I can’t figure out why more people aren’t obsessed with these plants. They have some of the prettiest leaves of any houseplants I’ve ever seen (see photo below).
Episcias have lovely and delicate spade-shaped leaves. Their leaves are covered in tiny soft hairs and come in a rainbow of colors; pink, green, gray, blue and brown. This particular cultivar, E. ‘Strawberry Mist’, has bright pink leaves with olive green patches along the leaf margins.
Episcias have a bit of a reputation for being difficult to grow, but I have found them to be truly low-maintenance plants…if you simply provide them with the growing conditions that they need.
If you are new to Episcias or have struggled with caring for this plant in the past, this article should give you some guidance. We will discuss; watering, light, best location in the house, temperature, fertilizer, humidity, flowers, insects, diseases, pruning, propagation and toxicity.
Episcia cupriata is the scientific name of this plant, its common name is Flame Violet. They are very closely related to African Violets, which seem to be much more popular. If you are able to successfully grow African Violets, you will do just fine with Episcias. Their needs are almost identical.
Let’s talk about how to care for this plant.
Episcias are native to tropical regions of Central and South America and the West Indies. So that will give us some clues about their care needs.
Watering – Water only once the potting mix has begun to dry out. Allow all excess water to drain out of the pot after watering. Potting mix should be kept moist but not soggy.
Light requirements – Bright light is a must for this plant. It allows the leaves to color up brightly. As a caution, too much direct sun can burn those beautiful sparkly leaves. Only morning sun is appropriate for these plants. If you begin to see faded leaf color or burning of leaf margins, you may want to move your plant out of the direct sun.
Best Location in the House – I’ve kept my Episcia in a North facing window, an East facing window and under grow lights. They seem to do equally well in all three of those locations.
Temperature requirements – Like most houseplants, Flame Violets will live happily in the same temperatures that we humans like to live in. They will naturally slow down their growth when temperatures drop in the winter. Something important to keep in mind concerning temperature is that even though Flame Violets can live in regular household temperatures, they prefer heat (remember that they are endemic to Central and South America).
Fertilizer – Dilute fertilizer by half or more. Apply fertilizer as long as the plant is showing active growth. Once the plant slows down its growth, give it a rest from the fertilizer.
Humidity – Normal household humidity levels are not going to cut it for an Episcia. And as the temperature rises, an Episcia needs higher humidity to match. In cooler temperatures they can grow well in 65-75% humidity. Once the temperatures go above about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the humidity will need to be 80% at a minimum. So if your home does not naturally have these humidity levels (mine certainly does not), expect to grow your Flame Violets in a greenhouse cabinet, under a cloche, in a terrarium or near a humidifier.
Flowers – Flame Violets can flower when they are happy. This is generally when they are experiencing warm temperatures and super high humidity. The blooms are either bright orange, red, pink or even white. If your plant chooses to give you flowers, you are doing very well. I haven’t bloomed my own E. ‘Strawberry Mist’ yet, but I’ve seen others in bloom. They have very bright orange blooms which contrast rather oddly with the shiny pink foliage.
Insects – Mealy bugs and spider mites appear to be the most common insect complaints for this plant. Spider mites should not be an issue at all if humidity is kept high enough. They will generally avoid any high humidity situations. If Mealy bugs show up, they can be dealt with by dipping a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and applying it to the mealies. If you decide to use a commercial pesticide, use caution. The leaves of Flame Violets are delicate and easily damaged. I’d advise treating one or two leaves as a test before treating the entire plant.
Diseases – Because Episcias enjoy warm and moist environs, diseases can be an issue. Botritis, Powdery Mildew and Erwinia Blight can happen if there isn’t enough air circulation.
Pruning – Obviously, one of the attractions of this plant are its long, trailing stems. But Episcias can take on an untidy appearance so pruning is often necessary. It won’t hurt your plant at all and you can trim it back as harshly as necessary.
Propagation – Flame Violets propagate themselves by sending out stolons, just like a strawberry plant. I simply cut off the tiny new plantlets and pot them up in whatever potting media I have handy. They’re not at all picky and you’ll have new plants very quickly.
Toxicity – Episcias are not poisonous to humans, cats or dogs.
Link to my Etsy shop, Matilda and Clementine which often (but not always) has Episcia ‘Strawberry Mist’ cuttings available.
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Products I use and (therefore) recommend:
Planty friends – Feel free to use these links to the products that I use for my houseplants. I receive a small percentage of any sales through these links, so feel free not to use them if that bothers you.
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