Episcia – Flame Violet

The registered trade-mark “Flame Violet” probably originated in the flaming flower color of these episcia plant, and the fact that they belong to the same family as the African violet; and the name became so popular it’s almost public property. Yet there’s nothing really violet like about these plants. They’re more aptly described in their native Central and South American countries as “heavenly strawberries.”

These tender tropical gesneriads send out runners that root readily and make new plants, with handsomely colored and patterned foliage, flaring tube-shaped and mostly bright-colored flowers. Relatively unknown not many years ago, they’re now widely popular for pots and hanging baskets in the house or greenhouse, and are quite happy growing under fluorescent light of proper intensity.

Episcia - Flame Violet

Episcias like unvarying warmth (minimum 55 degrees at night; some will “freeze” at 50 degrees), and high humidity. Soil mixtures should be light, porous, with a plentiful proportion of humus. They need some sun, but shade from summer heat, and constant moisture in the soil. Given growing conditions to their liking, they’ll send out enough runners to make a colony of new plants in a few short months. These can be rooted easily by layering, or by cutting them off and inserting in the propagating case. Stem cuttings also root quickly, but leaf cuttings take longer.

An episcia will make a perfectly beautiful hanging basket for a semi-sunny window or greenhouse. In an indoor planter garden, they are most effective when pinned to a porous support, which they quickly cover completely. Use them for table centerpieces and other small compositions, too.

The popularity of these plants has grown so fast, it’s difficult to keep track of all the new species, varieties, and hybrids introduced every year. Basically, there are at least five natural species available commercially now:

Episcia cupreata – Crinkled hairy leaves are bronzy and faintly laced with silver; flowers, orange-scarlet. There are variations with unmarked bright-green leaves, or green with silvery and bronzy patterns.

Episcia dianthiflora – Dime-size soft velvety-green leaves scalloped on the edge, brown-purple veins, somewhat stiff and woody stems. The large white flowers are feathery-fringed on the edge.

Episcia lilacina (lilacina ‘lilacina,’ or ‘Fannie Haage’) – Velvety dark-green leaves marked with a “pine tree” of silver-chartreuse on the veins; light blue-lavender flowers. Other leaf forms may be bronze or green marked with silver. A variety called ‘Panama’ has small, narrow leaves like the sage herb.

Episcia punctata – Strong, woody creeper with leathery green leaves toothed on the edge, fringed white flowers spotted purple in the throat. This one is easy to grow, but so rampant it is more a collector’s or hybridist’s item than decorative.

Episcia reptans (fulgida, coccinea) – Brown-hairy leaves marked with chartreuse at the center and along the veins; scarlet flowers; one of the sturdiest.

Two episcia seedling groups of uncertain parentage have been marketed. The ‘Canal Zone’ seedlings generally have dark-brown leaves with prominent green veins and other markings, and red flowers. The ‘Mari’ series has rough-textured leaves with veins indented or marked silver, and red flowers.

There are other available episcias either varieties of the natural species, or hybrids: Here is a list of some hybrids over the years.

‘Acajou’ – Leaves basically mahogany-brown, overlaid with shining silver; flowers red.

‘Bronze Lace’ – Hairy leaves bronzy on top, rose-flushed beneath; flowers red.

‘Bronze Queen’ – Fresh green leaves, lighter at the veins; red flowers.

‘Bronzetta’ – Somewhat dwarf, with bronzy leaves and deep red flowers.

‘Butter Ball’–Green leaves with indented veins, pale yellow flowers.

‘Catherine’ – Silver-flecked green leaves, paler green vines, sturdy growth.

‘Chocolate Soldier’ – Large, glowing brown leaves, silver at the center and on the margin; orange-red flowers.

‘Coral Gables’ – Pebbly leaves with a bronzy sheen, coral-pink flowers. ‘Cuprea’ – Velvety bronze leaves, flowers large and blue – a variation of lilacina.

‘Ember Lace’ – Glowing brown leaves variegated with white and pink, the variegation sometimes disappearing then reappearing on new growth; rosy flowers.

‘Emerald Queen’ – Shiny, emerald leaves marked with silver on all the veins; orange flowers.

‘Filigree’ – Dark-green leaves patterned with silver-green, clean red flowers.

‘Frosty’ – Tricolor combination of medium green with coppery margins, silver center; red flowers.

‘Green Haga’ – Leaves in two shades of green, carmine flowers fringed on the edge.

‘Harlequin’ – Glossy green leaves patterned with silver, dark brown on the edge; red flowers.

‘Jean Bee’ – Iridescent leaf basically bronze with lighter center; orange flowers.

‘Lady Lou’ – Bronzy-green leaves, silver veins, variegated with soft pink to cream; red flowers. Delicate and difficult.

‘Metallica’ – Hairy leaves grayish-copper with red edge and striking red-and-silver streak at the center; orange flowers.

‘Moss Agate’ – Bright-green leaves intricately netted with silver veins; orange flowers.

‘Noel’ – Christmas combination of green leaves and pure red flowers. Tinkiscia’ – The first hybrid with pink flowers. Green leaves with bronze overtones, lighter veins.

‘San Lorenzo’ – Soft-hairy brown-green leaves, fringed white flowers. ‘Shimmer – Brownish-green leaves aglow with iridescent green veins; flowers clear red.

‘Silver Sheen’ – Shiny leaves silver-green, bronze on the edge; orange flowers.

‘Sungold’ – Dark bronze leaves, pale yellow flowers, compact habit.

‘Tricolor’ – Large leaves of good substance, patterned with light green, white, and dark brown-green, lined with red beneath; orange flowers.

‘Tropical Topaz’ – Cheery combination of glowing green leaves and warm yellow flowers.

‘Variegatai – Copper-green leaves with network of silvery veins; orange-red flowers.

‘Viridifolia’ – Gleaming emerald leaves, orange flowers. ‘Viridis’ – Soft-velvety green leaves dusted with silver along the center vein; blue flowers.

‘Westwood’ – Bronzy leaves shimmering green-gold at the center; orange flowers.

Family: Gesneriaceae
Common Name: “Flame Violet,” Peacock Foliage Plant

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