The Q&A Archives: Goldfish Plant

Question: My boyfriend bought me a plant called a "goldfish" plant. It has long stems that cascade over the edges of the hanging basket, bright green waxy tear-drop shaped leaves that are reddish underneath, and the "flowers" are shaped like goldfish. It almost died on me when I followed the florists instructions for care, low light and light waterings. I cut it back to almost nothing, and there were almost no leaves left on it. I put it in a window that gets full day sun and took it down each night and set it in a pan of water. It is looking beautiful again, really full, and is getting the flowers back. I wanted to know what to fertilize it with, and whether they prefer humidity or a dry warm environment. I'm a bit worried about losing it again this winter when I have to turn the heat back on--all my windows have steam radiators under them and I'm not sure if that is what harmed it to begin with. Thanks for all your help.

Answer: Your Goldfish Plant is Columnea banksii, a beautiful but difficult plant to grow. Columnea may survive under poor conditions, but leaves will fall and flowers will refuse to appear unless the plant is pampered. To successfully grow Columnea, you'll need to meet all of the following requirements: top of the list is frequent misting to maintain a moist atmosphere around the foliage. The potting soil must be kept on the dry side in winter and during this period you should maintain the night-time temperatue at 55F - 65F. General care includes average household temperatures during the growing season. Keep the soil moist during spring and summer but water less frequently in the fall, and sparingly during the winter. Mist the leaves frequently, feed every 3 weeks with a diluted liquid fertilizer from spring through summer, and trim back the stems once they've finished flowering.

Following the above guidelines should keep your Goldfish Plant in top condition.

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