Chrysothemis pulchella: Sunset bells

Family: Gesneriaceae
Common name: Sunset bells, Copper leaf, Black flamingo, Simple Chrysothemis

A very common garden plant that flowers almost through the year, Sunset bells are very easy to grow and maintain. These plants are quite sturdy, growing well in warm, humid tropical weather with large copper-green leaves.

The leaves are 10-20 cms long with sunken veins and a serrated margin. The upper surface is a dull copper-green color, and the lower surface is pinkish-purple in color.

Sunset bell plants start flowering very quickly, with dark orange-red calyx tubes bunched together. The actual flowers are yellow in color, with red markings, growing from these cup-shaped calyx tubes.

The flowers are tubular with long, yellow corolla tubes and a bulbous top half with 5 beautiful petals. The flowers are easily distinguished by 2-3 red lines running from the center of the corolla tube towards the tips of each petal.

These flowers live only for a day or two, but the calyx cups stay for many weeks, keeping the plant beautiful even when there are no flowers. The leaves are also unique and decorative.

The stem of the Sunset bell plant is fleshy and upright, breaking off easily. Roots have tubers which sometimes even grow along the lower nodes. When the weather is extremely cold, the leaves and stems die away, but tubers stay alive underground, sprouting new leaves when the weather is more favorable.

These plants need good sunlight and watering to grow well, but they can withstand poor soil quality. Occasional fertilization can keep the plant blooming for longer periods, though it mostly blooms during spring and summer.

In warm tropical countries, these plants almost always has bunches of deep orange calyxes, making them ideal landscaping plants. Sunset bell plants are mostly pest-resistant, though fungus and root rot can affect the plant, primarily due to over-watering.

Propagation is through stem cuttings and tubers.