Botanical Name: Streptocarpus x hibridus
Origin: South Africa
Height: Cape Primroses can grow up to a height of around 30 cm (1 ft).
Soil: Potting mixes formulated for African Violets are perfect for this lovely house plant.
Light: Indirect bright or fluorescent light will have the Cape Primrose thriving, but direct sunlight needs to be avoided.
Humidity: This type of plant requires moderate levels of humidity, which can be achieved by misting it with water at room-temperature or placing the pot onto a wet pebble tray. Drafts should be avoided at all cost.
Temperatures: Temperatures need to be comparatively cool, preferably between 16 and 21 degrees C (60 to 70 degrees F), as higher temperatures will cause Cape Primroses to wilt.
Water: The potting mix should be kept slightly moist.
Fertiliser: A plant like this needs to be fertilised every two weeks, using a liquid high potassium fertiliser that has been diluted to half its strength. Fertilising after the plant has been watered will prevent fertiliser burn.
Propagation: The Cape Primrose can be grown from seeds, which need to be sown in spring, or from leaf cuttings. These should also be taken in spring, or at the latest in early summer.
Description and Care Tips
Like its relative, the African Violet, the showy Cape Primrose has deeply veined, long leaves that grow in rosettes. Tall flower stems rise above the leaves and carry white, pink, lavender, red, violet-blue or bi-coloured trumpet-shaped flowers in clusters. These velvety blooms often have contrasting throat colours or veins, and can vary in size between 2.5 and 7.5 cm (1 to 3 in) across, depending on the particular variety selected.
There are, as a matter of fact, hundreds of different hybrids on the market today. Some offer bigger blooms, others have longer blooming periods and the foliage of others still remains more compact. Dwarf and trailing varieties are also available now.
What all of them do have in common is that given plenty of indirect light and moist soil, they will provide an abundance of blooms for months on end. Placing the plant under fluorescent light (one cool white and one warm white tube, below a reflector) for around 15 hours per day will work wonders with this little gem.
Unless collecting seeds is the idea, spent flowers should be pinched off. This will encourage the development of more blooms, rather than allowing the plant to use its energy to produce seeds. Once the last flower has faded, the flower stems need to be cut back.
Cape Primroses flower best when they are slightly pot-bound, so repotting generally only requires a slightly larger pot (no more than one size up from the previous pot) once every two years or so. Repotting should, in any case, always be done in spring, and a pot with adequate drainage holes should be used to prevent over-watering.