In this guide, I’ll share my top tips on Goldfish plant care (Columnea gloriosa) at home. I love growing these plants for their beautiful blooms and gorgeous trailing leaves, which create a dramatic cascading display. The trick with Goldfish plants is to provide lots of light, keep the temperature warm, and use a well-draining soil mix.
Goldfish Plant Care – Key Takeaways
|Common Name:||Goldfish Plant|
|Scientific Name:||Columnea gloriosa|
|Native Range:||Costa Rica and Panama|
|Soil:||Well-draining, peat-based potting mix, with a slightly acidic to neutral pH|
|Light:||Bright, indirect light throughout the majority of the day.|
|Watering:||Water thoroughly when the top half of the soil is dry.|
|Temperature:||The ideal range is between 60-80°F (15-28°C). These plants won’t tolerate cold drafts and chilly temperatures.|
|Fertilizing:||Feed with a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month during the growing season (spring and summer).|
|Pruning:||Prune to maintain desired size and shape in early spring.|
|Pests:||Common pests include aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites, which can be managed with regular cleaning, appropriate watering, and insecticidal soaps or neem oil.|
|Toxicity:||They are non-toxic to pets and humans, though keeping them away from eager pets and small children is prudent.|
How to Grow Goldfish Plants at Home
Rather than growing tall, goldfish plants grow in a cascading manner. The stems can grow up to three feet long but can also handle a trim.
With the proper care, goldfish plant stems can grow over a foot each year.
What to Do Before Planting
Before you add a goldfish plant to your home, complete the following steps.
- Find a suitable space. Since goldfish plants have a trailing growth habit, make sure to provide an adequate amount of space for their long stems. If you plant them in a pot, place them on an elevated side table or plant stand. Or select a spot where you can fit a hanging basket.
- Check for a proper environment. Goldfish plants like a steady, warm temperature, so find a place away from drafts or poorly insulated windows. They love bright but indirect light, so near a south-facing window is a great spot.
What’s the Best Soil Mix for Goldfish Plants?
Choosing a proper soil mix is one of the most critical components of goldfish plant care.
Since these plants are used to growing on trees and branches rather than soil, they need a well-draining soil mix.
If you’re buying pre-mixed soil, look for a mix labeled for orchids. Many of these well-known flowers are epiphytes, so an orchid potting mix will work well for goldfish plants. Soil mixes labeled for African violets also work well.
You can also make your own mix out of well-draining materials such as perlite, fir bark, peat moss, and coco coir.
A good ratio is:
- one part perlite
- one part of fir bark
- one part peat moss or coco coir
How to Plant Goldfish Plants
Choose a planter that is just a bit larger than the plant’s root ball — goldfish plants like to be a bit root bound. Ensure the pot has adequate drainage holes so the plant doesn’t sit in standing water.
Once you’ve found the proper planter, fill the bottom third with a well-draining potting mix like that described above.
Next, place the goldfish plant in the pot and fill around the roots with more potting mix. You don’t need to tamp down the mix since this plant isn’t used to being in compacted soil. When you’re done, the base of the stems should be at the soil level.
Goldfish Plant Light Preferences
Goldfish plants love lots of bright light, so aim to provide them with at least 12 hours of sunlight daily. An excellent spot for them is near a south-facing window.
While these tropical plants love soaking in the sun, direct rays may harm them. If you notice your plant’s leaves are becoming dry or burnt, you can always add sheer curtains to your window or move your plant.
Goldfish Plant Temperature & Humidity Preferences
Since these plants are native to the tropics, they prefer warm temperatures. Aim to keep your house between 60-80ºF.
Goldfish plants thrive in humid conditions that mimic their original homes. Keep the humidity in your air above 60%. If your home is dry, especially in winter, use a houseplant humidifier or gently spritz your plant with water every few days.
Goldfish Plant Care
How To Water Goldfish Plants
Goldfish plants need a regular drink, but they hate sitting in water. When determining how much to water your goldfish plant, you must factor in the time of year, humidity level, and temperature.
- Account for the season – During the late spring through early fall, your plant is actively growing and using water. Therefore, aim to water your plant every week or so. When plant growth slows in the winter, watering once every 2-3 weeks is typically sufficient.
- Allow soil to dry between waterings – When you water, thoroughly soak the potting mix and wait until the top two inches are dry before watering again.
- Take note of humidity and temperature – No matter the season, the hotter and drier your house is, the more frequently you’ll need to water.
- Avoid wetting leaves – Try to avoid spilling lots of water onto the plant’s leaves when watering. A spouted watering can make this easy.
- Use proper water – Use rainwater or filtered water to avoid adding excess minerals.
For more, see our in-depth guide to watering goldfish plants at home.
Fertilizing Goldfish Plants
Goldfish plants don’t require a ton of nutrients, but they will benefit from light doses of a high phosphorus fertilizer.
Mix a 1-3-1 fertilizer to a quarter of the recommended strength, and fertilize twice a month when the plant is actively growing. You may water this fertilizer into the plant’s soil or spray it onto its leaves.
How to Prune Goldfish Plants
Since goldfish plants grow quickly when they’re healthy, they often benefit from a trim. Removing old and excess vegetative growth may also encourage flowering.
When you decide to prune, do so in the late winter or early spring. Use sharp pruning shears to cut the stems. To avoid stressing your plant too much, avoid removing more than 1/3 of each stem.
How to Propagate Goldfish Plants
If you want to share your goldfish plant with your friends, you’re in luck! These plants are easy to propagate by stem cuttings.
- Take a cutting – Using a sharp pair of shears, remove the tip of a stem. You’re aiming for a 4-6 inches long piece with at least two leaves.
- Add rooting hormone –While your cutting may root without the help of a hormone, completing this step increases your chances of success. Simply dip the tip of the cutting’s stem in a rooting hormone.
- Place in a container – Put the cutting in a container containing a potting mix similar to that used for mature plants. Only put an inch of the cutting under the soil.
- Wait – Your plant will take at least four weeks to form roots. During this time, provide the cutting with the same environmental conditions as adult goldfish plants.
Repotting Goldfish Plants
Since goldfish plants have shallow roots and like being a bit rootbound, you won’t need to repot them very often. Once the plant is mature, repot every two years.
If you’re choosing a new pot, don’t increase the size too much. Remember, these plants have shallow roots, and they like shallow pots!
To repot, remove the plant from its old pot and dust off old soil from the roots. Fill the new pot with fresh potting soil, then add the plant. Make sure to water well after repotting.
Common Goldfish Plant Problems & How to Treat Them
Why Does my Goldfish Plant Have No Flowers?
A lack of flowers isn’t necessarily a sign of an unhealthy plant, but who wouldn’t want to see those unique blooms? If your plant isn’t flowering, consider completing one for more of the following.
- Improve your plant’s environment – If your house is too cold, dry, or dark, your plant is unlikely to flower. Move your plant to a better location or adjust your home’s environment.
- Increase phosphorus – Phosphorus is essential for the production of flowers. Even if you’re applying fertilizer, you may not be adding enough phosphorus. Switch from an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer to a product for flowering plants.
- Limit water –Withholding water for 4-6 weeks in the winter can encourage flowering.
- Increase the amount of light – If plants don’t receive enough light, they become leggy. Move your plant to a sunnier spot, or add a grow light. Remember, your goldfish plant wants to receive at least 12 hours of bright, indirect light daily.
- Prune – If you want your plant to look fuller, you can encourage this by pruning. Pince off stem tips to promote lateral growth.
- Check for proper drainage – If excess water can’t drain out of your plant’s pot, it will be prone to fungal infections. Ensure you’re using a well-draining potting mix. Also, make sure your pot has drainage holes.
- Decrease watering – Soft stems are a sign that you are overwatering. Make sure you are allowing the soil to dry out between waterings.
Essential Tools for Goldfish Plant Care
You don’t need special tools to care for goldfish plants, but the following will help you.
- Sharp pruning shears – These will make pruning and propagating a breeze.
- Watering can with a long spout – A can with a long spout makes it easy to water your goldfish plant without getting the leaves wet.
- High phosphorus fertilizer – A fertilizer that contains more phosphorus than nitrogen and potassium will help encourage flowering.
About Goldfish Plants (Columnea gloriosa)
Origins and History
Goldfish plants are native to the tropical forests of Central and South America and the Caribbean. Unlike most plants, Columnea gloriosa doesn’t live on the ground in soil. Rather, it makes its home up in the forest canopy on tree branches.
This growing pattern makes goldfish plants epiphytes, which comes from the Greek word “epi” meaning on top of, and “phyte” meaning plant. While epiphytes grow on other plants, they don’t steal food and water from their host plants. They depend on the larger plants for support.
Goldfish plants are members of the Gesneriaceae family, including African violets. Their genus is Columnea, and their species is gloriosa.
It’s important to note that another species in this genus, Columnea nematanthus, is also referred to as a goldfish plant. So, make sure to take a look at the scientific name to differentiate between the two.
The most popular cultivar of Columnea gloriosa is ‘Superba.’ This variety has dark maroon leaves covered in small hairs.
Some cultivars are hybrids of various Columnea species, including gloriosa. These include ‘Gold Spice,’ ‘Lava Flow,’ and ‘Orange Sherbert.’
Will Goldfish Plants Flower When Grown Indoors?
With proper care, goldfish plants will produce flowers indoors. In fact, houseplants can even bloom more frequently than their wild counterparts!
How Often and for How Long Will They Bloom?
In the wild, these plants typically bloom during the warm season with more daylight. Indoors, many goldfish plants bloom yearly during the 4-6 warmest months.
But plant breeding efforts have created varieties that can flower almost continuously indoors. With the right care, these new cultivars will bloom throughout the year.
Goldfish Plant Meaning & Symbolism
The famous taxonomer Carl Linnaeus created the genus name Columnea after the botanist Fabio Colonna. The genus name gloriosa, speaks to the goldfish plant’s glorious, bright blooms.
Goldfish Plant Care FAQs:
Are Goldfish Plants Toxic to Humans and Pets?
The goldfish plant is non-toxic to humans and pets, including dogs and cats.
What is the best fertilizer for goldfish plants?
Mix a 1-3-1 fertilizer to a quarter of the recommended strength, and fertilize twice a month when the goldfish plant is actively growing. You may water this fertilizer into the plant’s soil or spray it onto the plant’s leaves.
How much light do goldfish plants need?
Goldfish plants love lots of bright light, so aim to provide them with at least 12 hours of light each day. A great spot for them is near a south-facing window.
What’s the best soil for goldfish plants?
Goldfish plants are used to growing on trees and branches rather than soil, thus they need a well-draining soil mix.
If you’re buying a pre-mixed soil, look for a mix labeled for orchids. Many of these well-known flowers are also epiphytes, so orchid potting mix will also work well for goldfish plants. Soil mixes labeled for African violets also work well.
You can also make your own mix out of well-draining materials such as perlite, fir bark, peat moss, and coco coir.
How often do you water a goldfish plant?
Goldfish plants need a regular drink, but they hate sitting in water. When determining how much to water your goldfish plant, you’ll need to factor in the time of year, humidity level, and temperature. Typically you’ll need to water weekly during spring and summer every 2 to 3 weeks during the late fall and winter months.
How do you take care of a goldfish plant?
Keep your goldfish plant where it receives 12+ hours of bright yet indirect light each day. Ensure the temperature remains between 60-80ºF, and keep the humidity moderate. Provide the goldfish plant with a chunky soil mix such as equal parts of peat moss, fir bark, and perlite, and water only when the soil is dry.
Can you propagate a goldfish plant?
Using a sharp pair of shears, remove the tip of a stem. You’re aiming for a piece that is 4-6 inches long and contains at least two leaves. Put the cutting in a container that contains a potting mix similar to that which you use for mature plants. Only put an inch of the cutting under the soil. It will take at least four weeks for your plant to form roots. During this time, provide the cutting with the same environmental conditions that you provide to adult goldfish plants.
How do I get my goldfish to flower?
If your house is too cold, dry, or dark, your plant is unlikely to flower. Move your plant to a better location or adjust your home’s environment.
You may also need to increase phosphorus which is essential for the production of flowers. Even if you’re applying fertilizer, you may not be adding enough phosphorus. Switch from an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer to a product for flowering plants.
How long do goldfish plants live?
With proper care, goldfish plants can easily live for over ten years.
With glorious trailing leaves and bright leaping flowers, the goldfish plant is a stunning addition to any home. For optimal Goldfish plant care at home, provide lots of light, keep the temperature warm, and use a well-draining soil mix to keep your plant happy.