The availability of beautiful Streptocarpus hybrids has proliferated in recent times. Entering the Mall from the parking area and passing the local florist, one is tempted by the soft lilac hues of their blooms. Leonie Twentyman-Jones wrote an interesting article in November 2014 about these gorgeous plants, but I want to share with you some facts about their close cousins, a subgenus Streptocarpella. They are equally beautiful, long flowering, and stunning in a hanging basket. These beauties are not indigenous to South Africa, but they are African. It is a fairly widespread species occurring from the Taita Hills in southern Kenya to the Udsungwa mountains in Tanzania. It is epiphytic in sub-montaine and montaine moist forests.
When I first came to Knysna someone gave me a little cutting, I had no idea what it was. My specimen was initially identified by Keith Kirsten as Streptocarpus kirkii. I have since acquired another species with much smaller round leaves. The flowers of both plants and the seed pods are similar to the well known Streptocarpus, but the leaves and stems are caulescent (have stems). Streptocarpellas are generally clump-forming or trailing plants. Their flowers are only about 2.5-3.5 cm in diameter, and their colour range seems to be limited to mid-purples, pale pinks, and white.
Streptocarpella leaves can be decussate in arrangement (each pair of leaves at a node is at 90 degrees to the ones preceding or following it), or ternate (whorls of 3 leaves at each node). Some specimens may exhibit both on the same plant. Streptocarpella are grown as houseplants, hanging plants, and sometimes as bedding plants..
Interesting to note that the two Streptocarpus subgenera do not interbreed.
Propagation is usually either by seed or stem cuttings. Sometimes plant-lets are produced from the roots, which can be used to propagate the plant. Mature clumps of plants can also be divided up and re-potted.
I have found cuttings root easily in water, plant in well drain potting mixture and keep moist but NOT wet. They respond well to a regular feed of Nitrosol (half strength)