Codonanthe is a rare find in garden stores, but the cascading string of leaves is clearly worth the quest!
Key Codonanthe facts
Name – Codonanthe
Family – Gesneriaceae (African violet family)
Type – indoor plant, hanging plant
Height – 6 inches, trails down to 2 feet (15 and 60 cm)
Soil – very well-draining soil mix
Exposure – bright, indirect light
Propagation – cuttings (water)
Flowering – year-round
Fun fact – love affair with ants
Follow these tips to discover and care for your Codonanthe just the way it should!
Growing Codonanthe in a pot
Codonanthe will be happiest in a hanging pot or suspension. Place it on a shelf or up to the side of a doorway to maximize the beautiful trailing.
The best soil for Codonanthe is any excellent-draining soil mix, such as soil mix designed for orchids.
- Peat is ideal, but other materials such as coconut fiber, clay balls or even bark mulch will do great, too.
- You can also use regular soil mix, but then it’s important to let the soil dry up down to the first knuckle before watering again.
Be wary because Codonanthe isn’t a classic houseplant. It hates sitting in waterlogged, soggy soil.
- Avoid deep pot-holders to make sure roots never wallow in sitting water!
Pot size doesn’t really matter. To trail a good two feet, a pot about 8 inches across and 4 inches deep is enough (20 cm across, 10 cm deep).
Codonanthe, an excellent terrarium plant
Its small size and need for high air moisture make Codonanthe a great choice for a terrarium.
- Set it to the side on a branch-like ornament with Fittonia on the ground and a Ficus ginseng growing nearby.
- Remember to lock moisture in for the Codonanthe to thrive.
Codonanthe needs to be protected from freezing, and even simply cool weather might kill it. Don’t let is experience temperatures lower than 40°F (5°C).
If winters stay mild and above this temperature, you can set your Codonanthe up in the garden.
- Try setting it atop a pergola or arch.
- Use it as a topper for iron garden works like fences or arbors.
- On the ground, it will provide excellent ground cover.
Watering and caring for Codonanthe
Codonanthe is an epiphyte plant – this means that in the wild, it grows without any soil! It is very similar to orchids since it usually lives up in trees.
- Rainwater streaming down trees is often the only source of water and nutrients Codonanthe has in the wild.
- Roots appear along leaf nodes to attach the plant to bark and collect running water.
The best way to water Codonanthe is as you would orchids, with the dunk-and-drip-dry technique.
- Dunk the root ball in a bowl or bucket of water that is at room temperature. Rainwater is best.
- After 2 to 5 minutes, pull the plant out and let it drip until drops stop (that’s a bit hard to pronounce).
- Put the plant back in its usual growing spot.
- Do this twice a week in summer, but only once a week in winter.
Codonanthe can survive short droughts, but this will trigger leaf and stem loss. It will also delay flowering.
- In the wild, weeks may pass without a drop of rain.
- However, ambient moisture is crucial in helping the plant survive.
- Do everything you can to increase air moisture around the plant.
Exposure for Codonanthe
Avoid direct sunlight and any heating implements like radiators. Direct sun and heat sources will dry the plant out, turning it brown.
- Draw a translucent curtain if all you have is a window facing to the midday sun.
In the wild, this plant lives up in trees. It’s always shaded from strong sun and trees release lots of air moisture.
Codonanthe is an easy plant to care for. Occasionally (once a month, skip winter), add liquid fertilizer to the watering mix.
High moisture is essential. It may be that the perfect spot is in your kitchen or in the bathroom!
- Mist the plant often with a hand spray
- Try to grow other plants nearby to create a “air moisture oasis”.
- Set a mini-fountain in the vicinity or simply a tray with wet clay pebbles. Water will evaporate, raising air moisture.
You can repot the plant every two or three years to replenish soil nutrients.
Codonanthe doesn’t really need any trimming. Cutting a sprig will cause branching out into new sprigs.
Older portions tend to turn woody. If you want to rejuvenate your plant:
- Best wait until after the main blooming season. Blooming usually tapers down in fall. It’s ok if there are still a few flowers left.
- Don’t cut all woody portions back at once.
- Best cut a third at a time, over the course of a year.
- This ensure sap and nutrients keep circulating through the plant.
Seed propagation of Codonanthe
Codonanthe will readily self-pollinate and produce seeds. These look uncannily like small grains of rice. You’ll find them in the Codonanthe fruits which look like tiny Physalis berries, without the husk.
- Sow seeds indoors at the end of winter. Sow in a seed tray.
- Transplant to a proper hanging plant pot with lots of peat and drainage.
Prepare soil cuttings from 4 to 6-inch segments of a trailing vine (10-15 cm).
- Make sure to include at least three leaf pairs to start your Codonanthe a bit faster.
- Right-side up is better, but if you get it wrong a few stems might still sprout nonetheless.
- Also works with water cuttings, but make sure you change the water often.
- Plant several cuttings in the same pot for a immediately bunchy effect.
Cuttings will also work from individual pairs of leaves, if you prick them in a tray. Keep them moist, just as you would when propagating succulents.
Professional propagators are able to use micro-propagation to multiply Codonanthe quickly and efficiently, helping make this rare plant more affordable!
- Tiny slivers of plant parts are laid to rest on special nutrient-rich growing gel.
- Whole plants start growing and are then transplanted to pots.
Striking Codonanthe varieties
This is a rare houseplant. Not many stores have it for sale.
Happy owners will be very glad to share a few cuttings from their plant if you ask them politely!
The following species and varieties are particularly noteworthy:
Codonanthe deviosana is one of those eye-catches that trigger a double-take when you notice them. Long trailing stems, roundish leaves, cute white flowers? It’s like having a string-of-pearls, jade plant, and Madagascar jasmine all in one! Special varieties:
- Codonanthe devosiana ‘Paula’ – dark purple-green velvety round leaves and light-pinkish white flowers
- Codonanthe devosiana ‘Pink’ – flowers are white but each petal is rimmed with pink
Other species are even rarer:
Deep green drop-shaped leaves with a pointed tip. Similar flowers to those of Codonanthe devosiana.
Clearly lance-shaped leaves, tinged with red around the edges. Leaves turn dark cherry red as leaves age. Leaves are more tightly packed than other species.
Bright green leaves, somewhat larger than those of other species. Trails faster as leaves are spaced by several inches (5-8 cm) between pairs.
Codonanthe diseases, pests & problems
Codonanthe and ants, a surprising love story
There is a rare symbiotic relationship between Codonanthe and ants!
- The plant evolved to produce seeds that look very similar to ant eggs.
- Ants pick the seeds up, thinking they’re eggs. They store them in their nest high up in trees, .
- Seeds hatch inside the ant nest, where growing conditions are ideal (stable temperature, no predators, many nutrients and moisture).
- In return, the plant produces sweet nectar under its leaves to feed the ants that “care” for it!
- Ants also help pollinate the plant.
- Codonanthe roots help structure the ant nest and hold it together.
It’s doubtful that Codonanthe will attract ants into your home. If it gets to be a problem in the garden, read up on these natural ways to get rid of ants.
Codonanthe leaves forming drops at the tip
Occasionally, especially the plant is watered at night, drops of fluid will appear along the edges of Codonanthe leaves.
- This is a perfectly harmless process called “guttation“.
- It is how the plant expels excess water during the night when roots are too wet.
- In the case of this ant-attracting plant, this phenomenon doubles as a “food source” for ants.
- If it happens repeatedly, try watering in the mornings instead.
Dry edges on Codonanthe plant
This is a case of “dry air”. The stem can’t pump water to the leaves fast enough to counter transpiration in dry air.
- Increase air moisture around the plant, as described in the “Codonanthe care” section above.
Codonanthe turning yellow and flimsy
This is the sign of impending root rot. Stop watering immediately and wait for the clump to dry up almost entirely.
- When soil feels dusty right to the center, water again but only a small amount.
- Make sure you let the soil dry up before watering every time.
You can also take a drastic course and rinse everything out: soil, rotten root parts, etc. Let it dry out for at least two days and then repot in fresh soil or orchid mix.
Common pests on Codonanthe
- White sticky blobs at leaf joints – mealybugs, a particular type of scale insect
- Sticky glossy substance on leaves, leaves curling up – aphids, which are relatively easy to deal with
- Leaves seem dusty and start turning yellow – red spider mite is what you’re up against
Leaves and fruits have tiny velvety hairs all about that help it fend off other pests, for example thrips.
Learn more about Codonanthe
Native to Southeastern Brazil, in South America, Codonanthe brings a touch of that care-free, easy-going lushness of the Rio de Janeiro carnival! It would happily dangle down from the outstretched arms of the Corcovado in that moist, rich atmosphere. Even though it’s a cousin of the African violet, they both come from different continents.
It’s perfect to spruce up professional work spaces. Hang Codonanthe just above an office zz plant. They’ll both seem to reach out to each other!
This plant can live for decades if well cared for. A rare variety has reached the venerable age of 40 years!
Codonanthe has been the cause of at least one non-fatal poisoning. Although no deaths are connected to the plant, stay on the safe side and don’t let toddlers – or pets! – munch on leaves, flowers, or those bright candy-colored fruits.
Smart tip about Codonanthe
Codonanthe is also one of the air-purifying plants, but its main focus is absorbing Carbon Dioxide at night, CO2. Most plants only reduce CO2 levels during the daytime, but expel it at night. This makes Codonanthe the perfect plant to have in your bedroom!
Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Suspension with Codonanthe by Michael Wolf under © CC BY-SA 3.0
Codonanthe ground cover by Krzysztof Ziarnek under © CC BY-SA 4.0
Codonanthe fruit by Vojtěch Zavadil under © CC BY-SA 4.0
Red Codonanthe by Christian Feuillet under © CC BY-SA 2.0