The successful cultivation of a Columnea is undoubtedly one of the masterpieces of the ambitious hobby gardener. The demands of a column go well beyond the normal level and require daily attention and sensitivity in maintenance. But isn’t it just such challenges that make hobby gardening so appealing? The following instructions on planting, care and propagation would like to make a contribution so that the somewhat tricky Gesneria plant with the long growing shoots and decorative flowers develops into a magnificent traffic light plant.


The majority of the Columnea, which can be discovered in different varieties, enchant with elegantly descending tendrils, densely covered with red, yellow or orange colored flowers. Therefore, the exotic plant is also called throat vine. As typical epiphytic plants, they are often found on trees in their tropical homeland, which is why they are also referred to as epiphytic plants. However, they do not use the carrier trees to deprive them of nutrients, but only to be closer to the light in this way. Kolumnee are therefore not necessarily dependent on soil to thrive. As part of the planting, not only the proverbial green thumb is required, but also a sound knowledge of possible substrate alternatives:

  • Ideal planters are flat pots and bowls in the shape of a traffic light.
  • A column is well suited for planting in the new hanging baskets.
  • Columnea do very well on sphagnum (peat moss).
  • Soak the dried moss block in a container with 1.5 liters of water.
  • Spread the swollen sphagnum in the planter.
  • Put the throat vine on top.
  • Cover the roots with loose potting soil for better stability.
  • Alternatively use loose potting soil mixed with sand or perlite.
  • Finally pour the column well.

Since the throat vine requires a substrate that, on the one hand, binds moisture optimally for a long time and, on the other hand, is as loose as possible in consistency, experienced experts recommend vermiculite. This is an aluminium-iron-magnesium silicate of natural origin. The specialist trade offers it in different grain sizes, which are used as high-quality substrates and for soil improvement in professional horticulture.

site conditions

The best possible conditions for excellent growth are as follows:

  • Year-round room temperatures between 20° and 25° Celsius.
  • Light-flooded location, but without blazing sun.
  • High humidity at tropical levels required.
  • Columnea are extremely sensitive to drafts.

Only a few varieties of the throat vine take a break from growth in winter. In this case, the temperature must never fall below 16° to 18° Celsius. Hobby gardeners who personally don’t feel comfortable in such a muggy, warm atmosphere, but still want to cultivate a Columnea, choose the bathroom as a location, provided it is bright enough.


The throat vine requires daily attention, which rewards it with a rich abundance of flowers and dense foliage:

  • Keep the substrate slightly moist without over-watering.
  • Water on as regular a schedule as possible.
  • Allow the surface to dry before the next dose of water.
  • Spray daily with lukewarm, lime-free water.
  • If the water is too cold, the Columnea reacts with brown spots.
  • Give some liquid fertilizer weekly in a diluted concentration.
  • The shoots can be cut back by a maximum of half after flowering.

The required humidity can also be created by installing special humidifiers that have the appropriate capacity.


Every year before the new shoot in March or April, but at the latest when the previous planter is completely rooted, the column should be repotted. It is important that the plant receives fresh substrate. The used substrate or peat moss is carefully removed from the roots. On this occasion you can cut off dried or rotten parts of the plant. If you want to continue using the previous planter, cut off the lower third of the root ball with a sharp, disinfected knife and place the Columnea in the new sphagnum or fresh soil. If cutting measures on the root system were necessary, you should not water in the following three days so that the wounds dry quickly. In addition, pure charcoal ash can be used to seal the cut wounds. Sorts,


Once the ambitious gardener has mastered the art of successfully cultivating a Columnea, it is obvious that he would like to breed more specimens. With regard to propagation, the following two approaches are available:


Throat vines can be propagated through head cuttings throughout the summer. The offshoots, which are between 7 cm and 12 cm long, are defoliated in the lower half. In addition, all flowers and buds are removed so that they do not consume unnecessary energy. Small seed pots are then filled with nutrient-poor soil, such as a peat-sand mixture. The cuttings come in groups of three or four. Substrate and cuttings are sprayed with lukewarm, lime-free water and ideally placed in a mini greenhouse in a bright place where the temperatures are between 22° and 25° Celsius.

Direct sunlight would also be deadly for the Columnea during propagation. Alternatively, the experienced gardener puts a transparent bag over each pot and fastens it with a rubber band. In this way, it creates a tropical microclimate that promotes rooting. If after a few weeks the growing pot is rooted, you can repot the cuttings in the usual substrate for adult throat vines and care for them accordingly from this point on.


The seeds can be purchased in specialist shops or collected from your own throat vine, where they are – depending on the variety – in capsules or berries. However, the latter should only be considered if it is not a hybrid. When propagating hybrids from seed, there is no telling which attributes of the parent plants will prevail.

Columnea seeds are sown in a seed tray or in small pots. Before doing so, they should be soaked in lukewarm water for 24 hours. Coconut soil is ideal as a substrate because it is low in nutrients and particularly loose. A peat-sand mixture is also suitable as a growing substrate. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with already sowing seeds on sphagnum. The seeds are lightly covered with soil, sprayed with lukewarm, lime-free water and placed in a bright, not full sun spot where temperatures consistently range from 22° to 25° Celsius. Germination boxes with a heating plate and a cover are ideal.

As with propagation by cuttings, the transparent bag is also used as an alternative for this variant. While the seedlings are busy establishing a vigorous root system, they should be kept lightly moist on a regular basis. To prevent mold from forming, you should air the cover from time to time. When the seedlings have reached a size of about 3 cm and have their first pair of leaves, it is time to prick them out and then keep them in their own pots. The cover can be dropped from this point on. However, the humidity in the room then becomes more important again, as it is for the adult column.

Beautiful species and varieties

The Gesneria family has produced hundreds of different species, of which the Columnea is the most popular in the local latitudes. It is mainly cultivated as a traffic light plant, more rarely as a pot plant. The most popular varieties are presented below:

Columnea X banksii

  • Tendrils grow up to 130 cm long
  • smooth, dark green leaves
  • scarlet flowers all year round
  • probably the best-known variety

column glorious

  • strikingly slim habit
  • shoots up to 100 cm long
  • green leaves with reddish underside
  • gold-orange flowers
  • does not take a winter break

Columnea hirta

  • enchants with tendrils up to 80 cm long
  • numerous bright red flowers
  • needs 40 days in winter at 15° Celsius
  • is not fertilized in this phase

Columnea X kewensis

  • Shoots initially grow upright
  • later they bend downwards
  • large orange flowers
  • dense, branched growth

Columnea linearis

  • erect shoots
  • very beautiful pot plant up to 45 cm high
  • dark pink flowers with green calyx

Columnea microphylla

  • develops a particularly large number of small leaves
  • the shoots are up to 200 cm long
  • slim growth habit
  • red flower with a yellowish shimmering calyx
  • takes a winter break at 12° to 17° Celsius

diseases and pests

If problems arise when cultivating the throat vine, these are usually due to non-parasitic causes or errors in care. Cold drafts cause the sensitive plant to shed its leaves en masse within a short space of time. The Columnea reacts to direct sunlight with yellowish or brownish spots on its leaves. This damage can also indicate that the plant was sprayed with water that was too cold. If the substrate is too wet, gray mold develops; if it is too dry, the flower buds fall off. If the flowering leaves something to be desired, the Columnea has not been granted the desired winter break with slightly cooler temperatures.

Like all indoor plants, the columnar is not spared from aphids, thrips and spider mites. In the event of an infestation by these pests, rinsing off the shoots can help. If you spray the plant with water every day anyway, add 15 ml of soft soap and a dash of spirit to 1 liter as a biological control agent. Hobby gardeners report good results with the use of lacewing larvae. These are available from specialist retailers. They are applied to the infested plants, where they immediately attack the pests. They do not cause any damage to the Columnea. However, experience has shown that a single application is not sufficient, so that the beneficial insects should be used again at intervals of 2 weeks.

In contrast, propagation by seeds or cuttings is comparatively uncomplicated. Anyone who takes the needs of the column into account will be rewarded with lush flower growth and elegant tendrils that captivate the viewer.

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