Goldfish Plant is a unique name, but it makes sense when you see the plant bloom. The reddish-orange tubular flowers look like goldfish, inspiring the name. This plant is often grown outdoors as an annual, but it also makes a charming houseplant. Goldfish Plants know what they like and are unwilling to compromise, but the effort is worth it. These plants are better suited to advanced plant owners or anyone who has experience with high-humidity houseplants. Learn all about Goldfish Plant care so you can enjoy this whimsical plant year-round.
Another reason this plant goes by the common name, Goldfish Plant, is likely because its family name, Gesneriaceae, doesn’t roll off the tongue. Goldfish plants consist of different plants in the Gesneriaceae family. The most common varieties available as houseplants are members of the Nematanthus and Columne genera. These two genera have some slight visual differences, but the care requirements are the same. In this article, I use the name Goldfish Plant to refer to both Nematanthus and Columnea plants.
These tropical plants hail from Central and South America, where they grow as epiphytes. Dark green foliage is thick with a waxy texture and grows along woody stems. Goldfish plants are distant cousins to another prolific flowering houseplant, African Violets. Goldfish Plants are sometimes mistaken for Lipstick Plants. Both plants have brightly colored, tubular flowers but are completely different.
Flying Goldfish Plant
Columnea varieties feature thin flowers with a very pronounced arch. The flowers almost appear leaping, so these beauties go by the moniker Flying Goldfish Plants. Flying Goldfish Plants are found throughout South America. Some of the most common Columnea or Flying Goldfish Plants available include:
- Columnea hirta
- Columnea gloriosa
- Columnea microcalyx
Nematanthus varieties are found chiefly in Brazil and Southern Mexico. The flowers are bulbous, with a bulge near the lower part of the bloom. Nematanthus gregarius is a popular variety, but it is often misspelled as gregarious. This error is likely due to autocorrect, but it’s common, and you may see plants mislabeled. Some of the more popular Nematanthus varieties include:
- Nematanthus gregarius
- Nematanthus ‘Bijou’
- Nematanthus ‘Emma’
Do Goldfish Plants Bloom?
They sure do! The Goldfish Plant boasts lovely reddish-orange flowers during the spring and summer. Houseplants sometimes bloom on their own schedule since they have consistent conditions, but generally, expect the Goldfish Plant to bloom at the start of the growing season.
Only mature plants bloom, so be patient. The plant can push out dozens of flowers during a bloom cycle. Plants can continue to bloom throughout the year with proper Goldfish Plant care. Sunlight, temperature, and humidity are the key factors when encouraging a Goldfish Plant to bloom, so dial in the level of care to enjoy the striking flowers.
Goldfish Plant Light Needs
Bright indirect light is best for Goldfish Plant care. Close to an east-facing window is generally a good location. Direct light is bad news and will burn the foliage, so keep the plant set back from a south-facing window.
How Often to Water Goldfish Plant
These are fish that are happy to be out of water. Water the Goldfish Plant when the top few inches of the soil are dry. This plant likes moist conditions, but soggy soil is a dealbreaker. Water until water drains through the container, and empty the saucer or cover pot of standing water. Sunlight and humidity dictate how often the plant needs water, but plan to water roughly once per week during the summer. The soil will need more time to dry out during the winter when the plant is dormant, so water less often.
Goldfish Plants are epiphytes, so they naturally grow on trees. Drainage is crucial because overly damp conditions lead to root rot and pests. Do right by your plant with slightly acidic soil. Potting mixes intended for African Violets work well, or create a custom mix using sphagnum moss and perlite.
Temperature for Goldfish Plant
Temperatures between 65° to 80° F provide ideal Goldfish Plant care. These tropical plants like warm conditions and most homes are comfortable. Temperature is crucial if you want your Goldfish Plant to bloom, so keep the plant away from drafty windows and doors and heating and cooling vents.
A covered porch or patio is a wonderful place for the plant to spend the summer. Select a spot that receives partial shade or morning light and afternoon shade. Goldfish Plants cannot deal with temperatures below 55° F, so bring the plant inside before the weather turns chilly.
Goldfish Plant Humidity Needs
Increased humidity is best for Goldfish Plant care. These flowering beauties need increased moisture in the air to set buds and bloom. Goldfish Plants can live in average humidity, but the plant may not bloom as long, often, or at all.
Low humidity is not acceptable. Increase the dampness in the air if the plant is showing signs of dryness, like browning along the leaf edges. Humidity typically decreases in the winter, so addressing the dampness may only be a seasonal issue.
Goldfish Plant Fertilizer
Fertilize Goldfish Plants to keep these prolific growers happy and thriving. Use a high-phosphorus fertilizer, with a ratio of 15-30-15 or something similar, to encourage blooms. Apply plant food every two weeks during the spring and summer. Always water the plant before fertilizing to protect the roots.
When to Repot Goldfish Plant
Goldfish Plants like to be cozy in their pot, but they will need an upgrade before becoming too root bound. Repot Goldfish Plants every two to three years as needed. Repot in the spring at the start of the growing season. Give the plant loose, well-drained soil and a new container one to two inches larger when repotting.
How to Propagate Goldfish Plants
Propagate Goldfish Plants via stem cuttings. Trim a stem section measuring at least four inches long. Remove the lower leaves to expose the growth nodes, and place the cut end and nodes in water. Locate the cutting in a warm spot that receives bright, indirect sunlight. Roots will grow in a couple of weeks, and the cutting can be transplanted to a potting mix when the roots measure a couple of inches long.
Trimming a plant to create a larger plant seems counterintuitive, but it works in some instances, and this is one such instance. These are fast-growers with proper Goldfish Plant care, so the plant can easily become lanky and unwieldy. Pinch back the growing tips to encourage branching, creating a bushier plant.
Is Goldfish Plant Pet Safe?
All Goldfish Plants in the Nematanthus and Columne genera are safe to have in homes with pets. Goldfish Plants are non-toxic to cats and dogs. The trailing stems may encourage a swat from a curious cat, so monitor the plant for signs of damage and relocate the plant if necessary.
Goldfish Plant Styling Tips
Goldfish plants are prolific bloomers that add bold color to a space. Even when these plants are not blooming, you can still enjoy the textured greenery. A full plant looks charming on an end table, pedestal, or plant stand, or make a big statement with a hanging planter.
Goldfish Plant Care Tips
Sunlight, humidity, and temperature are the major components of Goldfish Plant care. The plant will thrive when these three aspects are on point. Increased humidity can be hard for new or novice plant owners, so this stunner may be a better choice for more experienced plant owners or be prepared for a lot of trial and error.