Welcome to the Episcia Tour of the Gesneriad Reference Web! The purpose of the tour is to let you conveniently review a set of the images of Episcia on the GRW. Annotation and commentary is kept to a minimum — elsewhere on the site are a series of articles on various topics, which are replete with information, and where the images serve as illustrations to the text. Here, however, the images themselves are the purpose of the page.
Episcias are an interesting group of gesneriads, usually grown for their colorful and variegated foliage as much as for their flowers. While general culture is similar for most members of the genus, there is a wide diversity in the appearance of the cultivars, as can be seen in this photo of an Episcia collection .
Until fairly recently most of the commonly grown Episcias were green or brownish, with contrasting markings, occasionally with silvery or reddish veining. Small, bright, reddish orange flowers gave rise to the “common name” of Flame Violet, an apparent reference to fact that Episcias are a distant relative of the African Violet (Saintpaulia cultivars). The following photos of hybrids for which I do not have names illustrate this side of the genus.
Episcia hybrid group
However, another group of Episcias have been very popular for their unusual pink, white and green foliage. Most notable of these is Episcia ‘Cleopatra’, which has been an afficionado’s delight for many years. These cultivars are more difficult to grow than those of “standard” color, presumably because of the reduced vigor that follows from reduced chlorophyll in the leaves — outside of a greenhouse, most are best grown in a protected environment, such as an enclosed bubble bowl. A number of recent hybrids have expanded this group, with variations in leaf and flower color. Please note that culture factors can influence the appearance of a plant quite considerably.
A quite different cultivar, Episcia ‘Tropical Topaz’, has plain bright green leaves, and yellow flowers. It is not easy to grow well, but this photo shows how attractive the cultivar can be when well-grown.
Pink flowers are becoming more frequently seen, and not only in the pink/green/white variegated cultivars, like E. ‘Pink Dreams’ or E. ‘Ember Lace’. Two very similar cultivars, E. ‘Teddy Bear’ and E. ‘Pink Panther’, show their very large pink flowers against dark green and silver foliage. A close-up of the flower of ‘Pink Panther’ shows how similar it is to the flower of ‘Ember Lace’.
For anyone growing Episcias for show, it is always difficult to decide whether to show them as foliage plants, without flowers, or to allow flowers to develop and show them in the flowering class. The decision is easier in some cases than in others — E. ‘Cleopatra’ produces orange/red flowers, which positively clash with the pink foliage, while E. ‘Pink Dreams’, otherwise identical to ‘Cleopatra’, has pink flowers which match the foliage well.
In many cases, either decision will be valid. E. ‘Silver Skies’ can be grown as a very fine and compact foliage plant, or as a spectacular flowering plant. In the latter photo, the plant has been trained up a trellis, the better to display its small leaves and large brilliant flowers.
The texture of the foliage can give quite a distinctive quality to a plant. I am particularly fond of E. ‘Sea Foam’, which combines green, gray and dark pink with a puckered texture, overall quite reminiscent of . . . sea foam. The relatively flat, silvery green leaves of E. ‘Temiskaming’ have quite a different effect, but are also very beautiful. One of the characteristics that gives E. ‘Moonlight Valley’ its charm is the moderately puckered and bubbly texture of the mature leaves.
A number of cultivars have reddish foliage, often combined with contrasting markings. In addition to ‘Sea Foam’, these include the following plants on this site:
Shades of green remain popular, though. E. ‘Temiskaming’, with its silvery green self-colored leaves is a fine cultivar, as is the somewhat similar E. ‘Sea Cliff’. One of my personal favorites is the old but still spectacular E. ‘Moss Agate’, with a fine silver tracery highlighting the bright green foliage and large bright red flowers. On the other hand, E. ‘Bronze Queen’ shows how just a touch of warmth added to the green can have a most desirable effect.
Episcias are closely related to other gesneriad genera from Central and South America, and it is sometimes not immediately apparent to which genus a plant should be assigned. Alsobia cultivars such as the species A.dianthiflora and the hybrid A. ‘Cygnet’ were formerly included in Episcia, even though they appear to be quite different. Nautilocalyx species such as N. cordatus and N. pictus ‘Lightning’, on the other hand, show a foliage pattern very similar to that of some Episcia species. In fact, N. cordatus was formerly classified with the Episcias, as E. hirsuta.
Episcia is a fine genus for the indoor gardener, and its cultural requirements can be readily met in most indoor locations. The plants generally require fairly high humidity and warm temperatures, conditions that are good for people, too.
View the Episcia genus page.