Episcia cupreata: Flame violet

Family: Gesneriaceae
Common name: Flame violet, Episcia

Flame violet plants are easy to grow and propagate in home gardens, once your figure out not to fuss over them too much. They only grow 30-60 cms in height but can spread over large areas with long, horizontally-growing stolons or stems.

They are perennial plants that can live for many years through new shoots that are produced from the stolons. Stems are hairy and succulent, green or red in color producing velvety leaves in beautiful rosette shapes.

Flame violet leaves come in a range of colors and patterns, like green, reddish-green, chocolate, or copper with green, silver, or red patterns. Most leaves have silver color along the veins like a beautiful glowing net.

The name cupreata stands for the copper color, seen on the lower surface of the leaves. Flame violet leaves are 4-12 cms long and they look puckered due to the indentations along the veins.

Flowers are tubular with 5 petals that are merged in the center, and vary in color from white, pink, yellow, lavender, orange, and red. Leaves and flower bases have prominent white hairs that are clearly visible, giving the plant a velvety texture.

They also produce seeds, but propagation is mostly done through stolons or stem cuttings that root easily when in contact with soil. Flame violet plants do not like bright direct sunlight and do well in partial shade.

These plants do not like too much or too little water. Soil should be moist, but not water-logged. The pebble tray method of placing pots in a tray filled with water and pebbles is also a good idea, but this should be done only occasionally.

Browning of the edges of leaves usually means too much sunlight, yellowing and wilting of leaves means too much water. Also check for signs of aphids, mealybugs, and fungal infections, which should be addressed quickly to encourage a healthy, thriving plant.

Flame violets can be grown indoors if kept near sunny windows where the plants can get indirect sunlight. They do well in hanging pots and baskets, with long trailing stems falling over the edges of the pots. Trimming the plants will encourage bushy growth, and removing spent flowers will encourage better blooming.

Some common hybrids of Flame violet are ‘Chocolate soldier’ which has deep brown leaves with silver and green center, ‘Emerald green’ with green leaves and silver midribs, ‘Frosty’ with green and silver leaves, ‘Harlequin’ with the deep dark leaves, ‘Silver sheen’ with glowing silver-gray leaves and ‘Acajou’ with a broad silver-green patterns. Though the leaves vary in colors and patterns, flowers are similar in most hybrids.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.

Image credits: Rajeev Nair, Femina Ajith