THE INDOOR GARDENER : Proper Care, Feeding of the Gloxinia Plant


QUESTION: I recently bought a gloxinia plant. How do I take care of it?

ANSWER: The gloxinia (Siningia speciosa), is a truly beautiful flowering plant with large, dark green velvety leaves, and produces glorious trumpet-shaped flowers in dozens of different solid and variegated colors. It's an especially rewarding plant because its natural blooming period is winter, when we need its bright flowers the most.

The key to growing gloxinias is to keep them in bright light, keep the soil moist, mist every day with tepid water, and feed every week during the blooming season with a liquid African violet food. Gloxinia is a distant relative of the African violet, but grows from tubers as opposed to fibrous roots, so your gloxinia will go completely dormant sometime in late winter and its foliage will disappear. Store it in a cool, dry place for about two months, then move it out onto a sunny windowsill and begin watering again.

Is It Safe to Buy Plants at Garage Sales?

Q: I recently stopped at a garage sale and saw a plant I wanted to buy. My friend, who's a gardener, cautioned me not to buy the plant, although it looked perfectly healthy and was only a fraction of the amount I've seen the plant sell for in nurseries. He said he'd read that it wasn't smart to buy plants anywhere but at "reputable nurseries." Should I have bought the plant anyway?

A: Although your friend has a point, in this case you probably should have bought the plant. When people sell plants at garage or moving sales, odds are there is nothing sinister about their motives. If you can examine the plant and determine that to all outward appearances it's healthy and carries no pests, what have you got to lose?

On the other hand, plants being sold by street vendors or vendors at flea markets have to be looked at very closely: Are you really saving money?

Rapp is a Los Angeles free-lance writer who, as "Mr. Mother Earth," has written several best-selling books on indoor gardening.

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