The Columnea Gloriosa is one of the less known, but all the more beautiful houseplants. The fish-shaped flowers and, of course, also their color has earned it the nickname ‘goldfish plant’ in the English-speaking world.
Botanically, the genus Columnea belongs to the family of Gesneriaceae. Typical for all columneas are the long, hanging shoots (up to 95 cm). For exactly this reason, Columnea Gloriosa is best suited as a hanging baskets plant.
Goldfish Plant: Plant Care Basics
The longevity of your leavy friend will ultimately depend on the right care. To make sure that you are doing everything right with your Goldfish plant, here’s a handy Columnea Gloriosa plant care sheet for you. Some of these topics will be covered in more detail later in this article, such as the propagation of goldfish plants and also proper watering.
Soil: The Goldfish Plant is anything but delicate when it comes to soil. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, choosing the right soil should be relatively easy. A regular potting soil mix is sufficient for the goldfish plant, but it can also be kept in hydroponics (a method of growing plants without soil). Another good choice is African violet potting soil (containing peat moss & perlite).
Light: Columneas thrive best in a light to semi-shady location. The plant cannot tolerate direct sunlight, as this will cause its leaves to burn. If you do want to use artificial lights, that works pretty well with Goldfish plants, too. Placing your plant around 1 meter away from an east-facing window generally produces great results. Keep in mind that light conditions change throughout the day and the season, therefore it might take you some time to find the perfect spot for your Goldfish plant.
Watering: Spring to summer: Water your Goldfish plant with lukewarm water (tepid water). Watering your plant with cold water could result in leaves with unsightly brown spots. The soil should be kept slightly moist at all times. In winter, however, you need to decrease watering. Make sure that the soil almost becomes dry before “rewatering.”
Temperature: Goldfish plant makes for a great houseplant. One of the reasons is the fact that it feels most comfortable in average room temperatures (18 to 24 degrees) all year round.
Humidity: You must maintain moderate to high humidity to make sure your Goldfish plant feels at home. Columneas, being tropical plants, prefer high humidity. However, they do adapt pretty well to moderate levels of humidity, too.
Fertilizer: It is a good idea to feed your Goldfish plant with a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous. The dosage of fertilizer should always be slightly below the dosage recommended by the manufacturer, as this avoids overfertilization, which is also unfavorable Columnea Gloriosa. Beginning in spring and up to summer, feed your plant every two weeks. In colder months (winter), feeding your Goldfish plant once a month will be sufficient.
Propagation: Goldfish plants can be propagated by rooting stem tip cuttings. The best time for propagation is spring or summer. It is always a good idea to actually stick more cuttings than you need because there is always a risk that some of them fail. You might also want to use a rooting hormone (rooting) powder when propagating your leafy friend, as this will drastically improve your odds of success.
Growth: Columnea Gloriosa is a very slow grower. However, its stems can grow up to 95 cm. Nevertheless, for a bushy look, you will want to make sure to prune your Goldfish plant regularly.
Potting: Some plants need to be repotted very often in order to provide them with the necessary space to grow. As Columnea Gloriosa is a slow-growing houseplant, you won’t have that problem, though. It will be sufficient to report your leafy friend about once every two years. As for the choice of container, aim for a medium-sized container.
How to propagate a Goldfish plant
To make sure that your Goldfish plant becomes your lifelong friend, let’s have a look at the best methods to propagate this gorgeous houseplant.
As far as propagating houseplants go, there are six different techniques that are commonly used:
- air layering
- rooting stem cuttings
- rooting leaf cuttings
- simple layering
- growing new plants from seeds
However, it needs to be mentioned that not every method is applicable to each and every houseplant. While some methods may work great with your houseplant, some others might not work at all.
So what is the best method to propagate your Columnea Gloriosa?
The best method to propagate your goldfish plant is by rooting stem cuttings, or, to be more precise, by rooting stem tip cuttings.
To propagate a Goldfish plant, follow these steps:
- Search your plant for healthy, non-flowering stems.
- Use a sharp, sterile knife to proceed with the cuttings.
- Cleanly cut the stems that you would like to propagate. Leave some of the stem (about 5 to 7.5 cm) while doing so, we only need the stem tip! (about 7,5 cm long) to propagate
- Pull off the bottom leaves of the stem cuttings.
- Dip the stem cuttings in rooting powder (rooting hormone). If you don’t have that, you can easily find it in garden centers or on the internet.
- Root the stem tip cuttings (remember: should be about 7.5 cm long) in a container of your choice. As for the soil, we recommend a light mix of peat & perlite.
- Lightly water your newly propagated plants.
Note: It will take at least a year for newly rooted cuttings to bloom. The best time for propagating your Goldfish plant is in spring/summer.
Watering your Goldfish plant
How often should you water your Columnea Gloriosa?
As with any other houseplant, it doesn’t really make sense to water your Goldfish plant according to a fixed timetable. The important thing to keep in mind here is that your Goldfish plant likes it pretty moist.
So, what you should do is you should check if the top layers (meaning the top 1-2 cm) of the compost is dry or not.
You can simply put your finger inside of the compost to verify.
If you come to the conclusion that the top of the compost is indeed dry, you should give your leavy friend some water.
Make sure to either use distilled water or rainwater.
Note: Your goal should always be to make (and then keep) the compost of your Goldfish plant (slightly) moist, but not wet. Both underwatering and overwatering your Goldfish plant can result in serious damage to your plant. Both a lack of water and also an excess of water can lead to wilting. Proper watering of your Goldfish plant (basically any houseplant) is absolutely essential and incorrect watering might be the number 1 reason why houseplants die.
Goldfish plant Troubleshooting: Common problems
Problem: Brown leaf tips
Cause: If your Goldfish plant features brown leaf tips, chances are that you have an excess of calcium in the soil.
Remedy: Make sure to use a fertilizer that is low in calcium. When watering, rainwater or distilled water should be your weapon of choice. Tap water is not recommended. If you do use tap water, make sure that it is lukewarm.
Problem: Faint webbing on leaves
Cause: Most likely you are dealing with Spider mites. An infestation with spider mites is most likely to occur in late fall/winter. Spider mites are super tiny. They are really hard to spot. You need a magnifying glass to actually see them.
Remedy: One way to go about this is to use a water spray to gently blast off the pests. Spider mites generally hang on the undersides of the leaves, so you need to make sure to spray that part of the leaf in specific!
If the infestation already got pretty bad, you might need to prune off badly infested branches.
And if all of that is not helping, you might even need to discard your Goldfish plant. Spider mites are tiny little devils 🙁
Problem: White fuzzy stuff on leaves and stems
Cause: If you discover white cottony deposits on your plant, chances are that you are dealing with mealybugs.
Solution: The first thing you should do when discovering that mealybugs infest your houseplant is always to isolate your plant. After that, you should try to wipe off the mealybugs with the help of a cotton bud soaked in insecticide. It is, however, not an easy task to get rid of mealybugs. And in some cases, you might need to discard heavily-infested plants 🙁
Side note: Please remember that the best way to avoid pests on your houseplants is to make sure that your plant stays healthy. Pests are far more likely to attack plants that are in an unhealthy condition.
Where to buy a Goldfish plant?
There are several places on the internet where you can get your goldfish plant. These plants are not cheap, though. Be ready to spend about 20 to 30 bucks to get your hands on one of these lovely plants.
Here are some good places to purchase a goldfish plant:
Columnea Gloriosa: Who to follow on Instagram?
Instagram is obviously still the right place to find stunning images of houseplants and get some inspiration and ideas for future purchases so you can expand your Urban Jungle accordingly.
So, if you are on the lookout for amazing Columnea Gloriosa pics, follow these beautiful people:
- @alivia_houseplants (all credit for the featured image of this post goes to Alivia! Thanks so much again!)
Goldfish Plant FAQ
Is the Goldfish plant toxic to cats?
The goldfish plant is non-toxic to cats. If you are specifically looking for cat-safe houseplants, you might want to have a look at our article: 18 cat-safe houseplants your kitties will surely enjoy
Is the Goldfish plant toxic to dogs?
Columnea Gloriosa is non-toxic to dogs.
What is the scientific name of the Goldfish plant?
The scientific name of the Goldfish plant is Columnea Gloriosa. However, also other species of Columnea are commonly referred to as (Flying) Goldfish plants. Also, plants from the Genus Nematanthus are equally referred to as Goldfish plants.
Will Columnea Gloriosa thrive in direct sunlight?
Direct sunlight is not recommended because it causes the leaves to burn.
Can the Goldfish plant also be grown using artificial growth lights?
Yeah, that’s totally doable.
Is the Goldfish Plant suitable as a houseplant for the bathroom?
Yes, you can keep it in the bathroom, as Goldfish plants enjoy locations with high humidity. However, there are house plants that are even better suited for the bathroom. You can find these in our article: The 12 best houseplants for your bathroom.
How long does it take for goldfish plant cuttings to bloom?
Newly rooted Goldfish plant cuttings need to grow for at least 12 months before they start blooming.
Can I keep my Goldfish plant outdoors in summer?
It is advised to keep Columnea Gloriosa indoors in summer, as too much light (especially direct sunlight) and also high temperatures can potentially harm your plant (e. g. brown leaves). Also, low night temperatures can have a detrimental effect on your plant as they do not correspond to the natural environment of the Goldfish plant.
What are some common pests found in Goldfish plants?
Goldfish plants are prone to Aphids (also called greenflies), scale bugs and spider mites.
What are some other exciting species and cultivars of the Goldfish plant (Columnea)?
Let’s be honest, Columnea Gloriosa is already pretty spectacular. However, if you would like to go for something a little bit different though, you could try a Columnea Hirta, a.k.a “Light Prince.” This species features white variegated foliage with stunning, orange/red flowers. Moreover, these plants are known to be very hardy and if you do not (yet) have a green thumb, the Columnea hirta “Light Prince” might just be the ideal plant for you.
Any displaying tips for Goldfish plants?
Goldfish plants are perfect for hanging baskets. It’s the perfect way to show off its spectacular foliage and flowers. Moreover, Goldfish plants produce very long stems (up t0 95 cm).
Are there other plants than the Columnea Gloriosa that are often referred to as the Goldfish plant?
Absolutely. Another houseplant that is often referred to as Goldfish plant is Nematanthus wettsteinii.