From certain angles and with a little imagination, the bright flowers of Nematanthus gregarius plants appear like goldfishes leaping over green foliage.
Even without that visual ‘trick,’ they are some of the most gorgeous houseplants for hanging baskets with their bright red, yellow, or orange flowers nestling in a sea of waxy, bright green leaves
Not in vogue as they once were, many folks are still enthusiastic about using the adorable flowers to brighten their indoor space, especially in winter.
Because they are easy to grow and maintain, they are perfect for newbies looking for cool, unique plants to begin their houseplant parenting journey.
So if your search for a comprehensive Nematanthus gregarious plant care guide brought you here, awesome!
Because you’d find all the info you need about growing and nurturing it and much more right here.
Nematanthus Gregarius: Plant Care Guide
The Nematanthus gregarius, commonly called the goldfish plant, belongs to the Gesneriaceae plant family native to the tropical forests of South America.
They are mostly grown indoors but can survive outdoors all year in hardiness zones 10 – 12.
It’s an awesome starter project for gardeners to cut their indoor gardening teeth. The plants are drought-resistant, easy to grow, care for, and maintain.
In their native environment, they are epiphytes commonly found growing on trees.
That means, despite their rainforest origins, they dislike soil moisture; instead, harvesting the moisture-laden air for nourishment through the leaves.
One of the most delightful aspects of growing the Nematanthus gregarius goldfish plant is that they are practically problem-free.
Occasionally though, they might suffer the odd pest infestations. These are quite easy to control, fortunately.
Let’s begin this guide with a look at how to get the new plant settled in its new environment.
How to Acclimate Nematanthus Gregarius
When situating a new plant bought from the garden shop or nursery, the rule of thumb is to isolate it from other plants for a few weeks.
This is a precautionary step to prevent the spread of pests to other plants. Fact is, the plant can pick up something while in transit.
You should apply the same treatment to your new goldfish plant. This should last about two weeks.
While your Nematanthus gregarius is in ‘quarantine’, aid the acclimatization process by doing the following:
- Keep it in a very bright area but away from indirect light
- Examine the leaves closely for pests. If you see any, get rid of them. More on how to get rid of goldfish plant pests in a bit.
- Prune all dead looking leaves
- Prune flowers too if they are present so that the plant can focus on growing leaves and roots.
- Don’t rush to repot the plant as this would trigger ‘repotting stress’ which might be too much for the plant to handle.
Nematanthus Gregarius Growing Conditions
Getting the right soil or growing medium is key to growing goldfish plants. If you nail this, most potential problems can be avoided.
Generally, Nematanthus gregarius plants love loose, well-draining soil.
As epiphytes, they only need the soil as anchors, getting most of their nutrients and moisture from the air around them.
Since they typically grow on other plants in the wild, they would thrive in a potting mix comprising perlite, sphagnum moss, and vermiculite in a 1:1:1 ratio.
Essentially, the soil used should not retain water for long to prevent root rot.
Despite their origins in the tropics, goldfish plants don’t like exposure to direct sun.
They are happiest in a very bright environment or indirect sunlight.
Also, how long they are exposed to bright light is crucial for growth and blooming.
The recommendation is about 12 hours of bright light daily, give or take an hour.
Placing them under bright light indoors would be great, especially in winter.
Goldfish plants are very forgiving when it comes to humidity giving you a wide range to work with.
They can thrive in moderate and high humidity levels above 50%.
If the humidity is too low, misting the plant daily or even installing a humidifier should rectify the problem.
You could also use a ‘humidity tray’ to elevate humidity levels around the plant through evaporation.
The best way to monitor humidity levels indoors is to get a humidity monitor for home use.
There are different types of inexpensive, easy-to-use models you can purchase.
With one, you get a more accurate humidity profile at any point in time, especially in the cold, dry winter months.
Like humidity, the temperature demands of the goldfish plant lean heavily towards moderate despite their tropical origins.
You are looking at temperatures within the 60 – 75°F range which is the average room temperature in most areas.
How To Care For A Goldfish Plant
Goldfish plants perform poorly in soil moisture levels other common houseplants thrive in.
As epiphytes, they get most of their nourishment from the air. In the growing season, use tepid water to irrigate the soil until the excess drains out of the drainage hole.
Avoid using cold water because it can stress the plant.
Allow the soil’s top 2 inches to dry out in between watering sessions.
But don’t let the soil dry out completely even if the plants can survive drought-like conditions.
In winter, take the watering down a few notches.
You should let the soil become a bit drier before watering again.
Finally, during watering, do it slowly to avoid splashing water on the leaves.
These can lead to fungal problems.
The low-maintenance status of the Nematanthus gregarius also applies to food supplements.
Though fertilizer is needed to support growth, just a small dose would be enough.
The best time to apply fertilizer is in the spring and summer months: the peak of the growing season to promote blooming.
The recommended nutrient supplement for goldfish plants includes any weak fertilizer packed with vital micronutrients such as phosphorus.
A small dose every two weeks is recommended after watering the soil.
You could also consider a slow-release product that intermittently releases vital nutrients all year round.
Remember to read and stick to the instructions no matter the product you decide to work with.
That said, there are two routes you can choose to take when it comes to fertilizing your goldfish plant.
You could use a balanced 15-15-15 formulation to support all aspects of growth. Or, you could go with a 7-9-5 formulation if you want to promote the production of flowers in the growing season
Repotting Nematanthus Gregarius
Goldfish plants don’t usually have issues with being pot-bound.
Eventually, though, you’d have to report the plant when it outgrows the current pot every 2 – 3 years.
Typically, this is also when the blooming has reduced significantly.
In essence, what you are doing is refreshing the soil and creating more space for the plant to thrive.
While the indoor plants can be repotted at any time, the best time to repot is at the beginning of spring; giving the plant sufficient time in the growing season to recover.
It is also crucial to use a similar potting soil and a pot that is only a size larger than the current pot.
Also, consider using clay or ceramic pot because they are awesome when it comes to pulling out excess moisture from the soil to prevent root rot.
For the process proper, begin by carefully uprooting the plant from the pot.
You can choose this moment to propagate by gently dividing the plants into smaller clusters with each cluster bearing a root system.
Then plant each smaller plant in pots containing the proper growing medium.
Use similar-sized pots as the parent plant.
If you don’t want to divide and propagate the plant, simply plant it whole after uprooting it in a pot one size larger than the current plant.
How to Propagate Goldfish plant (Nematanthus Gregarius)
Goldfish plants are commonly propagated using stem cuttings.
This is an easier and more popular method that can be done every growing season, unlike the plant division method(described above) which is done only during repotting.
All you need are stem cuttings about 4 inches long with a couple of leaves at the top.
Chose only stem cuttings without flowers or flower buds when you decide to propagate.
Next, plant the stem cuttings in a well-draining potting mix that is slightly moist.
To promote faster rooting, you could dip the end of each stem cutting in rooting hormone before planting it.
Keep the pot(s) containing the cuttings in a similar environment as the parent plant. Locating it near the parent plant is okay too.
The stem cuttings would root in a few weeks.
The care and maintenance of the young plants are similar to the parent plant.
Pruning and deadheading Nematanthus Gregarius
Throughout the growing season, you’ll have a profusion of old blooms and overgrown foliage to deal with.
For the foliage, use a pair of sterilized scissors or shears to prune long stems.
This helps to maintain the plant’s appearance or if they are in hanging baskets, the desired stem length.
You also want to remove old, yellowing leaves that look spent due to old age.
Finally, deadhead your goldfish blooms when they begin to wilt to encourage the production of fresher blooms and to keep the plant healthy.
You don’t need any fancy tool to deadhead Nematanthus gregarius.
Simply pinch them off with your fingers.
Nematanthus Gregarius Common Problems
As earlier stated, these plants are low-maintenance so it is unlikely you’d have many problems to deal with.
Most problems that occur are care-related. But they can be susceptible to the odd pest infestation occasionally.
Here is a quick rundown of some of these issues.
Wilting plant and burnt leaves – The plant is exposed to too much direct sunlight. Move the plant to a shadier location
Leaves dropping – Very low temperatures and using too much fertilizer are the main culprits here. Quit using the fertilizer for a while.
if the problem is due to the cold, relocate the plant to a warmer place or away from open windows, doors, and ACs.
Brown leaves or discoloration – Exposure to direct sunlight or high temperatures are the leading causes.
Nematanthus gregarius pests – The common pests are typical houseplants pests like aphids, mealybugs, and thrips. They can destroy the plant if allowed to run wild.
You can eliminate the pests manually using your fingers to pick them out if the infestation is discovered early.
More stringent control measures would be needed to eliminate larger and entrenched pest colonies.
Spraying the plant with insecticidal soap solution or neem oil is the best method of eliminating larger pest colonies.
Keep in mind that to completely get rid of the pests, you may have to spray the plant multiple times about once weekly.
Nematanthus gregarius, commonly called goldfish plant, is a perennial houseplant that is perfect for newbie gardeners to hone their houseplant parenting skills.
The plants are efficient epiphytes using their roots as anchors while absorbing water and nourishment from the air through the leaves.
As this plant guide shows, the learning curve in terms of growing and caring for them is very gentle.
The problems associated with the plant are few and very rare.
Like growing the plant, these problems are not hard to resolve.