Columnea - Goldfish Plants

Columnea arguta. Copyright: Latin Wife


  1. Top Tips
  2. Location, Water, Humidity & Fertilisation
  3. Dormancy Period & Annual Flowers
  4. Common Issues
  5. Origins, Temperature, Propagation, Repotting & Toxicity.

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Top Tips & Info

  • Care Difficulty - Moderate to Hard
  • Goldfish Plants like bright, indirect light away from excessively dark situations. Although an hour of direct sunlight in the early morning is brilliant during the autumn and winter, be sure not to fall in the trap of sun-scorch and dehydration in the summer months.
  • Provide near-constant moist soil, allowing the soil's top third to dry out in between waters. Reduce irrigations slightly further in the height of winter, always avoid periods of droughts if possible.
  • Supplement at monthly intervals all year round, using a houseplant-labelled fertiliser to ensure quality foliage and flower development. 
  • Repot every three years during the spring, using a 'Houseplant' or 'Gesneriad' labelled potting mix.
  • Keep an eye out for Mealybugs & Aphids that'll hide in the plant's cubbyholes and underneath the leaves - Goldfish Plants are usually considered pest-free though. 
  • If you're interested in stimulating a summer show of blooms, scroll down to 'Dormancy Care & Annual Flowers' for more information. 

Location & Light - 🔸🔸🔸

These plants are best kept in locations that offer bright, indirect light away from the harshness of the summer heat. Those kept in too strong light will show signs of dehydration, sun-scorch and a loss of buds or flowers. We'd recommend hanging yours under a sky-light window, a north or east-facing window or on a shelf within two metres of a light source.

From late autumn onwards, be sure to relocate your specimen in a more bright setting, with the possibility of morning sunlight. During this period, the strength of the rays is considerably weaker than in the summer, so an hour or two of the sunlight will benefit the specimen greatly. Always keep an eye out for excessively drying soil. 

Water - 🔸🔸

Goldfish Plants aren't a fan of having dry feet for too long. Once the top third of the soil has dried out, rehydrate the soil using lukewarm tap water that has sat for around 24hrs. This period will not only bunk-up its overall temperature, but it'll also settle any high levels of fluoride that can build up in the soil's profile. Whilst in bloom, it's essential not to promote irregular watering habits, where the plant is subject to over-watering and then sudden dehydration that may result in shorter-lasting flowers. Under-watering symptoms include rapid flower loss and dry, sunken leaves; these issues are usually due to either forgetfulness, too much sunlight or too much heat. Over-watering symptoms include rotting lower leaves, yellowing leaves, a loss of buds or flowers, and root rot. Allow the majority of the soil to dry out in between waters, preventing a pool of standing water from accumulating beneath the pot.

Humidity - 🔸🔸

Average room humidity is acceptable for a Goldfish Plant, as too high humidity and poor air circulation will result in powdery mildew. Do not mist the flowers as this will cause botrytis petal blight that can spread quickly if not dealt with accordingly. Never situate this plant within three metres of an operating radiator as it will cook both the plant and the surrounding air moisture. 

Fertilisation - 🔸🔸

Feed fortnightly in the growing period and monthly for the rest of the year, using a houseplant-labelled fertiliser or Gesneriad-labelled product. Never over-fertilise the plant as a build-up of salts and chemicals can burn the roots, causing stunted growth and yellow leaves over time.

While the specimen is budding or in bloom, switch to a product high in potassium to prolong the flowers' duration. Good examples of this are a Dibley's 'Streptocarpus Food' or a tomato-labelled feed. Revert to the original fertiliser once the final inflorescence elapses.

Dormancy Care & Annual Flowers

Trying to re-bloom a Goldfish Plant is relatively easy, with those who have a cool room without artificial light at night being on the upper-hand. Repotting isn't usually mandatory if you want it to re-bloom - in fact, this may hurt the chances. Only repot every two to three years and after the flowers have elapsed. To get it to bloom during the summer months, think back to its previous dormancy period served in the autumn and winter. The ukhouseplants' acronym, SHORT, will help you through this process.

The following steps should be done in the autumn and winter when Goldfish Plants enter their dormancy.

Sunlight & Location

Be sure to provide a bright location with little to no direct sunlight. Although the winter rays won't necessarily hurt the plant, you can easily fall in the trap of sun-scorch and severe dehydration.

For the specimen to fully become seasoned, avoid the use of artificial lighting or locations that boast temperatures higher than 18℃  (64℉).


Reduce waters so that about half of the soil becomes dry. It's essential to keep them on the drier side to life, as they'll think that hard times are ahead and therefore will need to pass its genes on to the next generation.

Occasional Feeds

While in bloom, use a Tomato fertiliser to provide fortnightly nourishment of potassium. During its dormancy, supplement using a houseplant or Gesneriad-labelled fertiliser at monthly intervals to promote better health over the darker days and cooler nights. 

Reduce Everything

This one is to remind you that everything needs to be reduced - especially the temperature.


This is the most significant step; reduce the temperature down by around 5℃ compared to the summertime or place in a room that's around 15℃  (59℉). The drop in temperature should ideally last until the inflorescence finishes blooming, although it can still be transferred into the main house as long as it sits on a pebble tray. You'll be at a significant disadvantage if the ambient temperature is kept constant throughout the year, as Goldfish Plants will only respond with flowers in cooled environments. Never exceed the minimum temperature as it could lead to plant death or yellowed foliage at a bare minimum.

Common Issues with Goldfish Plants

Under-watering is a big issue when it comes to these plants. Typical signs of this include wilting, sunken leaves, rapid flower or bud drop and stunted growth. Those situated in direct sunlight or within four metres of a radiator are more likely to suffer from under-watering related issues. If yours doesn't hang on a hook, introduce a pebble tray to maintain higher humidity and slow the rates of drying soil. You can even create a watering rota to help reduce the risk of under-watering and forgetfulness. 

Too much sunlight will lead to sun scorch, with typical signs including browning or crispy leaves, dry leaf-edges, sunken leaves or stunted growth. Although too little light will cause over-watering issues, too much sunlight will also be a detriment. Unfortunately, indoor Goldfish Plants cannot tolerate more than two hours of direct sunlight a day, unlike their outdoor counterparts. If yours has fallen short of this, reduce the amount of direct light considerably and always be mindful of environmental shock (when two locations offer too different growing conditions). Remove some of the affected leaves and increase waters slightly.

As mentioned before, powdery mildew and botrytis are minor threats among heavy foliage plants due to the compact nature that aids the spread of the diseases. Watering above the foliage will allow excess moisture to sit in the cubbyholes of the stem, enticing harmful bacteria to thrive. Remove the affected areas and improve the growing conditions by situating the plant in a brighter location. Avoid watering through the foliage if these problems persist. 

A lack of leaves on the soil’s top could be the product of excess moisture settling on the foliage. Although watering from the top is best, it's recommended to use the bottom-up method if you're a messy waterer. For specimens that have a bare head, improve growing conditions by using this method and increasing the light levels and air circulation. Take vine cuttings to promote a bushier appearance above the soil line - scroll down to 'Propagation for more information. Finally, always remove yellowed or rotten debris from the soil as it could harbour both bacterial and fungal diseases which will continue the plant's decline.

Never situate a Goldfish Plant in more than two hours of direct sunlight or within four metres of an operating heat source, for instance, a radiator or fireplace. Due to the high temperature, the plant will soak up far more moisture than those situated in cooler locations, increasing the chance of droughts and inevitable death. This species cannot cope with persistent dry soil; you're skating on thin ice if a Goldfish Plant starts to wilt. 

Sudden flower loss can be caused by an array of different issues, including a change in location, too little hydration, too hot or cold temperatures or droughts and pests. Whilst the plant is in bloom, keep the soil evenly moist, to hydrate the thirsty work of producing flowers. Locations that are outside of the recommended temperature bracket, or have drastic fluctuations must also be kept off the cards, as Goldfish Plants can be susceptible to the ambient warmth that they're situated in. The final issue could be to do with pests. Although it's improbable that an infestation will cause a sudden change in health, have a quick inspection for WhiteflyAphids and Mealybugs.



Columnea was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753, honouring Italian botanist, Fabio Colonna. There are over two hundred species across its genus, ranging from Mexico to Tropical Asia. The most popular indoor species, C. arguta, was first penned by Conrad Vernon Morton in the early 1940s, who used the Latin word for tooth-shaped, argutifolius, to denote its leaves. A second species, Columnea × banksii, is beginning to become popular in Europe, which has purple foliage and yellow flowers. It was named in honour of Joseph Banks, who was a British explorer and naturalist in the 18th century. 

The Distribution of Columnea in Green & C. arguta in Blue


10° - 25°C   (50° - 78°F)
H1c (Hardiness Zone 11) - Can be grown outdoors between late spring and summer throughout most of the UK while nighttime temperatures are above 10℃  (50℉).  If you decide to bring the plant outdoors, don't allow it to endure more than an hour of direct sunlight a day as it may result in sun-scorch. Regularly keep an eye out for pests, especially when re-introducing back indoors.


Up to 0.6m in vine length and 0.4m in width. The ultimate height will take between 5 - 8 years to achieve.

Pruning & Maintenance

Remove yellow or dying leaves, and plant debris to encourage better-growing conditions. While pruning, always use clean utensils or shears to reduce the chance of bacterial and fungal diseases. Never cut through yellowed tissue as this may cause further damage in the likes of diseases or bacterial infections. Pruning is recommended in the early spring to promote a more bushy appearance and the stimulation of potential flowers for the summer months. 


Via Seed or Vine Cuttings.

Vine Cuttings

  1. 'Stem & Eye' cuttings are the segregation of a vine into several sections, with each having just one node that houses the leaf (& eventually the roots) along with a piece of the stem. 
  2. Once the cuttings are removed, you'll need some rooting powder. Although they'll still develop roots without the need of this hormone, success rates will be far lower.
  3. Use a five-inch pot that has good drainage holes - plastic or terracotta are both acceptable in this instance. Never over-pot the cuttings - blackleg occurs when the bottom wound becomes infected, typically caused by water-logging or a too-damaged wound.
  4. Set the cutting into the compost ('Houseplant'-labelled soil is best), keeping the foliage above the soil line and the node slightly below it.
  5. Place in a bright, indirect location and offer good humidity by wrapping the pot into a transparent plastic bag for the first couple of weeks. Mist the cuttings, so that the soil around it becomes slightly moist. Keep the bag open for a few hours until most of the water droplets evaporate. This bag-trick is mandatory to slow the rate of transpiration (water loss via the leaves) - as soon as a stem is removed from its primary water source, it'll immediately begin to loose stored moisture and nutrients.
  6. Remove any rotten debris as this will cause an outbreak of bacteria.
  7. After around eight weeks, the cuttings should have rooted. Separate them into their own small pot and treat them like a normal houseplant. The use of the transparent bag is no longer needed but will help reduce the rate of transpiration.


Goldfish Plants will put out flowers during the summer that can last several weeks. The shape of the flowers mostly resembles an orange goldfish, which is thanks to the developing buds. Supplement using a potassium-based feed during the start of spring to encourage the chance of flowers; Streptocarpus-labelled feed is an excellent choice as it holds an ideal blend of both nitrogen (foliar growth) and potassium for flower development. If you have a Columnea × banksii or Columnea gloriosa, you'll receive orange-yellow flowers during the summer months that'll last several weeks once opened. 


Repot every three years in spring using a 'Houseplant' labelled potting mix and the next sized pot with adequate drainage. Goldfish Plants are far better potbound for several years due to the heightened risk of root rot and repotting-issues (like transplant shock), so only repot if you feel it's wholly necessary - restricted root growth will also increase the chance of blooms, too.

Hydrate the plant 24hrs before the tinkering with the roots to prevent the risk of transplant shock. For those situated in a darker location, introduce an extra amount of perlite and grit into the deeper portion of the pot to downplay over-watering risks. Click on this link for a detailed step-by-step guide on transplantation, or via this link to learn about repotting with root rot.

Pests & Diseases

Keep an eye out for whitefly, spider mites, thrips, aphids & mealybugs. Common diseases with Goldfish Plants are root or crown rot, powdery mildew, leaf-spot disease, botrytis petal blight and powdery mildew. For more info on how to address any of these issues, hit this link - Identifying Common Houseplant Viruses & Diseases.


Not known to be poisonous when consumed by pets and humans. If large quantities are eaten, it may result in vomiting, nausea and a loss of appetite.

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