The Tropical "Goldfish Plant" Is Our New Favorite Houseplant

Here's everything you need to know about caring for it.

If you're anything like us, your houseplant collection has grown over the last few years. We've welcomed heart-shaped succulents into our abodes. Fake houseplants and real houseplants. A potted ficus tree. The list goes on and on.

Now, thanks to a recent piece in House Beautiful, we can't wait to add the tropical Columnea Gloriosa, or goldfish plant (it gets that moniker thanks to its tubular red and orange petals), to our living spaces. The eye-catching houseplant may look intimidating to care for, but with a few savvy tips, we promise you'll be a flourishing plant parent. Below, Joyce Mast, Plant Mom at Bloomscape, and Valerie Ghitelman, Vice President, Product Development & Design, at weigh in with their best advice for making your goldfish plant thrive.

Close-up of a hanging potted plant of Goldfish vine (Columnea banksii)
DEA / G.CIGOLINI/De Agostini via Getty Images)

Make Sure Your Plant Has Good Lighting

"Providing plenty of bright, indirect light is key to obtaining maximum blooms. However, be sure to keep out of direct sunlight, which will turn the leaves brown," offers Ghitelman. "While this plant is a tropical native, it should remain indoors through the summer and year-round."

Water Appropriately

"Spring through fall is the time when the goldfish plant is actively growing and [it] likes the soil to be moist, so it will need to be watered thoroughly, always making sure the excess water can flow freely from the drainage holes," says Mast. "Allow the top [two inches] to dry out completely before watering again. You can simply push your finger down into the soil to check if the plant needs to be watered again. In the winter, it will not need as much water." You might want to make a note on your calendar to keep track of when you last watered your plant.

Give Your Plant Food

Don't let this tropical plant go hungry. "During its growing season, it will need to be fertilized about every other week with a liquid fertilizer at [half] strength," comments Mast. "Always make sure the soil is damp before applying fertilizer, even when using a liquid."

Repot After Two or Three Years

Yes, you have that long before you'll need to repot your goldfish plant. "Goldfish plants like a nice snug fit in the pots, which seem to encourage more flowering. No repotting is necessary until the plant is about [two to three] years old," says Mast. For soil, Ghitelman recommends African violet potting mix or peat-moss based soil mix.

Give Your Plant Some Humid Love

Like some Southerners, these plants like things on the humid side. "The goldfish plant prefers a bit of extra humidity, so feel free to mist with room temperature water," shares Mast. Ghitelman echoes that opinion, adding, "Columnea Gloriosa thrives best in warm room temperatures (65-80°F) throughout the year. It will tolerate temperatures as low as 60°F during the winter. Be careful not to expose the plant to cold drafts from air conditioning vents, windows, or doors, as this will cause the leaves to dry and fall. Moderate to high humidity is perfect for this plant." She also notes that the bathroom is a great place to display this houseplant, as humidity from daily showers will help the plant stay moist.

Help Your Plant Grow

Don't overlook this important advice. "Weekly or even daily, pinch off the growing tips to encourage branching and get a fuller more robust looking plant. Keep the stems at 12-18 inches (30-45 cm) to prevent the plant from getting too thin or leggy," says Ghitelman. Mast says that after your goldfish plant has flowered, you can cut back the vine by half. "This will promote great compact growth."

Have you owned a goldfish plant before? How did caring for it go? We know it may be a bit more high maintenance than a lazy windowsill pot of basil, but we think the extra work is well worth it.

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