The Episcia plant is related to the African Violet, easy to grow, their foliage and flowers add brightness to any room. Their name, pronounced e-piss’-i-ah, is derived from the Greek word episkios meaning shady, and this furnishes a clue to their culture.
Episcias, sometimes called the flame violet, trailing violet or chocolate soldier plant have a magnificent range of foliage and flower color. Leaves of shiny green, bronze and silver and tubular flowers of white, yellow, lavender, pink or red.
Added to these attractions is their charming manner of growth. Each plant sends out strawberry-like runners (stolons) which trail over the edge of the container.
There are about ten species of episcia plants and many more varieties.
Bronze-leaved, red-flowered Episcia cupreata is apt to be a shy bloomer. However, many episcia varieties produce an abundance of flowers with glistening green leaves and orange-red flowers. Established plants display flowers throughout the entire year.
Then there are “Acajou” with a pattern of silver green on a dark brown background and “Chocolate Soldier”, a favorite with many indoor growers, featuring chocolate brown leaves marked with silver centers. Silver Sheen displays red flowers above its frosty gray and brown leaves. Another cupreata variety called “Tropical Topaz” with green leaves and buttercup yellow flowers.
Let’s look at care and culture of Episcia…
Planting The Flame Violet Plant
Grow espiscias in a well drained spongy soil, like those for African violets. If you make your soil use two parts peatmoss, 1/2 part perlite or vermiculite and 1/2 part sand. One-half inch of pot chard and an equal amount of charcoal should be used as drainage for each four-inch pot. Keep the bulk of the runners pinched off to insure a good floral crop.
Many favor episcia containers which are long ceramic planters, soup tureens or aluminum cake tins with drainage holes punched in them. As the runners appear, they fasten themselves to the soil. When the container is full, let a few runners dangle over the edges. Since this container is filled with plants of varied ages, it shows bloom every month of the year. They make wonderful hanging baskets!
Episcias go into semi-dormancy in the fall of the year, and they usually begin to pick up in December, and by February they are in luxurious growth.
Lighting and Temperature Requirements
Episcias thrive in an east, southeast or partially shaded south window. If you want them for foliage effect only, you can grow them to perfection in a north window or under grow lights. Window gardeners in areas with many bright winter days can grow episcias the year round in north windows.
One of my friends in Oklahoma grows magnificent specimens in unshaded east and west windows of her home.
Growing Episcias Under Artificial Lighting
If you are growing plants indoors under artificial light like fluorescents episcias are just the thing to add to the garden. Under this non-changing light intensity these low-light plants grow gorgeous foliage and bloom profusely. Space them so the pot rim is about 14 inches from the light tube and leave the lights on 12 to 14 hours each day.
The average household temperature, 72 to 75 degrees during the day with the usual five to 10 degree drop at night, seems to suit them. All episcias need more water than African violets and they grow best under high humidity conditions.
If the air in your home is too dry (under 40 degrees humidity) episcias and all of your house plants will benefit when set on trays of pebbles with water kept just below the pot line.
Episcias are beautiful no matter whether they are in bloom or not. To keep the foliage in top showoff condition, give them a bath as often as needed to keep them free of dust. Use water of room temperature and keep them out of sunlight until the leaves are dry.
Fertilizing Episcia Plants
Fertilize episcias twice a month with any good soluble liquid fertilizer, remembering, of course, to fertilize only on well moistened soil. This safeguards tiny roots from fertilizer burn. Keep episcias pest free by giving them a thorough inspection for pest.
How To Propagate Episcia
If older episcia plants have shed leaves and look straggly, trim runners off the mother plant and repot the old plant. You can start new plants From the pieces.
Propagate episcias from leaves, runners or seed. Root leaves and runners in water, vermiculite, sphagnum moss or sand. Speed up root formation by covering them with a small glass or clear plastic cup to increase humidity.
You can get infinite foliage and flower variety by growing episcias from seed. Sprinkle the seed on moistened sphagnum moss or vermiculite. They germinate in ten days to three weeks and as soon as the little plants have four good leaves prick them out and plant them in a pot or flat. Given good growing conditions, they will flower from seed in eight to 12 months.
Episcias can also be propagated from leaf cuttings taken in the same manner as those of African violets and gloxinias. Episcias are, however, rather slow from leaves, and stolons are produced in such abundance, it is rarely advantageous to use a leaf cutting.
Where To Find Episcia Plants?
Episcias can easily be obtained as a mail order houseplant, at some local greenhouses, and occasionally garden centers.
Growing Episcia As Conversation Pieces
If you want to turn some of your episcia plants into conversation pieces, try some of these ideas.
1. Use any of the episcias as trailers in the foreground of a planter, using taller upright plants in the background.
2. Grow two or more kinds of episcias in a large pot with the background plants trained up a moss-filled “totem” pole or a porous piece of tree stump or root. As a starter fasten the episcia runners to the pole with green wire Twist-ems. Keep the support moist and the episcia roots will grow into it.
3. Plant episcias in moss-filled hanging baskets and hang them in your window garden or greenhouse or summer them on the terrace.
4. Try a plant in a rose bowl or small aquarium. Here, with the added high humidity they receive, they grow as lush as they would in their homeland.
5. Grow some episcias in an attractive container filled with water. Change the water once a week, give them medium light and a wee pinch of plant food and you’ll enjoy them on an occasional table or the mantel. And you may find yourself using them for a hurry-up centerpiece.