Columnea gloriosa is commonly known as the “goldfish plant” or “flying goldfish plant” — and one look at its deep orange, fish-shaped flowers will tell you exactly why! The beautiful, long cascading vines of the goldfish plant even, with just a little imagination, mimic the flourishing kelp you may come across in a well-maintained aquarium.
Columnea gloriosa belongs to the Gesneriaceae botanical family, which consists of over 3,000 different species of tropical and subtropical flowering plants that are primarily treasured for their ornamental value. Its genus, Columnea, has over 200 different members, including the African violet. Although not all of the flowering plants in this genus have orange flowers, all are beautiful and brightly-colored.
You will only be able to grow Columnea gloriosa outside if you live in the right climate for this extraordinary plant, but goldfish plants are slightly easier to grow and care for when kept as houseplants. They can be a little challenging to look after, but will thrive once you understand what these plants need.
As a bonus, the fact that Columnea gloriosa remains a fairly obscure houseplant guarantees, in combination with its stunning looks, that your goldfish plant will turn plenty of heads!
About Goldfish Plants
- Columnea gloriosa is a tropical epiphyte. These types of plants are also often called “air plants“, because they primarily get the nutrients they need from the air, rainwater, and other sources, including the other plants they may grow on, rather than from the soil. As such, the roots mainly serve to keep them in place. When cultivated indoors, these goldfish plants are most commonly seen in hanging baskets.
- Columnea gloriosa is native to the tropical, forested, regions of Central and South America. So long as you understand the conditions they need to thrive, goldfish plants can do well as houseplants in almost any region, however — and as a nice bonus, this plant is almost always in bloom.
- It’s important to keep in mind that multiple different species are called “goldfish plants” — Columnea gloriosa is not the only one. Nematanthus gregarious, a species that belongs to the same family but a different genus, is another popular plant to have earned the “goldfish” nickname. They are native to Central America and the Caribbean and have similar care requirements.
- The neo-Latin scientific name of the goldfish plant, Columnea gloriosa, may at first glance seem to suggest “glorious columns”. While “gloriosa” indeed means glorious, the genus Columnea was named thus in honor of the sixteenth-century Italian botanist Fabio Colonna.
- Because Columnea gloriosa is so striking, it is no surprise that cultivars with slightly different features have also been created. The most popular of these include Columnea gloriosa “Superba”, which features deep crimson leaves, and “Lava Flow”, the flowers of which have yellow hints at the center that offer them the appearance of cascading lava.
- Columnea gloriosa and related plants do occasionally go through a dormant phases, during which leaves will start dropping and the plant will stop blooming. It is easy to think that your plant is no longer thriving, and will perish, when this happens, but the dormant stage is a normal part of the plant’s grow cycle.
- These beautiful plants are mildly toxic to humans and pets such as cats and dogs when ingested in large quantities. However, the fact that they are typically kept in hanging baskets to support their beautiful drooping vines should enable you to keep Columnea gloriosa out of your pets’ reach fairly easily!
- This bright, happy, plant will instantly lift the mood in any room. It’s no surprise that the goldfish plant, being a tropical plant, does need plenty of bright but indirect sunlight to remain healthy — around 12 hours a day, to be exact. Make sure to find a lovely bright spot for your Columnea gloriosa!
Goldfish Plant Features: An Overview
- The goldfish plant’s beautiful rich green leaves are oval in shape and grow in a pairs. The red hairs that grace the leaves will help you tell Columnea gloriosa apart from other, related, plants. The fact that this plant’s leaves grow in drooping, graceful, vines that can be as long as three feet each is one of its most attractive features.
- The attractive orange flowers, which truly do resemble ornamental goldfish happily leaping through the vines, will bloom throughout the warm growing season. Each flower can reach a length of around three inches.
- Prune your Columnea gloriosa after its bloom has subsided to keep your goldfish plant healthy. If the vines are growing too long for your liking, there is no reason to be scared to reduce their length by up to 50 percent.
- As long as your goldfish plant is well cared for, they can live for a surprisingly long time of up to 10 years! Propagating your Columnea gloriosa by taking cuttings will help you keep it alive forever.
- Although goldfish plants have high watering needs, gardeners should not confuse humidity with dampness. When kept in damp, stagnant, soil, Columnea gloriosa can develop root rot and other fungal plant diseases. These stunning plants are also fairly vulnerable to aphids, scale, and mealybugs. For these reasons, it is essential to place your goldfish plant in a well-draining pot with sand or perlite, to encourage draining.
- Goldfish plants are fast-growing, with the ability to gain around two feet in vine length during each growing season when cared for in the right conditions.
- Goldfish plants tolerate temperature ranges between 65 and 75 °F (18 to 24 °C). It is important to note, on the other hand, that Columnea gloriosa will die if exposed to freezing temperatures. As such, they cannot be grown as garden plants in many climates.
- If you keep your Columnea gloriosa in a hanging pot, you can take full advantage of this mobility by gently moving your goldfish plant to a better locations as the light conditions change through the seasons.
Growing Goldfish Plants
Goldfish plants require full, bright, but indirect sunlight to thrive — mimicking the tropical conditions they originated in. This is especially important because Columnea gloriosa is an epiphyte that receives the bulk of its energy from leaf-based photosynthesis, rather than from nutrients in the soil. If your goldfish plant does not receive adequate light, it will fail to thrive. Therefore, if you live in a more overcast region, you may wish to consider buying a grow light to support the plant’s growth and health. They prefer temperatures between 65 and 75 °F.
It is ideal to expose your goldfish plant to sunlight from the north during the warmer months, and from the south during the winter. Don’t allow your Columnea gloriosa to sit in direct, burning, sunlight, because this will damage its leaves and blooms.
Although goldfish plants do not depend heavily on soil nutrients, they do prefer to remain root bound. Only repot your Columnea gloriosa once every few years, when your plant has truly outgrown its pot.
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Last update on 2023-07-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Goldfish plant care calls for particularly well-draining soil, and they should be placed in a soil mix designed for houseplants, mixed with perlite and sand. Peat and vermiculite are also good options for goldfish plants.
When it comes to fertilizer, Columnea gloriosa has special needs. These stunning plants do need to be fertilized, but not in the way you would feed most plants. Goldfish plants should be fertilized through the leaves, by misting them. A high phosphate and water soluble fertilizer suits this plant’s needs best, and they should be misted fortnightly during the growing season. Dilute the fertilizer with water, because goldfish plants should not be over fertilized.
Goldfish plants can, when left alone, grow impressively long, sprawling, vines of up to three feet each. Since they are commonly kept as houseplants, most people prefer to impede their growth with the help of regular pruning sessions. You can prune the hanging vines to half their original length immediately after the plant finishes blooming, in which case you can also use the cuttings to propagate goldfish plants. This practice will keep your Columnea gloriosa small enough to comfortably fit into any room in your home.
If your goldfish plant stops blooming, it likely entered its dormant phase. Stop watering the plant and take it to a slightly cooler location for up to six weeks. Then resume regular care. Hopefully, your goldfish plant will now begin to flower again!
Watering Goldfish Plants
The goldfish plant is a moisture-loving plant that will need regular watering. However, to prevent fungal infections from setting in, it is recommended that you allow the top two inches of the soil to dry before watering the plant again.
True to its tropical nature, Columnea gloriosa strongly prefers being watered with lukewarm, rather than cold, water. Unless you use tepid water to satisfy your goldfish plant’s water needs, the beautiful leaves may become spotted. These plants don’t do well with chemically-treated water either. Therefore, it is best to avoid using tap water and to opt for bottled water or rainwater. If you do use tap water, filter it first and let it stand overnight.
If you notice that the leaves of your goldfish plants are beginning to turn yellow, it is most likely that you have been watering your plant excessively — this plant’s rightful reputation as one that needs a lot of water causes many people to overwater their goldfish plants. Underwatering can lead to the same problem, however. If your plant’s leaves are yellowing and the soil has dried out, you have essentially diagnosed that problem. Remove the yellow leaves and ensure that you are watering your goldfish plant correctly to nurse it back to health.
Propagating Goldfish Plants
Columnea gloriosa is, thankfully, a fairly easy plant to propagate. The recommended method would be through rooting stem tip cuttings during the spring or summer time. Your new goldfish plant cutting can begin to reward you with its characteristic fish-shaped blooms as early as the following growing season!
To propagate your goldfish plant from stem tip cuttings, simply follow these steps:
- Prepare a potting mix of 50 percent perlite and 50 percent peat moss for your cuttings.
- Identify healthy stems that are not blooming on the mother plant. Using an extremely sharp (and very clean) blade, sever a three-inch (seven-centimeter) length from the chosen stem of your goldfish plant.
- Next, make sure to remove the leaves from the very bottom of your cutting, only leaving a few of the leaves a the tip of the stem in place.
- As always, dip the cutting in rooting hormone powder, tapping the cutting to shake off any excess.
- Four to 10 cuttings may be planted in the same well-draining pot.
- Water your cuttings nicely, so that the soil is moist but not waterlogged.
- Cover the new cuttings with a plastic covering to keep in moisture and promote growth.
- Place your goldfish plant cuttings in a bright spot where they will receive an abundance of indirect sunlight.
- Wait for the magic to happen!
Propagating the goldfish plant from seed is simply not a practice that anyone follows, since these plants propagate easily from cuttings. Most home gardeners will be pruning their established goldfish plants regularly simply to keep them looking healthy, and to impede their growth. This offers a special opportunity to propagate the goldfish plant, in which case you can reward the many guests who were already impressed with your wonderful Columnea gloriosa with a mood-lifting plant of their very own!
Columnea gloriosa and its relatives are absolutely stunning flowering plants with cascading vines. The fact that their abundant blooms resemble playfully-dancing goldfish makes them especially attractive. Because these plants grow high up on trees in their native habitats, these tropical plants tolerate mild temperatures well, but hate frost. This makes them ideal houseplants that can, with the right love and care, brighten your home for the next 10 years.