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How to Grow Calceolaria

Calceolaria
Calceolaria x herbeohybrida

Calceolaria bears vividly colored and unusual pouched flowers that are reminiscent of old-fashioned pocketbooks—thus the common name pocketbook plant.

Calceolaria is native to Central and South America and so is commonly grown indoors as a houseplant except in warm-winter Zones 10 and 11 and warmer. The genus includes about 500 species of annuals and perennials that vary in hardiness.

Some Calceolaria is low growing and well suited for rock gardens. Others are taller and can be grown in summer beds and borders when they add bright colors and unusual bloom shapes.

Calceolaria integrifolia
Calceolaria integrifolia

Get to Know Calceolaria

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing zones and range: Grow Calceolaria outdoors as an annual in all zones. Perennials can be grown outdoors in Zones 10 and 11.
  • Hardiness: Protect Calceolaria from chilly temperatures.
  • Height and width:  3 to 36 inches (7.6-91cm) tall 8 to 20 (20-50cm) or more wide depending on the variety.
  • Foliage: Dark green crinkly leaves
  • Flowers: Loose clusters of small pouchlike or slipperlike flowers, usually yellow but sometimes red-bronze or spotted with red or orange-brown.
  • Bloom time: Spring and summer
  • Uses: Houseplant, edging plant, or massed as specimens in beds and borders.
  • Common name: Calceolaria, pocketbook plant, slipperwort
  • Botanical name: Calceolaria
  • Family name: Calceolariaceae
  • Origin: Mexico to Chile
Calceolaria Herbeohybrida Group hybrids
Calceolaria Herbeohybrida Group hybrids

Where to Plant Calceolaria

  • Calceolaria likes bright light but does not like the hot sun.
  • Sow the seed of hardy evergreen perennials in gritty, humus-rich soil; do not let the soil dry out.
  • Plant Calceolaria in a sheltered location away from the wind.
  • Grow members of the C. Herbeohybrida Group indoors or in a heated greenhouse.

When to Plant Calceolaria

  • Sow seed of hardy evergreen perennials in a cold frame in autumn or early spring.
  • Sow seed of C. Herbeohybrida Group in gentle heat in spring or late summer.
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings of C. integrifolia in late spring or summer.

Planting and Spacing Calceolaria

  • Space Calceolaria 10 to 24 inches (25-61cm) apart depending on the variety.
Calceolaria integrifolia
Calceolaria integrifolia

How to Water and Feed Calceolaria

  • Keep the soil evenly moist, never allowing the soil to dry out completely.
  • Plants grown indoors should be misted twice daily, but not directly on the flowers.
  • Fertilize Calceolaria weekly when not in bloom with a mild liquid fertilizer.

Calceolaria Care

  • Protect plants growing outdoors from wind and direct hot sun.

Calceolaria Pests and Diseases

  • Aphids and slugs can be a problem.
  • Gray mold infects old flowers and leaves, especially of the hardy evergreen perennials.
Pocketbook plant, Calceolaria in a pot
Pocketbook plant, Calceolaria in a pot

Calceolaria Propagation

  • Sow the seed of hardy evergreen perennials in gritty, humus-rich soil; do not let the soil dry out.
  • Sow seed of hardy evergreen perennials in a cold frame in autumn or early spring.
  • Sow seed of C. Herbeohybrida Group in gentle heat in spring or late summer.
  • Take semi-ripe cuttings of C. integrifolia in late spring or summer.

Calceolaria Varieties to Grow

  • Calceolaria Herbeohybrida Group: Annuals and houseplants; these are florists’ calceolaria; masses of velvety, inch-long yellow or red flowers, often spotted and marbled’ grows to 30 inches (76cm) tall, but some strains are only half as high.
  • C. integrifolia: Woody-based plant grows to 36 inches (91cm) tall; clusters of yellow to red=brown, unspotted flowers; cultivars include ‘Golden Nugget’ with pure yellow flowers and ‘Kentish Hero’ with orange-red to brown flowers.

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