Sinningia tubiflora

Uli Urban
Fri, 26 Mar 2010 12:34:00 PDT
Sinningia tubiflora is a Gesneriad and at the beginning of growing it
about 20 years ago I made the mistake of growing it in partial shade
because I deducted from other Gesneriads which do not like too much
sunlight. It did not flower this way and looked like a trailing plant.
Then I learnt (I do not remember who gave me the advice) that Sinningia
tubiflora needs full sun and much later in my life I was able to visit
the habitat of many Gesneriaceae in South America and I realized that
very many Gesneriaceae grow in full sun in their habitat, some even in
most extreme situations. The most extreme Gesneriad was Sinninga bulbosa
which I saw in Brazil growing on black rocks on almost vertical cliffs
exposed to full tropical sun near the salt spray line of the beach. The
rock was so hot that it could not be touched.  The huge tubers (about
the size of a child's head) were sitting on top of the rock surface.
This is just an example for the fact that not all Gesneriads are shade
Sinningia tubiflora (I have not seen its habitat but a very similar
looking species associated with cactus) wants to grow like a cactus:
VERY full sun and heat, it will grow under glass and as easily in the
open garden provided it is bright and warm enough. I also learnt that it
needs a lot of water during active growth: last year I attached its
large pot to my automatic irrigation system for the first time and the
tubers expanded to an extent that made the pot burst. This was the first
time it happened. Sinningia tubiflora also needs some fertilizer to
perform well. My plant was given to me by an English plantsman and is
fairly compact. In mild parts of England it is considered hardy or near
hardy. I have tried it for hardiness here in Germany but it did not
survive even relatively mild German winters which are always colder than
English ones, though. But full German sun is hot and strong enough to
produce several flushes of flowers during summer.
In autumn I stop watering and cut away the foliage about 5cm above the
rim of the pot and store the whole pot dry and cold but frost free in my
cellar. The tubers are started at about this time of the year in warmth
and fullest sun under glass and moved to the garden after all danger of
frost is over. The plant has never suffered from any pest.
I noticed that the tubers do not like disturbance, after repotting and
undoing the tangle of tubers and rhizomes I had less bloom. On the other
hand even spring cuttings (they root easily) have performed very well
the first summer. Seed is also produced in large numbers after hand
pollination. The long tubed white flowers have a powerful pleasant
fragrance that is carried some distance on warm days and nights.
After this experience with Sinningia tubiflora and after seeing
Gesneriads in the wild I changed my growing techniques for Gesneriads
and allow much more light and even some direct sun with spectacular
results. Achimenes, Kohleria, most Sinningia and Gesneria flower much
better on more compact plants this way. A wonderful website for
Gesneriads and many other plants, many geopyhtes, is by Mauro Peixoto.

With best wishes from Germany    Uli

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