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Houseplant Guide: How to Care for Streptocarpus

Houseplant Guide: How to Care for Streptocarpus

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Streptocarpus is a stunning and moderately easy to care for plant. Many plant collectors can attest to the beauty and vibe this Streptocarpus brings to any indoor space!

In this detailed care guide, we’re going through the dos and don’ts in keeping the Streptocarpus at its happiest. If you’re wondering where to get this plant, we’ve listed some buying options for you to check out.

Read through to learn more about the many attractive features of the Streptocarpus!

What Is Streptocarpus?

The Streptocarpus is a perennial from the Gesneriaceae family. It is characterized by fuzzy and dark green leaves and prized for its stunning primrose-like flowers.

Cape Primrose plants are often called Streps. It grows efficiently near an east or west-facing window as a houseplant.

There are 130 species of Streptocarpus divided into three types:

  • Rosette Type – This includes hybrid varieties with large blooms in the form of a rosette
  • Stem Type – This type includes the creeping varieties that produce a lot of small flowers
  • Single-Leaf Type – This type has one central leaf that can grow up to a meter long and 60cm wide. Some may have underdeveloped auxiliary leaves.

Among plant enthusiasts, the most popular is the hybrid rosette species. 

Hardy cousins to the very similar-looking African Violets, these plants are easier to care for and not as delicate. Although prized for their beautiful blooms, the leaves of these plants are attractive enough to make a statement by themselves. They are round, wrinkled, and thick with a fuzzy or velvety texture. Together, the Streps are highly-attractive plants, even for a beginner. 

While most of this article talks about indoor growing requirements, you can keep Streptocarpus plants outdoors in hardiness zones 10-11.

Origin And Family

Cape Primrose is a member of the Streptocarpus genus in the Gesneriaceae family. It is indigenous to the forests of Africa, Madagascar, and the Comoro Islands.

The first Streps species, named Streptocarpus Rexii (after the estate owner where the plant was initially found, Mr. George Rex), was introduced in 1824 by James Bowie, a plant collector in Southern Africa. Subsequent discoveries of other varieties followed in the next years.

Fast forward to the 20th century, the Streps continued to enthrall plant lovers, and the first modern hybrid, called Constant Nymph, was bred at the John Innes Institute in 1946. Two years later, the institute has produced several more hybrids with different free flowering varieties.  

The Cape Primrose has become popular among plant collectors in recent times. From spring to fall, it can bloom with significant flowers in hues of purple, blue, pink, crimson, and white.

Where To Buy

Streptocarpus varieties are affordable. Leaf cuttings and mature plants cost between $10 and $40. You can acquire one for yourself by visiting your local plant store, but online retailers have more inexpensive offers and a wider range such as Etsy.

Streptocarpus Plant Size

When grown indoors, the Streptocarpus grows to a height of 10-18 inches and spreads to a width of 10-12 inches. It grows slowly and thrives near an east or west-facing window.

Streptocarpus Care Needs

Your Streptocarpus, with its gorgeous flowers, will flourish if you take good care of it. This plant loves humidity and relatively dry soil throughout the year.

Water your Streptocarpus when the soil’s top is about an inch dry. Ensure you completely submerge it, allowing water to flow down the sides of the pot. Bright indirect light is optimal for this plant in terms of lighting.

Check some more detailed growing tips below to keep your Streptocarpus healthy and happy!

Care Difficulty

Regarding care difficulty, the Streps is moderately easy to care for. The most predominant considerations for this beauty are the amount of light and the well-draining soil.

Growth Rate

When grown indoors, the Primrose Cape plant grows to a height of 10-18 inches. It grows the fastest during spring to fall.

Most Streptocarpus species, including the Streptocarpus, have a slow-growing speed.

Potting

Depending on your plant’s size, you can use a medium-sized pot made of plastic, terracotta, or clay for potting. One of the main requirements is that the pot includes at least one drainage hole. Leaving your Cape Primrose in wet soil for extended periods could kill your plant.

Repotting

For your plant to stay healthy, it is a good idea to transplant it to a bigger pot once it grows to a specific size. When you see roots peeking through the drainage holes, you’ll know it’s time to repot.

Keep in mind that Primrose has a shallow root system, so they do not need a deep pot. They prefer to have enough room to spread their roots across their growing medium.

On average, Streptocarpus grows at a slow pace and needs to be repotted once a year. Soil tends to drop its natural nutrient components over time, so it’s better to add some African violet mix when you’re repotting.

Soil

For the Streps, an African violet mix is a suitable choice. Add components such as peat moss, perlite, and sand to make your soil mix. Remember that this plant requires a somewhat dry growing medium.

Make sure the soil you use allows for adequate drainage and aeration so the roots can breathe.

The following potting mixes are recommended:

Photo Title Price Buy
Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting...image Miracle-Gro Indoor Potting Mix 6 qt., Grows beautiful Houseplants, 2-Pack $12.99
Burpee, 9 Quarts...image Burpee, 9 Quarts | Premium Organic Potting Natural Soil Mix Food Ideal for Container Garden-Vegetable, Flower & Herb Use for Indoor Outdoor Plant $12.99
SUNGRO HORTICULTURE Black...image SUNGRO HORTICULTURE Black Gold 1310102 8-Quart All Purpose Potting Soil With Control, Brown/A $14.81
Miracle-Gro Potting Mix Miracle-Gro Potting Mix $16.99
FoxFarm Ocean Forest...image FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil Mix Indoor Outdoor for Garden and Plants | Plant Fertilizer | 12 Quart + THCity Stake $19.99

pH

For the Primrose Cape, you’ll want your soil to have an acidic pH, approximately between 5.5-6.0. An African violet mix has a pH level near that range, so you won’t need to be overly concerned.

If you need to raise the pH of your soil, you can add a bit of calcitic lime or dolomitic lime, baking soda, or wood ash.

On the other hand, if you’re worried that the pH is too high, you can lower the pH with sulfur or aluminum sulfate.

To identify the soil’s pH value, use common soil moisture meter devices which double as a pH tester.

Water

Proper watering is essential for Cape Primrose. If there’s too much water, you risk causing diseases such as root rot. If you water too little, your plant’s roots may dry out, especially during warm days. In general, Cape Primrose should have a growing medium that is relatively dry.

There is a simple way to determine if your plant needs to be watered. You can stick a wooden skewer or a pencil into the pot and see if wet, muddy soil is still sticking to it. Or, you can use your finger to feel for moisture. When the soil’s top is about an inch dry, it’s time to water your plant.

A porous pot with drainage holes plus an aerated, chunky soil mix can help eliminate excess moisture. 

Quick Tip: Reduce watering in the fall when the plant stops flowering. In March or April, its growing season, slowly reintroduce watering.

Light

Streptocarpus prefers bright indirect light. As a native of South Africa, keep in mind that you’re attempting to replicate how it grows in the wooded mountain areas and ravines. During the summer, place them near an east or west-facing window where it is bright but without a ray of very strong sunshine. In the winter months, keep them in a bright area to prolong their growth and flowers.

If its foliage is getting scorched, you’ll know your Streptocarpus is getting too much direct sun. Conversely, if its leaves start to droop, the plant needs more light. 

The Streps can thrive in dappled shade. In a bright spot with direct sun rays, use a sheer curtain to create a partial shade and protect this plant from too much sun. Avoid putting your Streptocarpus in direct sunlight, as this could severely damage or even kill it.

Fertilizer

Plants, like people, need more food when they are actively growing because they are using up a lot of their energy. For the Streps, this growth spurt usually happens from spring to fall. This is the best time to apply an African violet or a liquid fertilizer every other week.

In the winter, you don’t need to fertilize because plants’ roots usually go dormant in the cold. This means they won’t need extra food for growth. 

Slowly feed your plant in March or April when it begins its growth cycle.

Propagating Streptocarpus

If your Streptocarpus has grown too tall, you may prune back the stem and set the cuttings aside for propagation! Below, we’ve listed step-by-step guides for different propagation methods.

Stem Cuttings In Soil

Stem cutting planted in the soil is the easiest way to propagate your Cape Primrose. Propagate this beautiful houseplant when it’s actively growing during spring to early summer.

1. Cut it. Find a healthy section of your Streptocarpus – new growth is ideal. Make a cutting at least three inches long with visible nodes. Use sterilized scissors.

2. Plant it. Place the Streptocarpus cutting in damp soil with the nodes buried. Then, use your fingers to press the dirt around the baby Streptocarpus’s stem to hold the cutting in place.

3. Maintain it. Water the soil (keep it moist) to encourage faster rooting. Keep the Streptocarpus near a window in bright, indirect sunlight.

4. Wait it out. In about 2-3 weeks, you should see new buds on the top leaves of the Streptocarpus. This means that your Cape Primrose cutting has rooted!

Stem Cuttings In Water

The following actions are critical in water-propagating your Streps:

1. Cut. Find a healthy area of your plant that has at least one node. Trim it with clean shears.

2. Submerge. Allow your cutting to sit in a clear jar filled with water. Make sure no leaves are submerged to avoid rotting.

3. Maintain. Keep your cutting in a well-lit, well-ventilated place as you wait for roots to develop.

4. Refill. When the container is empty or unclean, refill it. The plant nodes must be continually exposed to water in order to generate roots.

5. Transplant. Check after 2-3 weeks to determine whether your cutting has enough roots to be placed in the soil.

Division

For the Streptocarpus propagation method known as division, you are separating the stunning plant at the roots – making two Streps plants.

You can split the stem clusters of your Primrose Cape by following these steps:

1. Dig it up. Take the plant from its container. The natural divisions are pretty straightforward.

2. Pull apart. With your fingers, gently separate the Streptocarpus at the root. You may need to use pruners or shears to cut any tangled roots.

3. Repot. Plant each section of the Cape Primrose in new pots filled with the same soil they’re used to.

Humidity And Aeration

This Streptocarpus is a quirky plant that prefers high humidity between 50%-70%.

If your Streptocarpus has curling or crispy leaves with brown edges, you should think about obtaining a humidifier. This device is intended to continuously emit steam and considerably increase the humidity in a room.

Temperature

Generally, cool temperatures are best for your Primrose Cape plant. This can range between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bigger consideration for this plant is consistency. Sudden temperature changes can heavily damage the Primrose Cape. In cold weather, protect your plant against cold drafts by closing windows and sealing any opening. Keep it away from heat vents and high temperatures that can dry the foliage.

Flowers

The Cape Primrose is prized for its often bi-colored flowers that come in a wide array of hues from white to pink, lemon yellow to red, and blues and purples. These flowers would enliven your indoor garden or home from spring to fall. Some varieties even flower all year long.

Non-Toxic

The Streps is not toxic to children or pets. There are also no ingredients in the plant that are harmful to humans. According to the ASPCA, this plant will not harm dogs or cats if ingested.

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Pests, Diseases, And Other Problems

The Streptocarpus is a plant that’s unsusceptible to several bugs, issues, and diseases. In the next sections, we’ll go over some of the most prevalent Streptocarpus problems, as well as some suggestions and methods for dealing with them.

Spider Mites

Unfortunately, spider mites are widespread, and Primrose Cape is particularly vulnerable. Spider mite damage shows as little brown or yellow spots on the plant’s leaves. Fine silk webbing may be visible once the infestation is serious.

Start by spraying your Primrose Cape with water from a sink nozzle or a pressure sprayer. This removes spider mites from the plant. If the first approach does not work, an organic pyrethrin spray will come in handy.

If you want a more natural option, release ladybugs in your indoor growing space to help reduce spider mite numbers. There’s also a beetle called the “Spider Mite Destroyer,” which may be difficult to obtain, but the name speaks for itself!

Scale Insects

Another common problem is the adult scales that are covered in a waxy coating. These insects are sedentary; however, they will give birth to tiny crawling bugs.

Armored scales may be removed, but you must do it carefully with an old ID card or your fingertips. Take care not to tear the Streptocarpus leaves.

To suffocate scale insects, use insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, or neem oil. Spray your plant with a general insecticide if you observe active crawlers. After a week, repeat the application process. We suggest the following products:

Aphids

Aphids are typically discovered on your Streps like a swarm of bugs. They might be green, black, red, orange, brown, yellow, or white in color. They multiply quite quickly and can damage your plant in a matter of days!

Aphids are especially drawn to young shoots, flower buds, and regions of new growth. As they feed on the sap, they leave unpleasant black and white splotches behind.

If you see these disgusting crawlers, separate your infected plant from the others right away. Apply a powerful spray of water to your plant to remove the aphids while making sure to cover the soil with plastic in order to catch any falling bugs and their eggs. Place the plastic somewhere away from your garden.

The problem can be solved with a spray of insecticidal soap, neem oil, or horticultural oil. However, you may need to repeat this numerous times until the aphid population is completely eradicated.

Mealybugs

Mealybugs may infest your Primrose Cape. If you locate these minute parasites, which are distinguished by their white “fluff,” you must take immediate action before they spread.

Begin by saturating a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol. To get rid of the annoying mealy insect, wipe the leaves of your Streptocarpus.

You may also use 5mL of neem oil, 500mL of water, and 10 drops of liquid soap (as an emulsifier). Misting this solution on your plants once a month will not only make them seem glossy and clean, but it will also keep mealies away from your houseplant.

Brown Leaf Tips

One other cause of browning edges on your Cape Primrose’s leaves is a soil build-up of salts and minerals. This usually happens when you use too much fertilizer or tap water that has been chemically treated.

Lack of moisture is another cause of browning leaf tips. Improve your interior humidity by properly watering your plant.

Drooping Leaves

The leaves of your Streptocarpus might start to droop if it’s not getting the proper amount of moisture and light it needs. Read through our Water and Light sections above to learn more about the best care practices for your plant.

Low humidity can also create drooping leaves, so check the humidity levels in your surroundings and make sure they meet your plant’s needs.

Yellow Leaves

If you spot yellowing leaves on your Streps, you will need to trace any recent adjustments in your usual care practices or the weather.

Overwatering, underwatering, overfertilizing, under fertilizing, too much light, lack of light, root damage, temperature swings, and pests can cause yellowing leaves.

Root Rot

A typical cause of death for the Primrose Cape is root rot, which occurs when you overwater your plant. Remember that you should only water when the soil’s top is about an inch dry.

Poor drainage is one more source of root rot, and this Streptocarpus needs an African violet mix that drains well.

When looking for a pot for your plant, make sure there are drainage holes to allow excess water to flow through. Clay pots and unglazed ceramic planters can also help absorb moisture from the soil and slowly release it into the air.

Similar Plants

Love Cape Primrose? Here are some of its most popular varieties you should try:

Streptocarpus Royal – Bright purple and beautiful striped flowers make this plant stand out. Coupled with its long, drooping leaves, this plant will make a great accent piece.

Streptocarpus Wendlana – Wide, oval, textured leaves and a peduncle with 15-20 violet and blue flowers. This plant screams beauty and grace.  

Conclusion

The Streptocarpus is a stunning plant and a delight to care for. Your care for this plant will be rewarded when you see its gorgeous blossoms bloom.

Can’t get enough of Streptocarpus plant guides? Check out Two Peas In A Condo’s other useful articles!

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