Everything You Need to Know About Growing and Caring for Goldfish Plants at Home

The goldfish plant brightens up any home with tubular red and yellow flowers that resemble the plant’s namesake fish. Along with delightful blooms, these plants have gorgeous trailing leaves which make for a dramatic cascading display. Before you add a goldfish plant to your home, know they require specific care. Here we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to about Goldfish Plant Care including how to plant; the best soil mix; light, temperature, and humidity considerations; how to water and fertilize; when and how to prune, propagate and re-pot these beautiful plants.

Contents:


Goldfish Plant Care – The Essentials

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.


About Goldfish Plants (Columnea gloriosa)

About Goldfish Plants (Columnea gloriosa)

Origins and History

Goldfish plants are native to the tropical forests of Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Unlike the majority of plants, Columnea gloriosa doesn’t live on the ground in soil. Rather, it makes it 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 simply depend on the larger plants for support.

Botanical Classifications

Goldfish plants are members of the Gesneriaceae family, which also includes 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.

Popular Cultivars

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 when there is more daylight. Indoors, many goldfish plants bloom every year 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.

How long Will Goldfish Plants Typically Live?

With proper care, goldfish plants can easily live for over ten years.

Are Goldfish Plants Toxic to Humans and/or Pets?

The goldfish plant is non-toxic to humans and pets including dogs and cats.


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.


How to Grow Goldfish Plants Indoors at Home

How to Grow Goldfish Plants Indoors at Home

Growth Expectations

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.

  1. Find the right 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 it on an elevated side table or plant stand. Or select a spot where you can fit a hanging basket.
  2. Check for a proper environment. Goldfish plants like a steady, warm temperature so find a place away from any 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?

The Best Soil Mix for house plants

One of the most important components of goldfish plant care is choosing a proper soil mix.

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 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.

A good ratio is:

  • one part perlite
  • one part 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 root ball of the plant — goldfish plants like to be a bit rootbound. Make sure 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 such as 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 a compacted soil. When you’re done, the base of the stems should be at soil level.

Goldfish Plant Light Preferences

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.

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 during the winter months, utilize a humidifier or gently spritz your plant with water every few days.


Goldfish Plant Care

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’ll need to 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 – When watering, try to avoid spilling lots of water onto the plant’s leaves. A spouted watering can makes this easy.
  • Use proper water – Use rainwater or filtered water to avoid adding excess minerals.

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 the plant’s 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.

  1. Take a cutting – 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Place in a container – 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 soil.
  4. Wait – 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.

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 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 a bit of fresh potting soil then add the plant. Make sure to water well after repotting.


Common Goldfish Plant Problems & How to Treat Them

Common Goldfish Plant Problems and 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.

Straggly Plants

  • Increase the amount of light – If plants don’t receive enough light, they become leggy. Move your plant to a sunnier spot, or add in a grow light. Remember, your goldfish plant wants to receive at least 12 hours of bright, indirect light each day.
  • Prune – If you want your plant to look a bit fuller, you can encourage this by pruning. Pince off stems tips to promote lateral growth.

Soft Stems

  • 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

Essential House Plant Tools

You don’t need any special tools to care for goldfish plants, but the following will help you out.

  • 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 a higher amount of phosphorus than nitrogen and potassium will help encourage flowering.

Wrapping Up

With glorious trailing leaves and bright leaping flowers, the goldfish plant is a stunning addition to any home. Provide lots of light, keep the temperature warm, and use a well-draining soil mix to keep your plant happy.


Goldfish Plant Care FAQ:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

With proper care, goldfish plants can easily live for over ten years.

Author

I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe.

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