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 Replies to “A Streptocarpus Fashion Parade (Cape Primroses)”

  1. I agree about the name. My first thought was ‘something to do with a sore throat’! The second photo is magnificent and if that’s what an iPhone can do, I need to get one soon.

  2. Oh wow! I was about to post a flower when I saw your post on top of my reading list. What a beautiful way to start the day and the first day of the month Susan… Amazing pictures and information. 🙂 Thanks for sharing them 🙂

  3. What beauties! I especially love the notion of their being voiced — yes, I can hear “Am I prettiest of all?” It would indeed be quite the clamor. Although “streptocarpus” hardly does them justice, names like “Harlequin Lace” are worthy. Thanks for the lovely start to May!

    1. Plant cultivar names are intriguing. ‘Harlequin Lace’ does seem very appropriate, but when there are lots of breeders competing to register names for the same type of plant, and when the authorising bodies disallow whole classes of name, the possibilities get stretched beyond all reasonable bounds. Roses are an example.

    1. I hadn’t given the name a thought before posting, but now whenever I’m reminded of it, I imagine it used differently – as a name for an ancient, dinosaur-like fish or a brand of throat lozenge…

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