably moist but well-drained, shaded spot in the garden, preferably with some compost dug in prior to planting. Too much sun will scorch the leaves. Occasional liquid fertiliser will promote more blooms. They can be grown in pots, using a well-drained potting mix, and kept in a shaded position outdoors. They need protection from snails. Propagation is by division of the clumps in spring, leaf cuttings or seed.

They look pretty grown with ferns, rhizomatous Begonia or the clumping plant Ruellia makoyana, which has vaguely similar shaped cerise flowers in autumn, when the Streptocarpus is still in bloom.

Flowers in February, March.