Native to tropical America. Related to African violet (Saintpaulia) and gloxinia (Sinningia). Plants 12 ft. high, some trailing. Slender stems; roundish, crisp, bright to dark green, hairy leaves. Blooms from summer to autumn, bearing flaring, tubular, 1- to 3-in.-wide flowers in pink, orange, blue, lavender, orchid, or purple.
Sometimes grown in beds as ground cover in Coastal and Tropical South, but more commonly used in containers, either outdoors (protected from direct sun and wind) in window box, on porch or patio, under lath; or indoors (in bright light) or in greenhouse. Plant rhizomes in March or April, placing them 121 in. deep in moist peat moss and sand. Keep in light shade at 60F. When plants are 3 in. high, set 6 to 12 of them in 6- to 7-in. fern pot or hanging basket, in potting mix of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and leaf mold. In fall, dig rhizomes and let dry. Store in cool, dry place over winter; repot in spring.
'Harry Williams' has proven hardy in Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. It may not appear until June, but the crimson flowers are worth the wait.
'Purple King' is unusually hardy and suited to Zones MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 7-11. Can be brought back from 0F. Grows to 6 in. tall. Flowers deep purple, 2 in. across, on trailing stems. Breaks dormancy late, not appearing until late May. Blooms intermittently throughout summer.