Kohleria 'Longwood'

Ellery9(7aNC)June 7, 2005

This is the third message that I have written tonight, but I have been struggling with gesneriads for two years now - ordered this lovely plant from Logee's two years ago, with the suggestion that it would bloom constantly, not go dormant, and do well in a west window - gave it a west window, it did not bloom. It did not go dormant. Took it to work and put it under lights, and I mean right under lights, because someone suggested that it was the amount of light that mattered - It grew, and grew, and grew - produced little things on the soil which turned into more branches - brought it home and put it in the window, and it blew up - put it on the screen porch and it has continued to produce huge leaves and branches, with nary a flower. It had an occasional flower last summer. I hesitate to repot it, because it appears to be quite happy growing leaves. I water it occasionally, and have fed it once or twice - it's a monster . It sits there looking at me saying, "Yea, you want flowers, don't you? Ha ha." Will the warm weather induce it to flower? Perhaps it doesn't need to flower - it is obviously quite happy and secure as it is. Maybe a baseball bat?

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JohnnieB(Washington, DC 7a/b)

If your plant is healthy-looking, it should bloom eventually. 'Longwood' is one of the larger-growing kohlerias and I believe it has to reach a certain size before it will bloom. The flowers are enormous (and once it decides to bloom, very freely produced) and it's a great greenhouse plant but less satisfying indoors because it needs very bright light, lots of room, and isn't especially attractive until it starts blooming--which it will not do until it is big and happy.

As an aside, 'Longwood' is a very old hybrid, apparently one of the few survivors of the heyday of kohleria hybridizing in the mid to late 1800s although its original name has been lost (it was discovered growing without a name in a botanical garden in Europe). Color plates from European botanical and horticultural journals from that time show dozens, possibly hundreds, of mouth-watering hybrids, virtually all of them now long gone.

Kohleria hybridizing began in the 1960's and 1970's in the United States with the reintroduction of some of the original species as well as the rediscovery of some of the old hybrids like 'Longwood' but many of these early hybrids are either very large growing or are very weak-stemmed (and often both). The flowers are gorgeous, but the foliage and growth habit leave much to be desired. A new generation of kohleria hybrids are much more compact, have sturdier stems, and often have more attractive foliage as well.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 11:07AM
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Thank you - maybe size is what it needs - I have never seen a plant so determined to survive - tons of little rhizomes right on the surface and it just keeps growing - very large awkward plant, and cannot believe it doesn't fall over -

    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 12:27PM
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jon_d(Northern Calif.)

Right now I have lots of kohlerias blooming away in my living room. But, I'm not giving them much care and they are not staked. I am finding that they are all sprawling--none want to grow upright with sturdy canes. So, I think this may be a frequent condition of their culture. They are awkward growing plants that can be helped along in many different ways to create a truly breathtaking plant. One way is simply to provide the plant with plenty of stakes and ties to keep the elongating stems upright. The stems on kohlerias are very pliant, such that even a misguided plant with procumbent stems two to three feet long can be easily staked to upright without making for a terribly awkward plant. The leaves will soon arrange themselves. The second way to make an overgrown kohleria behave is to behead it (The French Revolution technique). Kohlerias root easily as cuttings--even when the cuttings are loaded with flower buds. After a period of adjustment, you end up with short rerooted stems loaded with flowers. I should mention though, that kohleria cuttings need to be enclosed. I root them under domes or enclosed in plastic bags on my lightstand. Of these two methods I prefer to root them under tall rectangular plastic domes that fit over my trays (10/20 trays--10"x20".

But, to get the plants to flower takes a little experience. Then it becomes easy. I find that my plants flower well on light stands and in sunny windows. On the light stands I use one two tube fixture per 4' x 20" shelf. But, I am using the newer shop lights that use the newer T-8 tubes. I am convinced these give more light than the older set ups using the standard cool white tubes, which are T-12's. In natural light, kohlerias need more light than African Violets. I find they like full sun or sun that is somewhat muted. My plants do well in my big east facing picture windows throughout winter, flowering well. But, at this time of year they like to be placed back from the windows as our California sun is quite intense, and these windows are unobstructed and very large. I suspect you are still not giving your plants enough light. The last trick with these plants, especially when starting out, is to have patience and confidence. Be prepared to wait for the plants to catch up with your expectations and be confident that you can solve their requirements. They are not that difficult. John B. is correct in all his info, except that I had one pot of a longwood, in a tiny 2" pot under lights that decided to put out four blooms when barely 4" tall. It was quite a sight, with the huge flowers coming off this little bit of a plant. 'Longwood' is famous, though, for growing and growing, until the stems are very long and vine like. I once saw a plant at a friend's greenhouse that had stems winding around other plants, about six to eight feet long. What these plants will do when they are getting enough light is to set buds when the stems are around 12-18" tall. Then they continue to grow and bloom as the stems get longer and longer. A given stem can stay in bloom for many many months before it finally stops growing and dies back. So, it is a good idea to reroot the flowering stem when it gets too long. With kohlerias you can also cut back the plant at any time to force new growth from the lower stems and from below ground.

But, I am being lazy with my kohlerias lately and just letting them grow without much attention. They have stems winding around the other houseplants and flowering here and there. Oh, and one last point--they really hate to dry out. When a kohleria wilts badly it often will abort all its buds or have the stems die back to the rhizomes. So, keep your plants watered and fertilized and in good light and wait for things to happen. Once you get the knack, you can just "throw a plant over there and it will start flowering".


    Bookmark   June 8, 2005 at 2:35PM
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sbg1973(SE WI z5)

I have my Kohlerias outside, full sun, and they are LOVING it.. lots of blooms..


    Bookmark   June 26, 2005 at 10:48PM
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