Growing Pocketbook Plants: Caring For The Gorgeous Calceolaria Flower Display

The pocketbook plant (Calceolaria), with its gorgeous flower display, makes it a favorite in households across the country.

It’s a hardy annual plant with thick, pouch-like flowers native to Central and South America.

Pocketbook flower - CalceolariaPin

Due to the rounded shape of the flowers, the plant has received several common names, including:

  • Lady’s purse
  • Pocketbook plant
  • Pocketbook flower
  • Slipper flower
  • Slipperwort

Calceolaria, pronounced, includes over 380 plant species of various shrubs and herbs from the genus Calceolaria (Calceolariaceae) and a member of the Calceolariaceae family.

Perennial and annual varieties are found in native Chile, South America.

Most of the commonly cultivated varieties are annual hybrids from the Chilean species Calceolaria crenatiflora or Calceolaria Herbeohybrida group.

These Chilean flowers are often sold just before flowering, as growing Calceolaria seeds is a bit tricky.

Calceolaria Flower Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Calceolaria herbeohybrida
  • Common Name(s): Pocketbook plant, Slipper flower, Lady’s purse, Pocketbook flower, Slipperwort
  • Synonyms: N/A
  • Pronunciation: kal-ke-oh-lar-ee-uh
  • Family & Origin: Scrophulariaceae family, native to Central and South America
  • Growability: Moderate
  • Grow Zone: USDA zones 10-11
  • Size: 6″ to 8″ inches tall and wide
  • Flowering: Blooms in early spring and summer with bright, colorful flowers
  • Light: Bright, indirect light or dappled sunlight
  • Humidity: High humidity preferred
  • Temperature: Prefers temperatures between 60° to 65° degrees Fahrenheit
  • Soil: Well-draining soil with organic matter
  • Water: Keep soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged
  • Fertilizer: A weak balanced fertilizer solution once a week from April to September
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, powdery mildew, and root rot
  • Propagation: Propagate through stem cuttings or by seed
  • Plant Uses: Used as a houseplant or in outdoor containers, adds color to any space.

While this houseplant is annual, careful care can increase its bloom.

Calceolaria Pocketbook Plant Care

Size and Growth

Most varieties of calceolaria are small, compact little plants. They produce large green leaves and may reach about 6″ to 8″ inches tall with an equal spread.

Flowering and Fragrance

The pocketbook plant blooming time is in early spring or summer.

The unusual flowers may reach about 2″ inches, with a rounded shape that looks like small pouches or balloons.

Calceolarias are available in a variety of colors. Some of the most popular varieties feature yellow, red, and brown.

When the plant is in full bloom, the large green leaves are mostly covered by the flowers.

When the flowers start to die out, the plant is near the end of its life.

Light and Temperature

Calceolaria plants prefer bright light or dappled sunlight in a northern window but not direct sunlight.

The plant grows best in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 11. As an annual, It’s typically discarded after the flowering season.

If the plant is purchased just before the flowers arrive, place it in a north-facing window to limit exposure to heat.

Keeping it at 60° to 65° degrees Fahrenheit encourages fuller blooms.

After the flowers arrive, keep the plant in bright light or part shade, not direct sun.

It can be brought outside or kept on a porch in partial shade. Just make sure that it doesn’t get direct sunlight.

The fresh air is good for the plant, but it should be kept in a spot away from frequent drafts or exposure to strong winds.

Watering and Feeding

Don’t allow the plant to dry out, as this causes limp leaves and the flowers to droop.

Overwatering the pocketbook flower can be equally devastating, causing root rot.

Frequent misting is also recommended, as these plants thrive in high humidity. Lightly mist the plant every few days and add plant food each week.

However, ensure not to mist directly into the plant, as it can form gray rot on the foliage.

These steps should promote a longer flowering season.

Moreover, you can feed your plant with a weak balanced fertilizer solution once a week from April to September.

Moist Soil and Transplanting

The plant is often available for sale potted, with many nurseries offering healthy plants between January and April.

As an annual, the plant doesn’t need transplanting and shouldn’t need a fresh potting mixture.

Simply keep it in the container that it came home in.

If you would prefer to place it in a different pot, transplant it as soon as you get it home.

Use a quality potting mix with good drainage and keep it moist but not saturated.

Grooming and Maintenance

If any of the leaves or flowers start to die or turn dark brown, trim them off.

Trimming the withered leaves and flowers can help extend the flowering season. The stems can also be trimmed back slightly.

pocketbook flower up closePin

How to Propagate Calceolaria?

Propagation is incredibly difficult. The cuttings are unlikely to survive the winter unless you purchase a perennial variety.

Propagating by seed is also a challenge, but possible. The seeds can be obtained from the seed pods after the flowers dry out.

Unfortunately, the plants grown from seed may not look like the mother plant or produce an attractive bloom.

Nurseries often select the healthiest plants for sale, increasing the chances of full bloom.

To try growing from seed, follow these steps:

  • Sow in June or July
  • Use a planting tray with a transparent lid
  • Add regular potting soil with some peat moss and a little coarse sand
  • Place the seed directly on the soil
  • Keep the soil moist

The plants should take two to three weeks to germinate. Try to keep the tray at about 65° degrees Fahrenheit.

When the seedlings reach the lid, transplant them into individual pots. The young plants must be kept at about 43° degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter.

When temperatures reach 50° degrees Fahrenheit, the plants can be moved outdoors. Hopefully, they should bloom in spring or early summer.

Calceolaria Pests or Diseases

Overwatering can be a problem for the calceolaria flowers. If the base of the plant starts to turn brown, crown rot can be the issue. Scale back the watering.

The plant may suffer from a fungus if a flowery deposit appears on the leaves.

Ensure the plant is in a spot with good ventilation and remove the infected leaves.

Sticky or deformed leaves are signs of insect infestation, including aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Treat this problem with insecticide before it spreads.

Related: More on Controlling and Killing Aphid Infestations

If the infestation can’t be treated, the plant will likely need to be tossed.

Other common issues include gray mold and root and crown rot.

Suggested Calceolaria Uses

As an annual, calceolaria should be placed in a spot where its flowers can be on display.

These plants also make cheery gifts as pot plants and can be a lovely addition to a bright windowsill due to their bright colors and unique flowers.

Calceolaria plants can also be grown as greenhouse plants in northern climates,  

Set it in or near a window on a shelf or stand, but ensure it doesn’t get direct sunlight.

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