April 19, 2011

Growing pink-leaved Episcias in Terrariums

One of our members, Johanna Zinn, brought in a beautifully grown pink-leaved Episcia to our meeting.  The photograph doesn't do it justice - you can't even see how big the container is!

I asked her how she grows it, and it turns out that she grew it like some begonias:

Since I don’t know much about growing gesneriads in terrariums, I grow the pink-leaved Episcia the way I grow begonias in terrariums.  I start by putting a ring of lightly moistened chopped long-fibered sphagnum moss around the perimeter of the base of the terrarium.  The ring hides/holds in a layer of perlite and one of horticultural charcoal; each layer is about ¼ inch thick.  The perlite provides drainage, and the charcoal may help absorb excess salts as well as provide an additional layer of drainage.  I use lightly moistened sphagnum moss cut into ½ to 1 inch pieces as the planting medium.  The terrarium is always covered.

I started growing the Episcia on a light stand shelf, but the leaves became a bit pale and the terrarium took up a large amount of space on the shelf, so I moved it to a free-standing plant stand located between two light stands.  I have to turn it frequently to keep the growth from stretching toward the light, but the color of the leaves has improved. To encourage symmetrical growth, I moved the stolons so that they were approximately the same distance apart, and pinned them to the moss with hair pins. The hair pins weren’t heavy enough, but pins used to attach plants to tree fern bark work well.

When the moss feels dry, the leaves are looking slightly less turgid than they should, or there is little or no moisture on the sides or lid of the terrarium, I add an ounce or two or warm water to the terrarium. If the moss/leaves/terrarium sides still look like they need moisture the next day, I add another ounce or two of warm water. I rarely fertilize since I don’t want the plant to outgrow the container.  When I do fertilize, I use a liquid fertilizer at ¼ strength dissolved in warm water, and apply lightly a day after watering.  The textured leaves can trap small amounts of water and could decay if they remain wet, so water should be applied to the moss, not the leaves when watering or fertilizing. The moss, perlite, and charcoal should be replaced every 9 to 12 months.

Here are a couple of begonias that are grown similarly.

Begonia iridescens:

Begonia sp. U476