22 November 2014

TINZ: Episcia Piss On Ya

Envy, pure and simple, is what made me get this infernal plant. Knitty Kitty has a pot full of lush, shiny, bushy episcia--the same kind that our mother used to have. After acquiring and killing one cultivar after another, it finally became obvious that although they sort of looked like it, they are not coleus. It is an insult to all coleus plants the world over to be compared with this termagant. After a year and a half trying to cultivate episcias in a pot, it is clear now that the best way to keep them looking perfect is to leave them alone in the tropical jungle whence they came. 
I don't get it.

They are like gardenias. They like dry humidity. They like the sun but only in the shade. They want to be constantly moist and dry at the same time. If you tried combing the forums, the cultural information is so varied and conflicting for different cultivars as to be completely useless. Not only that, everybody else is having problems about having too many stolons and overgrowth. So, clearly you're the only idiot who can't keep the damn thing alive. Meh.

In the end, the only thing you can do is put the little shit in a pot, wait for it to be almost dead then dig it up, tweak the soil mix a little and shove it back in. The good ones will die shortly thereafter, the worst ones will just barely survive in this new soil for months before melting its way into the next "rescue".

The three cultivars below are so far the longest-surviving episcias in this sorry-ass experiment, repotted three times, moved in and out of the terrarium, tried various shades of bright shade and finally, condemned to the TINZ right against the baseboard heaters. They are in self-watering pots intended for African violets, using potting soil made of 2 parts peat and what looks like styrofoam beads. It's been 7 months, they aren't dead yet. I would consider this, out of the bag, the most successful substrate so far, combined with the self-watering feature of the pot which takes me out of the equation.

This is a sob story so, there are no tips and how-to's in this post.This is one of the many plants that I have not figured out.
"My Precious". This one spent about 4 months in a terrarium-like setup but did not appear to like it so it's out on parole in a room with about 50 percent humidity, near the baseboard heater with day-time temperatures averaging at 26C.Underneath My Precious is the remnant of La Soledad Bronze.
And here she is, crying out for help--La Soledad Bronze lol
"Kee Wee". Those are really cool-looking leaves when they are not curling up at the edges, melting or otherwise turning randomly brown. There is a metallic sheen to the leaves and a velvety texture when they are healthy. Out of about six failing pots, you get to see healthy leaves once or twice a year, depending on the relative positions of the Shapley Concentration and the Great Attractor.
"Chocolate Cream", in the same pot, to the left. Almost identical to Kee Wee except for the lack of dark pink.
What it really looks like
Three months after this post. So, okay, it can't survive humidity below 30 percent. Meh.
Survivor in a bell jar.
UPDATE: fast-forward three years later.

Episcias, for the kind of indoor grower who refuse to babysit such annoying temperamental little shits, are best reared inside a fish tank--occasionally watered, sometimes aired out and mostly ignored with a couple of LED strips to keep them lit. Just shove the whole thing in one corner where you don't have to look at it.

In fact, I was so encouraged by such low-maintenance success that I thinned this out to create space for other kinds of episcias---mainly the ones I killed in the first attempts. To be furthered!!

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