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There are such flowering plants that not everyone can grow, and not at all because they are very difficult to sow or need some special, super-difficult care. It's just that when growing them, you need, first of all, patience and again patience. But if it turns out to bring the cultivation process to a victorious bloom, then a person can "get sick" with these flowers for a very long time. This is how they become fans and collectors of many unique and exotic plants. Among such representatives of the plant kingdom, one can mention saintpaulia, gloxinia, fuchsia and many other charming flowers.
Of course, one of the clearest examples of such plants is calceolaria. Many consider it not just an annual, but even a disposable flower that should be thrown away after flowering, since you will not get anything more from it. But it is not so. Indeed, in order to preserve calceolaria after flowering, and even more so to get it to bloom again, you need to apply a lot of effort and patience. And this is not possible in all conditions. And growing calceolaria from seeds at home is also not the easiest thing to do, which will require patience and thoroughness from you. Nevertheless, having studied all the features and requirements of this non-standard flower, someone, perhaps, will be able to provide calceolaria with exactly those conditions in which it will be comfortable and well, without unnecessary stress.
Description of the plant
The genus Calceolaria belongs to the Norich family and several hundred different species are known in it. However, at home and on plots, only crenate-flowered calceolaria and numerous hybrid forms are usually grown. The homeland of plants are the countries of South and Central America - Argentina, Chile, Ecuador. Most of the varieties are native to Ecuador.
The name of the genus can be translated from Latin as "little shoe". Indeed, the original shape of the flower evokes some associations with this shoe. Calceolaria plants can be of different heights - from 10 to 50 cm. Sessile leaves, located on an erect stem quite often, form something like a rosette. Leaves can be of various shapes, but they are necessarily covered with pubescence on both sides. The flowers seem to consist of two lips, and the upper one is so undeveloped that it is almost invisible, but the lower one resembles a slightly flattened balloon. The colors are very bright and varied. Yellow, orange, cream and various shades of red predominate, but lilac, pink and blue can be found. The color of calceolaria can be uniform, but more often of different shades with original patterns, as in the photo (tiger, marble, with specks of different sizes against a background of contrasting color).
Attention! The duration of flowering is highly dependent on the conditions of detention and can last from 6-8 weeks to 5-7 months.
Seeds remain viable for a very short time, from one to two years. Therefore, the best way to grow calceolaria is by sowing your own freshly harvested seeds. The seeds are not just small, but the smallest - 1 gram contains about 60,000 seeds. Therefore, many seed manufacturing firms sell them in special granules for sowing convenience.
Growing by seeds
Perhaps the cultivation of calceolaria from seeds is akin to some kind of art, since the result is often very unpredictable. The sprouts can die during development, they can develop at very different times, and if they bloom, then the sizes, shapes and colors of flowers can be very different from what you expect. But in any case, this process is capable of bewitching. Moreover, from the moment the shoots of calceolaria appear to the flowering of the first buds, it can take from 4 to 8 months and you need to be ready for this. Species bloom about six months after sowing, but hybrid calceolaria are so inconsistent that it is very difficult to predict the time of flowering. In addition, it strongly depends on the conditions of detention, and on the actions of the amateur grower himself. But now about everything in order.
It is unlikely that anyone would think of sowing calceolaria seeds in open ground. First of all, because of the microscopic nature of their size, and also because this plant is somehow not accepted in our country to grow in flower beds. Usually it is grown to decorate rooms, balconies, or planted in summer pots or special outdoor flowerpots, but already in bloom.
Calceolaria is grown exclusively through seedlings also because, as mentioned above, it has an exceptionally long growing season. Therefore, you will have to be patient, otherwise you can simply not wait for the flowering of calceolaria grown from seeds.
- For sowing calceolaria seeds, it is necessary to prepare a very light and air-permeable soil with a neutral or slightly acidic reaction. Peat tablets are ideal for sowing seeds.
- It is advisable to add fine vermiculite to ordinary seedling soil in a ratio of eight to one. Before sowing, the surface of the soil must be moistened and preferably sprinkled with fine calcined sand.
- Planting containers can be very small and shallow, as the seedlings of calceolaria can hardly be seen through a magnifying glass.
- Try to spray the seeds evenly over the soil / sand surface, never dusting or shading them.
- If you are sowing seeds in granules, it is best to moisten them abundantly with a syringe after sowing. Otherwise, the shell may be so strong that the sprouts will not be able to break through it and the seeds will not sprout. Calceolaria seeds need light to germinate!
- From above, the container with crops must be covered with a transparent lid or polyethylene. In such an impromptu greenhouse, seeds and seedlings will have to live for a long time, so it is better to make it convenient for you to observe the seedlings and regularly ventilate them.
- After sowing, the container with calceolaria is placed in a bright, not necessarily warm place. It germinates well at + 18 ° + 20 ° С, and even if the temperature drops to + 12 ° + 14 ° С.
- On average, seeds germinate quite quickly, sprouts from freshly harvested seeds appear as early as 4-5 days, it makes sense to wait for shoots up to two weeks. If after two weeks they did not appear, then it is useless to wait further - most likely, the seeds were expired. This often happens with seeds bought in stores.
Seed sowing dates
When is the best time to sow calceolaria seeds? There is perhaps no definite answer to this question. If you want to try planting calceolaria in the garden to decorate the site, then it would be best to sow seeds for seedlings in one of the winter months, no later than March. True, remember that calceolaria really does not like direct sun and heat, so if you can provide it with shade and comparative coolness during the summer, then it makes sense.
In general, it is customary to sow calceolaria in the middle of summer for flowering in spring and in March-April for autumn flowering. It is during these periods that a lack of flowers is usually felt, so the flowering of calceolaria will be very useful.
But, you can sow it almost at any time of the year, depending on when you want to have flowering plants. It is best to target a period of 6 months, which usually goes from sowing seeds to flowering. But plants can bloom for several weeks, or even months earlier or later than the intended date. Such are the calceolaria - and it is difficult to do anything about it.
Crop care before flowering
When seedlings appear, one can only rejoice - there is no need to take any additional actions. In no case should you remove polyethylene or the lid from the container with seeds, but it is imperative to ventilate the "greenhouse" once or twice a day, removing condensation from the lid.
Advice! If you do not have time to often visit calceolaria seedlings, you can make several holes in the lid with a needle for ventilation.
Watering must be done with extreme caution, preferably from a pipette or syringe along the edges of the container so that water does not get on the sprouts. The first time you can water not earlier than a week after sowing and in the future you can be very careful with this procedure. Since sprouts of calceolaria can die from both waterlogging and drying. Moreover, the leaves of even adult plants from the bay or dryness are no longer restored.
But perhaps the most important thing is the observance of the correct temperature regime. Calceolaria feels best at a temperature of + 14 ° + 17 ° C. If the ambient temperature does not exceed + 18 ° C and you will not remove the polyethylene shelter, then you can water it no more than once a week and very moderately.
Additional lighting from February to October, even on the northern windowsill, is most likely not required. But from November to January, highlighting can improve the condition and development of calceolaria.
Calceolaria love high air humidity, but at the same time they should not be sprayed. Since pubescent leaves can quickly rot. Therefore, keeping young plants under the film as long as possible, right up to picking, is more than justified - this allows you to worry less about their correct development.
Important! If there is not enough light for the seedlings, and they nevertheless began to stretch out and fall to the sides, then it is recommended to carefully add the earth to the level of the cotyledon leaves.
About a month after germination, after the appearance of two true leaves, the sprouts must be cut open. They are still very tiny at this age, so you can use tweezers. But despite its delicate appearance, calceolaria tolerates picking well. When picking, you need to deepen the sprouts of calceolaria at the very first leaves. Any transplant helps plants develop much faster. Already 5-8 days after the pick, calceolaria noticeably grows.
Advice! Therefore, if it seems to you that calceolaria has completely stopped growing, try planting it.
Just keep in mind that the pots for picking should be very small. For the first time, 100 ml cups are suitable. Do not forget to put a large layer of drainage at the bottom - expanded clay, polystyrene. The soil can be used the same as for planting seeds.
If you try to plant calceolaria immediately in large containers, then, most likely, it will not be able to master a large volume of soil at once and will quickly die. But after a month and a half, calceolaria will again need to be transplanted into fresh soil, already in a 200 ml container.
No additional fertilizing is required for the first two to three months of calceolaria growth.
In general, the first two months of growth are the most difficult for calceolaria. During this period, it seems that it does not grow or develop at all. But if you survive this time, then after the second transplant calceolaria will develop well and delight you with its appearance. In favorable conditions, buds may appear on the plants already at the end of the third month. They form at the top of only the most central sprout, and at first there may be few of them, but over time, a whole bunch of several dozen flowers can form on the calceolaria.
It can take several weeks from the appearance of the first buds to full bloom. If more than three months have passed since germination, and calceolaria is in no hurry to bloom, then you can try to transplant it into a slightly larger container with fresh soil. Each transplant has a beneficial effect on the development of calceolaria and can stimulate the formation of buds. From the moment the buds appear, it is advisable to feed calceolaria once a week with a half dose of fertilizers.
Calceolaria can bloom vigorously and lastingly for up to 6-8 months in conditions of light shading, high humidity and coolness. Under other conditions, you are unlikely to be able to enjoy its flowering for more than one month.
Even before the formation of buds, small additional sprouts can form between the leaves of calceolaria - stepchildren. It is recommended to remove them, because after this procedure, the buds become larger, and the flowers increase in size.
After flowering, the leaves of calceolaria often dry out and shrivel, but, as a rule, fresh sprouts and rosettes appear in the leaf axils. Immediately after flowering, calceolaria should be cut off and placed in a dark and cool place for several months, up to + 5 ° C. Regularly inspect the plants and when new young shoots appear, place the calceolaria pots in a brighter place. Resume the previous care, and calceolaria will bloom again, although the flowering will not be as abundant and long as the first time.
Calceolaria can be propagated quite easily by cuttings. To do this, carefully separate the young shoots or cut off the very top of the central shoot and plant in a mixture of sand and peat. It is better to cover the cuttings from above with a glass jar for better rooting.
Of course, it might seem like growing calceolaria isn't worth the effort. But if you are able to provide it with suitable conditions for partial shade and coolness, then you will definitely succeed, and during its flowering you will not even remember the difficulties that you had to go through at the beginning of the path.