Goldfish plant is a stunning tropical plant that is a must-have for any indoor garden. With its vibrant orange flowers that resemble goldfish swimming in water, this plant brings a touch of exotic beauty to any space.
The goldfish plant (Nematanthus gregarious) got its name from the masses of red-orange flowers that bloom in spring and summer and resemble leaping goldfish.
It is a beautiful sight to see a fully mature plant in a hanging basket in full bloom. They are profuse bloomers when cared for and add splashes of color. Indoors, these make excellent cascading plants for a bright window sill or in baskets.
They are relatively long-lived plants, lasting nearly a decade if repotted as needed and kept away from excessively dry or cold air. Considering that the original plant has undergone extensive hybridization, choose a plant based on its vigor and flower color.
In this guide, we will explore everything you need to know about planting, growing, and caring for the goldfish plant to ensure it thrives in your home.
Botanical Name: Columnea Gloriosa
Common Name: Goldfish plant
Plant Type: Perennial
Hardiness Zones: 10 – 11 (USDA)
Sun Exposure: Bright light but not direct light
Soil Type: Well-drained
Soil pH: Acidic
Bloom Time: Spring, summer, fall, winter
Flower Color: Red, orange, yellow
Native Area: Central America, Caribbean
Goldfish Plant Care
Goldfish plants, also known as Columnea gloriosa, are tropical plants native to the rainforests of Central and South America. They are named for their unique flowers, which resemble tiny goldfish swimming in a pond. These plants are prized for their vibrant foliage and ability to thrive in indoor environments.
With proper care, this perennial plant can last for many years. Thick, waxy, dark-green leaves are densely packed onto long stems that can grow up to 3 ft (90 cm) in length. Depending on the variety, the small, tubular flowers can be orange, red, or yellow. In the spring and summer, you can anticipate your plant to bloom profusely.
Proper goldfish plant care is essential for its overall health and longevity. By providing the right conditions, you can enjoy the beauty of this unique plant for years to come. Here are some key factors to consider:
The goldfish plant thrives in bright, indirect light. Place it near a window with filtered sunlight or in a location where it receives plenty of bright, indirect light for a minimum of 4-6 hours per day. This will give you the most blooms. Avoid exposing the plant to direct sunlight as it can scorch the leaves.
If you notice that your goldfish plant is not blooming as much as it should, try moving it to a slightly brighter location to encourage flower production.
Did you know that the goldfish plant gets its name from the unique shape of its flowers, which resemble a goldfish? These vibrant, orange-red blooms are sure to add a pop of color to any space.
Furthermore, the goldfish plant is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, where it grows as an epiphyte in the wild. This means it attaches itself to trees or rocks and absorbs nutrients and moisture from the air and rain.
The goldfish plant prefers well-draining soil that retains some moisture. A mix of peat moss, perlite, and potting soil will provide the ideal growing medium. Avoid using heavy clay or soils that tend to stay waterlogged, as this can lead to root rot and other plant diseases.
Ensure that the pot has drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom, which can also cause root rot.
Columnea prefers loose potting medium, so do not pack it down. To avoid soggy soil, use a container with drainage holes. Use a cachepot instead of a decorative planter if it lacks drainage holes.
Plus, adding a layer of mulch on top of the soil can help retain moisture and regulate temperature, creating a more favorable environment for the goldfish plant.
Watering is a crucial aspect of goldfish plant care. Keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot and the decline of the plant.
The goldfish plant also appreciates a slightly higher humidity level. During dry winter months or if your home has low humidity, mist the leaves with water to provide some extra moisture. Alternatively, use a cool-mist room humidifier or a humidity tray to maintain moist air.
It’s important to note that the goldfish plant is sensitive to chlorine and other chemicals found in tap water. If possible, use filtered or distilled water to avoid any potential harm to the plant.
Furthermore, avoid using cold water when watering the goldfish plant, as it can shock the roots. Room temperature water is the best choice.
Temperature and Humidity
The goldfish plant thrives in temperatures between 65-80°F (18-27°C). It is important to avoid exposing the plant to drastic temperature fluctuations, as it can cause stress and hinder growth.
To maintain a healthy humidity level, you can place the pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water. As the water evaporates, it increases the humidity around the plant.
During the summer months, you can also consider placing the goldfish plant outdoors in a shaded area. However, make sure to gradually acclimate the plant to the outdoor conditions to prevent shock.
Interestingly, the goldfish plant is not a true aquatic plant and does not require a constant source of water. In fact, it is best to allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings to prevent root rot.
During the growing season, from spring to fall, feed your goldfish plant every two weeks with a balanced houseplant fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength. This will provide the necessary nutrients for healthy growth and blooming.
Reduce or stop fertilizing during the winter months when the plant is in its dormant phase.
When applying fertilizer, make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging to avoid over-fertilization, which can lead to burnt roots and foliage.
Additionally, if you prefer a more natural approach, you can use organic fertilizers such as compost or worm castings to nourish your goldfish plant.
Remember, a well-fed goldfish plant is more likely to produce abundant blooms and maintain its overall health and vitality.
How to Propagate Goldfish Plant
Propagating goldfish plants is relatively easy and allows you to expand your collection or share them with friends. Here’s a simple method to propagate your goldfish plant:
- Select a healthy, non-flowering stem from the parent plant. Make sure to choose stem tips that don’t have flower buds on them and ones that are about two to three inches long.
- Make a clean cut just below a leaf node using sharp, sterilized scissors or pruning shears. Use a rooting hormone to increase your odds of success.
- Remove the lower leaves and any flower buds, leaving only a few leaves at the top.
- Place the cutting in a small pot filled with moist, well-draining potting mix.
- Keep the potting mix slightly moist and place the pot in a warm, bright location with indirect sunlight.
- After a few weeks, roots will start to develop, indicating successful propagation.
- Once the roots are well-established, you can transplant the new plant into its own pot.
Remember to provide the same care requirements for the propagated plant as you would for a mature goldfish plant.
By following these propagation steps, you can easily expand your goldfish plant collection or share the joy of growing these unique plants with your friends and family.
Potting and Repotting Goldfish Plant
Proper potting and periodic repotting are necessary for the optimal growth of goldfish plants. Follow these steps to ensure that your plant remains healthy and has enough room to thrive:
- Choose a pot that provides enough space for the plant’s root system to grow. Select a pot with drainage holes to prevent excess water accumulation.
- Fill the pot with a well-draining potting mix, leaving enough space for the plant’s root ball.
- Carefully remove the goldfish plant from its current container, gently loosening the roots if necessary.
- Place the plant in the new pot and fill in the gaps with additional potting mix, ensuring that the plant sits at the same level as before.
- Water thoroughly to settle the soil and provide initial hydration for the plant.
- Repot the goldfish plant every 1-2 years, preferably during the spring season when the plant is actively growing.
Repotting allows the goldfish plant to access fresh nutrients and prevents the roots from becoming overcrowded.
It is recommended to repot the goldfish plant every 1-2 years. This allows the plant to access fresh nutrients and prevents the roots from becoming overcrowded.
Spring is the ideal time for repotting, as the plant is in its active growth phase during this season. By following these steps and regularly repotting your goldfish plant, you can ensure its continued health and vibrant growth.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases for Goldfish Plant
While goldfish plants are relatively resistant to pests and diseases, it’s essential to remain vigilant and take prompt action if any issues arise. Here are some common pests and diseases that can affect goldfish plants:
- Aphids: These small insects feed on plant sap and can cause stunted growth. Use organic insecticidal soap or neem oil spray to control aphid infestations.
- Mealybugs: Mealybugs are white, cotton-like pests that suck plant juices. Remove them manually with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, or use insecticidal soap.
- Whiteflies: These small, winged insects can cause damage by sucking on the plant’s sap and leaving behind a sticky honeydew residue.
- Fungal diseases: Goldfish plants are susceptible to fungal diseases, such as powdery mildew and gray mold. Avoid overwatering and ensure good air circulation around the plant to prevent these diseases.
If pests or diseases become severe, consider isolating the affected plant to protect the rest of your collection and seek advice from a local garden center or plant expert.
In addition to aphids, mealybugs, and fungal diseases, goldfish plants can also be affected by other common pests. Spider mites, for example, are tiny arachnids that can infest goldfish plants and cause damage by feeding on the plant’s sap.
To control spider mites, regularly mist the plant with water and keep the humidity levels high. Ladybugs and lacewings are natural predators of spider mites and can be introduced to the plant to help control the infestation.
Aside from pests, goldfish plants are also prone to other diseases. Root rot, for instance, can occur if the plant is overwatered or if the soil does not drain well.
To prevent root rot, make sure to water the plant only when the top inch of soil feels dry and ensure that the pot has proper drainage holes. If root rot does occur, remove the affected parts of the plant and repot it in fresh, well-draining soil.
Leaf spot diseases, characterized by brown or black spots on the plant’s leaves, can also affect goldfish plants. These diseases are often caused by fungal or bacterial infections.
To prevent leaf spot, avoid overhead watering and make sure the plant has adequate air circulation. If leaf spot does occur, remove the affected leaves and treat the plant with a suitable fungicide or bactericide.
By following these care guidelines, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge needed to plant, grow, and care for your goldfish plant successfully.
With a little dedication and attention, your goldfish plant will reward you with its stunning blooms and lush foliage, adding a touch of tropical paradise to your indoor space.
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Melissa Pino is a biologist, master gardener, and regular contributor for Planet Natural. Melissa’s work focuses on promoting environmentally-friendly practices, helping people create healthy gardens and finding ways to achieve overall health and wellness.