Driest Growing Epiphytic Gesneriads?

epiphyte78(9)February 21, 2011

Hi Everybody,

Here in Glendale, CA I've got a tree with quite a few epiphytic orchids, tillandsias, rhipsalis and ferns. I'm interested in trying out other epiphytic plants. Actually, a couple weeks ago I even attached a few cuttings of random Kalanchoes from my succulent collection.

Recently I've been looking into epiphytic Gesneriads and was wondering which ones would be most likely to handle drying out between waterings. I ran a drip system up my tree but most of the epiphytes are completely dry before I water again...although there are a couple small spots on the shady side where there's some live moss.

So far the few people I've talked to have mentioned Nematanthus, Codonanthe and Lysionotus as possible candidates. Many of the orchids I grow come from Brazil, Mexico, China, Australia...so I looked up some of the checklists I have on the vascular epiphytes of Brazil and here's what I've come up with...

Codonanthe devosiana 1,591 mm - 2,027 mm

Codonanthe gracilis 987 mm - 2,027 mm

Nematanthus crassifolius 1,886 mm

Nematanthus fritschii 2,027

Nematanthus gregarius 1,591 mm

Nematanthus striatus 1,591 mm

Nematanthus wettsteinii 1,591 mm - 2,000 mm

Sinningia douglasii 1,300 mm - 1,785 mm

By no means is this a comprehensive listing...I'm sure I only have a small percentage of completed checklists and there are quite a few checklists that need to be done. Also, I still haven't quite figured out how much variation in temperate/drought tolerance there is between different populations of the same species. Incidentally, if there's anybody else out there that collects checklists/articles on epiphytes...feel free to message me.

Annual rainfall only gives a partial picture on the moisture requirements of an epiphyte so I'd really appreciate hearing how well any of your Gesneriads handle drying out during summer.

While I'm at it...I don't have a single epiphytic Gesneriad...so if anybody has any extra plants or cuttings then I'd definitely be interested in purchasing some or trading for them. I've got quite a few extra Tillandsias, orchids, ferns, rhipsalis, etc. If anybody is in the area then you're more than welcome to come by for a tour!

Here is a link that might be useful: My Flickr

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
irina_co(z5 CO)

Hello - there -

Check with people in LA and SF Bay Area chapters of Gesneriad society. I know people from the Bay area who grow all kind of gesneriads outside - and since you are in warmer area - you probably can grow even more.

I would recommned to contact the clubs and find out who is a local expert on outside growing.

Regarding the source of plants - besides the growers - you can plan a trip to he town of Vista and talk to Michael Kartuz - kartuz.com
He has an enormous selectio of all kind of gesneriads and vines and he will probably advise you what are the best for your purposes.

Good Luck


Here is a link that might be useful: CA gesneriad chapters

    Bookmark   February 21, 2011 at 11:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the info! I e-mailed the local chapter and plan on driving down to Kartuz this Saturday.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 6:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
irina_co(z5 CO)

Hopefull you will tell us about your Kartuz trip!


    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 11:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The Kartuz trip went well. Picked up a few plants to experiment with. Here's a photo of Sinningia cardinalis blooming on my tree last October...

...and then again in June...

In those photos you can also see Aeschynanthus speciosus... which had no problem surviving a very dry winter. I just recently attached Aeschynanthus evrardii to the tree and I'm looking forward to seeing which species does better. Speciosus seems to be a bit more succulent than evrardii...but that just might be a difference in culture.

Another Gesneriad that's doing really well on my tree is Codonanthe carnosa. I also have a few Nematanthus on the tree as well.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2012 at 10:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would love to see a list of the plants (of all families) that you have succeeded with growing as epiphytes.

This is off-topic, a bit, but have you ever tried Agapetes? I used to live in Pasadena, so I'm familiar with your climate. I never grew Agapetes there, but I assume they can be grown successfully if given afternoon shade? Although Agapetes are epiphytes, and caudiciforms, I've actually not heard of anyone attempting to grow them as an epiphyte. I looked into it a few years ago, and the consensus seemed to be that they might like it on the moist side.

It would be a fun genus to have growing off a tree--I'm curious if you or anyone has tried.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 1:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Again somewhat off topic, as a follow up.

I just did a search to see if anyone has in fact grown Agapetes in a tree. I found one of your posts on a different forum from a couple years ago, suggesting that you had indeed tried Agapetes serpens. You also tried a couple of Vireya Rhododendrons, which I also find of interest.

I'm curious if you can comment on how those did.

Apologies for going off topic, but there is not a forum on Gardenweb which is really very appropriate for plants such as Agapetes. A cloud forest forum or a highland tropical forum would really be a good addition. Of course, epiphytes would be a major component of such a forum. I will contact the administrators. I'm actually considering posting on both Jovellana violacea and Calcerolaria perfoliata in this forum. Both (unlike Agapetes) are close relatives of Gesneriads. But both would be more appropriate to a new forum.

An outstanding source for both Agapetes and Vireyas is Bovee's nursery (http://www.bovees.com/). You mention in the link below that they were the source of Vireyas. Agapetes are easy to propagate and "should" be $10 plants. I'm shocked to see people pay on the order of $100 for them on Ebay.

Here is a link that might be useful: Growing on the Edge thread about epiphytes

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:46AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A list of all the families that I'm successfully growing epiphytically!? Maybe it would be easier to share the inverse list. Heh. But I really should share such a list.

Yeah, I've been really impressed with Agapetes serpens. This last water I barely watered at all and it didn't even bat an eyelash. Unfortunately...the same couldn't be said for Macleania insignis. Also, the Vireyas didn't even make it to Fall. I think that was before I started using pockets to help establish some of the more moisture loving epiphytes.

I mounted the Vireyas on rectangular sections of coco fiber covered in a layer of New Zealand Sphagnum...which certainly worked great for all the cuttings of succulents that I included. But in retrospect...I should have used the pocket method. That's where I take a rectangular section of coco fiber...fold it in half...tie the corners together with fishing line and stuff it with several handfuls of New Zealand Sphagnum.

This year I used the pocket method to attach a palm (Chamaedorea elegans), a ginger (Hedychium longicornutum), a gesneriad (Aeschynanthus evrardii) and several other plants to my tree.

Platyceriums are nature's pockets/baskets. For example...here's a photo of a Vireya growing in a Platycerium basket and here's an old photo I took of a Rhipsalis growing from the base of a Platycerium. If somebody has a Platycerium with nothing growing out of it...then they are really missing out!

Just recently I visited my 98 year old tropical plant "sensei". He grows an amazing collection of tropical plants outdoors year around. I told him that because of his substantial outdoor trials...all the risks and gambles he's taken...he's contributed a huge amount of information regarding what can be grown outdoors here in SoCal.

I'm trying to follow in his footsteps but with regards to trees. How many different plants can be successfully grown on trees here in SoCal? Not only do plants on trees look 10x more interesting than the same plants in pots...but space is a very limited commodity. Just last week a few friends and I took a plant trip up to San Fran. Talk about limited space. Yikes! With limited space you can get more bang for your buck by taking advantage of unused vertical space...aka trees, walls, etc.

One important factor for growing plants on trees is drought tolerance. With very little work you can grow Tillandsias on trees. While that would certainly look great...it's all about diversity/variety. Which is why I'm interested in learning about which plants, within the various genera, are the best suited for growing epiphytically. So even though Tillandsias beat the pants off of Medinilla in terms of suitability (at least here in SoCal)...I'd still love to know which Medinilla is the most suitable for growing epiphytically here in SoCal.

Along these lines...recently I've been trying to grow a gazillion plants from seeds...in order to see just how much drought/temperature tolerance variation there might be within a batch of seedlings. Off the top of my head...given that we're in the Gesneriad forum...here are some of the Gesneriads I'm growing from seed and plan on selecting for temperature/drought tolerance...

Codonanthe (misc)
Nematanthus crassifolius
Sinningia cooperi
Sinningia douglasii
Sinningia leucotricha

Over on the Begonia forum (Epiphytic Begonias) I described my sowing/selection process. I only recently started so haven't had the opportunity to make any selections...but I have a gazillion tiny seedlings germinating and growing.

In my opinion...it would be a huge contribution to the plant community if we could take something extremely marginal here in SoCal...such as Medinillas...and select for an individual that could be grown outdoors year around...especially on trees. Unfortunately it seems like most of the commercial selection process is primarily focused on superficial aspects...flower color/shape/size...rather than drought/temperature tolerance.

Jumping back to Agapetes...it's a coincidence you mention it because last week while visiting San Fran...I found an overgrown Agapetes Ludgvan Cross in a 5 gallon pot for only $34. It was for sale at The Dry Garden Nursery in Oakland. I plan on giving cuttings to all my friends including Kartuz.

Although I generally agree with your point on prices...sometimes Kartuz prices a few of his plants a bit too low! For example, last year I gave him a basket of Medinilla sedifolia. He's now selling established cuttings for only $10. Given that he's the only online source for that plant...that's a steal! In terms of outdoor selections...that plant is extremely high on my list of marginal plants that I'd love to select for temperature/drought tolerance.

If you're ever in the LA area you're welcome to come by for a tour. Be sure to bring a pen and notepad so you can give me a hand compiling a list of plants that I'm successfully growing epiphytically.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 7:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I actually don't have a real tree in my growing area (unless you count things like Dahlia imperialis, Rojasianthe and Bartlettina sordida as trees). However, I'm limited to 20 x 20 ft. at the moment, so "up" is the next direction to go. I guess a fence is a two-dimensional tree, in a way...

Great to hear that Agapetes serpens does so well. They are fun plants. I wasn't sure if they can handle the afternoon heat--I guess the cooler nights makes up for it. I have heard that they are pretty much impossible in places like Florida.

I'll put in another plug for Bovees, especially since this is a fun coincidence. Here is my Bovees order from this March, straight out of the box:

The three Agapetes from left to right: A. hosseana, A. serpens 'Nepal Cream', A. smithiana 'Major'.

Of course the Agapetes are bigger, but are cut off in this picture. They are also bigger than they may appear here, as those are 4 inch deep pots, not 2 inch pots. They were $9.50 each. The A. smithiana major is in bloom (yellow). The other two have buds, which may be visible if you look carefully.

Since I was ordering from Bovees, which is primarily a Vireya Rhododendron nursery, I decided to buy a Vireya as well. I have never grown any of those and I'm not very familiar with them. I chose one that was billed as easy for beginners, and looked interesting in the photo. This is Rhododendron celebicum, which is the plant on the right. I think it was supposed to be a $10 plant but I got a break of a couple dollars because they thought it was on the small side.

Bovees sells almost 50 species Vireyas at the moment, as well as many more hybrids. So I was surprised when I saw a Vireya growing out of a Platycerium at UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley, checked the tag, and it turned out to be R. celebicum. Of course that was the moment my camera battery died. It's good that others have had better luck--it's quite a nice plant! (hint: scroll up and click on "Vireya growing in a Platycerium basket").

A couple weeks ago I was at the Dry Garden in Oakland. In an outdoor area where they keep a lot of Begonias and adjacent to a cacti/succulent greenhouse with caudiciforms, Sansavierias, etc., they had an Agapetes. I recognized it as A. 'Ludgvan Cross' and looked for a tag, but didn't see one. Is that plant no longer there?

I used to have A. 'Ludgvan Cross' before a move. This plant was about $10 (I don't remember exactly) at Flora Grubb in San Francisco. I've heard Flora Grubb called overpriced, by the way...

I'm also interested in Medinillas. Right now I just have M. myriantha and M. crassata/alata. I've noticed some interesting seed offers by the seller Seedhunt (http://www.seedhunt.com/). They suggest that some of these plants might be OK in a coastal California climate. I'm particularly intrigued by the cauliflorous species. Perhaps there are species somewhere that live at higher elevations? No doubt you have looked... Anyway, selecting for hardy clones sounds like fun--good luck.

Philesia? I don't know if you've ever been able to see one in bloom--wow!

I will check with you next time I'm in L.A. It's been a while and I'm sort of overdue for a trip.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 12:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"Real" trees aren't necessary...shrubs can work and so can bonsais. I even attached an orchid to the trunk of my Echeveria.

Oh no...you've definitely tempted me to order those Agapetes species from Bovees. Or...I guess I could just wait for yours to get bigger so that we might trade cuttings.

Regarding the Dry Garden Nursery...the Agapetes you described sounds exactly like the one I purchased from them last week. So it's not there anymore...unless they already replaced it.

I'm not familiar with Philesias...but I looked them up and they do look pretty neat. My friend is from Chile...perhaps I'll ask her about bringing back some seeds.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 8:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Does anybody recognize this Gesneriad?

My friend gave me a cutting from his plant which he had labeled as a Nematanthus...but for some reason I'm thinking it's a Columnea.

Both the leaves and the stem are relatively succulent. It looks like it might bloom soon.

I've been really pleasantly surprised by how well it's done on the tree.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 4:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
irina_co(z5 CO)

It is definitely a Columnea. May be the way it blooms will give us an idea which one it is - but there over hundred species and who knows how many hybrids - so probably we will never know.

Great Job!


    Bookmark   March 28, 2013 at 12:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Irina for confirming my suspicion! I'll try and take a picture of it when it blooms to see if that might help narrow it down a bit.

Both Aeschynanthus bloomed for me...Aeschynanthus speciosus...

and Aeschynanthus evrardii...

I was really impressed by how long the blooms lasted. Hopefully my Aeschynanthus will grow into a nice specimen like this Aeschynanthus sikkimensis growing on a tree.

This post was edited by epiphyte78 on Fri, Mar 29, 13 at 15:10

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 3:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
irina_co(z5 CO)


    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 6:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rredbbeard(SE CT USA/zone 6)

Also off topic: have you considered any of the epiphytic amaryllids, such as a. calyptratum?


    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 7:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Rr, I posted my reply here...An Orchid on Every Tree.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 9:38AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Is this hanging epiphyte a Gesneriad?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 6:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
irina_co(z5 CO)

Looks like some kind of Columnea

    Bookmark   April 15, 2013 at 5:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here's a photo of the flower from the NOID Columnea that's on my tree...

I saw something on ebay that looked very similar listed as Columnea "Crassifolia". Other photos on the internet looked different though. But the "crassifolia" part does make sense because the leaves are quite succulent.

In any case it's a really excellent grower.

Also, I posted a thread on Epiphytic Gesneriads in Southern California.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 12:58PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Looking For Streptocarpus Seeds
I am someone who had passion for Streptocarpus when...
What have we here?
Grown from a forgotten seed batch: Some kind of Kohleria...
WANT: Anyone have any lipstick plant cuttings to trade for postag
Im looking for lipstick plant cuttings. I cant find...
Looking for Streptocarpella cuttings or seeds
I live in Istanbul Turkey and looking for Streptocarpella...
Tempted to troll on the AV forums, with my streps
But I guess I'll be nice...the streps are really loving...
Sponsored Products
Bella Trio All Season Fan
$399.00 | FRONTGATE
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™