There columnea gloriosa is a drooping plant suitable for cultivation in hanging baskets, appreciated for its elegance, for its spectacular and abundant brightly colored blooms.
Characteristics of the Columnea
The genre columnea, family of Gesneriaceae, includes a great variety of epiphytic plants native to Central South America and Western India, spread spontaneously on the trunks of tall trees of rainforests and humid areas.
Like many other epiphytic plants, such as Platycerium, Tillandsia and many varieties of orchids, columneas also grow anchored on plants and survive thanks to the nutrients absorbed directly from the bark of the host plant and the ambient humidity.
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The Columnea they are evergreen plants, formed by an underdeveloped root and by numerous thin branches with a mostly falling bearing, covered with many opposite leaves.
The oval, fleshy and bright green leaves are often covered with a thin white down.
THE flowers mostly solitary, they have a tubular shape with bilabiate petals whose color, depending on the species, varies from creamy white to yellow, from orange to red. In some species the flowers are gathered in clusters at the axil of the leaves.
THE fruits, with the exception of those of the Columnea dielsii, they are indehiscent white or pinkish berries containing small ones seeds oblong blackish.
The flowering period varies depending on the species, some Columneas bloom in late spring, others in summer and still others in winter.
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Cultivation of the Columnea
Columnea are very easy plants to grow and are grown in hanging baskets so as to leave the stems free to fall down.
Columnea plants love bright exposures but sheltered from direct sunlight. In nature, these plant species live in the shade of the canopy of tall trees. They withstand temperatures around 27 ° – 30 ° C while withering and dying below 15 ° C. It fears the air currents, the strong thermal excursions and the too dry environments. In summer the Columnea can be taken outdoors, in a partially sunny place and sheltered again inside as soon as the temperatures drop below 15 ° C.
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Plants prefer medium-textured and well-drained soil. The ideal growing medium must be soft, organic, peaty.
The columneas are plants that love moist soil therefore they should be regularly and generously watered from the vegetative restart, in spring, until the end of summer. In the autumn-winter period it is enough to keep the soil slightly moist. To ensure the right degree of environmental humidity, the pot must be placed on a layer of gravel half immersed in water. To avoid root rot, care must be taken that the pot is not in direct contact with water.
For a correct development and to be able to produce flowers in abundance they need a fertilizer rich in nutrients for the whole vegetative period. Generally they are fertilized twice in spring and 2-3 times in summer – autumn, with specific liquid fertilizers for flowering plants.
Multiplication or propagation of Columnea
Columnea plants reproduce in spring by seed or by cutting.
There sowing it is carried out at the beginning of spring by stratifying the seeds in a seedbed with specific soil composed of peat and sand in equal parts. The seeds are compacted on the ground with a scoop and covered with a light layer of sand. The seedbed is then transferred to a semi-shady corner of the house and sprayed with non-calcareous water for all the time necessary for germination. The optimal temperature required for seed germination is around 24-27 ° C. The first shoots will appear after about 30 days. The new plants of Columnea are left to strengthen and, only when they can be easily handled, can they be transferred to pots and treated like adult specimens.
Propagation by cuttings
Agamic propagation by cutting it can be practiced all year round even if the best time is late spring.
With suitable tools, well sharpened and disinfected, cuttings about 10 cm long are taken from the healthiest and most robust twigs that must be cleaned from the leaves that are located towards the cut ends (only an apical tuft is left).
The cuttings begin to root in a substrate formed by peat and sand in equal parts. The pot with cuttings should be placed in a shady place in the house at a temperature of about 20-25 ° C.
Until the buds appear, the soil will be kept moist. After rooting, the new Columnea plants can be planted permanently.
The Columnea is repotted in spring on average every 2.3 years or when the plant has practically occupied all the space at its disposal. The pot, new and larger than the previous one, must contain a universal soil mixed with a little sand to facilitate the drainage of the water from watering.
The Columnea plant should rarely be pruned. Usually we only intervene to eliminate dry twigs or to shorten those that grow in those in a disordered way.
If you want to stimulate the stumbling of the plant it is advisable in spring, to trim the vegetative apexes and the latter can also be used as cuttings to be buried for the production of new plants.
Pests and diseases of the Columnea
The Columnea suffers from the attack of common animal parasites that afflict almost all ornamental plants such as aphids and cochineal. It especially fears the whitefly that stains the leaves forming whitish deposits often confused with powdery mildew or bad white.
This little gnat lives by sucking the elaborate sap of the leaves and severely spoils the aesthetics of the plant. Infested leaves are often sticky due to the presence of glucose crystals leaking from infected wounds.
Among the fungal diseases, Columnea plants are sensitive to root rot, leaf chlorosis and gray mold or Botrytis.
Cures and treatments
In the event that the plants grow stunted, they have sparse and thin stems just move the pots to a brighter corner of the house but always sheltered from drafts.
Mealybugs can be removed manually using cotton wool soaked in alcohol. Aphids can also be countered with a garlic pesticide, nettle or prepared with a pyrethrum macerate.
In case of more extensive parasitic attacks, treatments with specific broad-spectrum insecticides are recommended. In case of fungal infestations, eliminate and burn the withered branches to prevent the disease from spreading to the whole plant and then treat the entire crown with a fungicide.
Variety of Columnea
Among the approximately 300 different species we mention the most widespread and cultivated.
The Columnea gloriosa is native to Costa Rica and like most of the plants of the genus it has a drooping habit.
Columnea crassifolia is a plant native to southern Mexico and Guatemala with thick, fleshy stems and orange-red flowers.
The Columnea hirta is a widespread species in Panama and Costa Rica. It has stems with apexes covered with short reddish hairs. The leaves are opposite, oval, dark green in color and vermilion colored flowers variegated with yellow that usually begin to appear towards the end of winter.
The Columnea linearis is characterized by pink flowers, with long and narrow leaves and the shape of very decorative suspended baskets.
Columnea plants are appreciated as indoor ornamental plants and usually grown in hanging baskets in order to enhance the elegant bearing of its long and drooping stems.
Language of flowers
The Columnea symbolizes grace and gracefulness and for this reason in the places of origin it is offered as a gift to the beloved woman as a floral tribute to demonstrate their admiration.
The Columnea plant owes its scientific name to Fabio Colonna, better known as Fabius Columna) a great Italian botanist and naturalist of Neapolitan origin.