10 Tips For Growing Columnea Baskets Successfully

The Columnea (goldfish plant) is a tropical vine making a neat, interesting exotic hanging basket to enhance your interior.

A Columnea not only has attractive foliage, but its varieties and cultivars have flowers in a wide array of colors.

columnea gloriosa botanical plate Pin

In addition to the many cultivated Columneas, over 100 species grow in the tropics of Costa Rica, Panama, Central America, and South America.

Popular species of hanging Columnea Varieties

  • Columnea gloriosa
  • Columnea microphylla
  • Columnea arguta
  • Columnea brenneri
  • Columnea linearis
  • Columnea schiedeana
  • Columnea flexiflora
  • Columnea lepidocaulis
  • Columnea decorata
  • Columnea rubriacuta
  • Columnea crassifolia
  • Columnea angustata

All are fibrous-rooted epiphytes, and many grow on tree trunks in the wild.

The species Columnea tulae flava has yellow flowers for almost the entire year. This treasure hails from the mountainous areas of Haiti and Puerto Rico.

Another species, Columnea linearis, has stiffer stems than most and is suitable for growing in a hanging basket or pot culture. Its light pink blossoms brighten dreary winter days.

Two glossy-leafed Columneas are banksi, a hybrid, and arguta. The former is a foliage plant and difficult to make it blossom.

Paul Allen (1911-1963) of the Missouri Botanical Garden introduced arguta from Panama. Its foliage is small and pointed, and its 2 1/2″ inch flowers are orange with yellow throats.

Alleni (named for Paul Allen) has long slender stems displaying stunning red blossoms which emerge from reddish calyxes.

Hirta has fuzzy and more rigid leaves. Gloriosa is tinged with purple and velvety textured.

Their flowers are profuse and blooms large. Hirta has orange blooms and those of gloriosa a deep scarlet red.

Perhaps the most graceful is microphylla. Its long, delicate stems covered with dainty leaves and huge reddish-orange flowers.

At this point perhaps you are thinking, you could never grow such a magnificent plant. If you have luck with African violets, then you can and must own a Columnea.

It belongs to the same botanical family, the gesneriads along with Episcia (flame violets).

Follow these ten hints for proper Columnea culture, and you should achieve success.

10 Tips For The Best Hanging Columnea Basket Plants


During short winter days, Columneas need bright light. Shade them or provide filtered indirect light during the remainder of the year.


If at night your thermostat is set between 60°-65° degrees Fahrenheit your Columuea should thrive. On cloudy days, 65° degrees Fahrenheitis ideal.

When sunny, the temperature can be ten to 15° degrees warmer.


There should be free circulation of air but avoid drafts.

Water: In the morning as the temperature begins to rise, water thoroughly. Then let the plant almost dry out.

Whether this means daily watering or every other, or third day, depends upon home temperature.

Foliage should be dry before the plant receives sun or there will be spotting.


Good drainage is a necessity. Although Columneas require moisture when growing actively, they must never be waterlogged. Use sufficient gravel, broken pot chips or charcoal at the bottom of the basket.


Is the prime requisite. Fog-mist your plant on dry days, using an atomizer filled with tepid water.

Also, plants nearby provide natural humidity and a pan of water placed inconspicuously nearby is excellent.


Sterile African violet soil is especially suitable. If you don’t mind fertilizing more frequently, try sphagnum moss or fir bark.

Sterility, however, is another important factor.


What to use is not as important as when to use it. Remember, people would be sorry specimens without proper nourishment feed your plant well.

Follow carefully the directions on the brand purchased.

Good Housekeeping

Occasional applications of insecticidal and fungicidal sprays are worth the effort. Preventing trouble adds more joy to indoor gardening.

Natural Habitat

When cultural questions arise try to find the answer by reading about your plant and by discovering where it grows wild.

Blossom time should be the same as in its natural habitat. Try to simulate these growing conditions.


Lest you forget, each spring, propagate another plant to maintain your collection. The process is simple.

After removing a stem cutting dip the cutting in rooting hormone, place it in a sterile medium, such as perlite, vermiculite, or soil combined with either.

As growth continues, pinch back vigorously, right up to Thanksgiving, until the branches form the desired size and shape.

Transplant twice during this period for Columneas like lots of room.

The Joy Of Flowers

Your greatest joy will come each season as the buds of your new plant unfold. For now, you are a gardener in the truest sense.

Those types of Columnea which make attractive trailing basket plants should have their rooted cuttings set in baskets in spring, allowing them to hang downwards.

This method best displays the beauty of their flowers.

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