Native to South Africa, Cape primroses (Streptocarpus spp.) are in the Gesneriad family. These species belong to one of two separate subgenera, Streptocarpus or Streptocarpella. Streptocarpus has airy tresses of flowers that float above long dark green strap-shaped leaves. Streptocarpella has more rounded leaves, smaller but more numerous flowers and a cascading habit. Cape primroses were first brought to Kew Gardens in England during the early 1800s. Hybridization occurred shortly after that resulting in the many beautiful varieties available for sale today.
Though Cape primroses resemble true primroses (Primula) they are not technically related. They are close relatives to the African violet, but unlike these touchy cousins Cape primrose leaves will not spot when they contact cold water. They perform best when grown near a sunny window, but not too hot. As houseplants they require little maintenance to produce blooms nearly year-round and they make wonderful office plants grown under fluorescent lights.
Use Cape primrose both indoors and out; in warm weather they can be grown as bedding plants, in color pots and hanging baskets (Streptocarpella types). In our milder climate Cape primrose can be grown outside year-round with overhead protection. These plants like to be grown in lightly moist soil. Feed them twice a month with a half-strength phosphorus-rich fertilizer, such as MaxSea bloom fertilizer.
If you are looking for a beautiful new houseplant to try or an excellent gift idea look no further than the Cape primrose. They are generally easy to grow, come in many colors, and give many flowers with very little effort. Either indoors or out, the Cape primrose adds a dramatic edge to almost any garden.