A Streptocarpus Fashion Parade (Cape Primroses)

Flowers with stripes, edges and netting effects

At the UK flower shows, you might find me hovering, hypnotised, iPhone in hand, before an offering of cape primroses. Dibleys Nurseries (awarded Master Grower status by the RHS at this year’s Cardiff Flower Show) can be relied upon to showcase a wonderful collection in tip top condition, as 150 coveted RHS gold medals can testify.

After many decades of breeding, a fashion parade would seem the perfect collective noun for them. If you want your flowers to have fancy netting, streaks, veins, lines or edging, different coloured lobes or throats, or frilly petals, these are the ones to audition. Let’s face it, just one cultivar can pretty much do it all. 

Fancy flowers in shades of purple, cream and lilac

Today’s floriferous, showy plants may not be entirely natural-looking, but do have an exotic appeal. Not for nothing is Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’ RHS Chelsea’s reigning Plant of the Decade. Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Lace’, shown above, is a stablemate. The breeder claims it can flower for ten months of the year.

Something in the posture of these flowers suggests they would be highly vocal if only a genetic engineer was willing to dedicate his life’s work to improving the plant’s experience, rather than our own. In that case, the passer-by might hear a clamour of little voices demanding ’Feed me!… Water me!’, asking ‘Am I prettiest of all?’ or singing a lugubrious song.

Five lobed flowers with translucent petals

With so many options available, these are some of the most archetypal collectors’ plants. It’s no surprise that highly structured societies with elected officials, publications, meet ups and exhibitions have grown up around them and their gesneriad cousins.

A quick internet search will turn up a plethora of detailed cultivation advice, some of it geared around perfecting plants for the show bench. I’m not going to add my two penn’orth here. All I will say is that they are reputed to be easy plants to grow and, I think, peculiarly photogenic at their prime. If you have any success growing houseplants in general and African violets in particular, you’ve got an excellent chance with these.

Yellow flowers with striped throats and pale lilac upper petals

Links for More information

Check out the British Streptocarpus Society here (there are links to other national societies too).
Find out more about the RHS Master Grower Award here.
Learn how to propagate plants from leaf cuttings here.

The cultivar names, from top to bottom are: Streptocarpus ‘Polka Dot Purple’, Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Lace’, Streptocarpus ‘Denim’, Streptocarpus ‘Nadine’.

42 thoughts on “A Streptocarpus Fashion Parade (Cape Primroses)

  1. Heyjude says:

    That last one is such a pretty colour. I used to grow African violets, but gradually they all died off. I don’t think they enjoyed central heating very much. The only house plants I have now are several spider plants and a weeping fig!

    • susurrus says:

      I haven’t got many. The only one that has lasted and lasted is the triffid – a Dracaena marginata tricolor that used to live in a small pot, like a bonsai. My sweetheart saw it, reproved me bitterly for plant abuse, and has repotted it several times until I can no longer move it around by myself.

      • Heyjude says:

        That is a problem with pot plants, eventually they get so big you can’t move them! I had to get rid of a Cheeseplant (Monstera deliciosa) because it was just too big and a yucca and umbrella plant (Schefflera ) because they got covered in scale and nothing worked to get rid of it. I used to have a Dracaena once too. We have underfloor heating here so house plants don’t really thrive.

        • susurrus says:

          I’d be happy to pass along my plant too, at this point – the only trouble is finding someone with room enough to appreciate it.

  2. Safar Fiertze says:

    “Something in the posture of these flowers suggests they would be highly vocal if only a …..” I’ve been having a conversation with Raili over at Soul Gifts (https://soulgifts.com.au) about the language of trees. She’s doing some research into it and says that she’s going to write a post about it soon.
    Beautiful photographs. You’ll know I’m not a fan of engineering plants, but I can still appreciate their inherent beauty through how you’ve shown them to us.

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