Sinningia leucotricha

Sinningia leucotricha


Brazilian Eidelweiss


A small growing plant that always draws comment here is a native of Brazil. Belonging to the GesneriaceaeSinningieae family it is closely related to the African Violet. Also closely related is the Gloxinia of houseplant fame.

The genus is named after a German University of Bonn head gardener Wilhelm Sinning who died in 1874. There are about 65 different species which occur from Mexico to South America.

Sinningia leucotricha develop a large swollen root which helps them survive long periods of drought. It seems they are found growing on rocky cliffs near a waterfall in the west Parana state of Brazil so they would have hot dry summer periods.

I find that only a few seed pods develop on my plant and these have very fine dust-like seed which germinate well if sown on top of potting mix but damp off easily. In the first year they develop tiny swollen tubers which go dormant over the late winter. In late spring new shoots arise and in older plants flowers form in the centre of these leaves. Interestingly the leaves continue to grow in size as does the stem but the flowers are nearly full size being tubular and a salmon-red colour. In Brazil hummingbirds probably do the pollination as bees would find it difficult to get to the nectar.

The leaves are the great talking point of this plant as they are covered with long, silky, white hairs which protect the leaves from drying out in drought times. The leaves persist until about June when they start collapsing and fall off.

The plant lives for a long time as by my estimation my plant was planted from seed about 1956. It has been in the same container since approximately 1990 and flowers wonderfully each year. In book information it says that the plant should be kept dry over the winter months but mine sits outside all year and doesn’t seem to come to any harm. Good drainage is necessary though.