Monday, May 20, 2024

Kohleria (and rhizomatous plants): propagation, repotting, grooming

There are two easy ways to propagate kohlerias.  Kohlerias are very fast, vigorous, growers, producing lots of new growth both above and below soil level.  This means there’s always lots of material with which to start new plants.  What follows are the two most common means of propagation.


Seen at left is a large, overgrown kohleria in a 4″ pot.  This one was grown on a crowded windowsill leaning up against the window.  We could “stake” it, but it’s already taller than we would like.

Instead, we’ll start over, making a “new” plant with cuttings from this one.

Step #1:  Creating the cuttings.

Each of the long stems shown in the photo above can produce a number of cuttings.  Shown at right is one of the stems, with the parts separated.

At top is the cutting which we’ll use to start a new plant.  The flowers and buds have been removed, as well as the lowest pair of leaves.  Once rooted, new roots will develop from the leaf “nodes” where the lower leaves were removed.  Removing the flowers and buds encourages the tip to root and grow faster (i.e. produce roots and leaves, not blooms)–don’t worry it will bloom soon enough once rooted.

We’ll discard the lower portion of the stem but, if you desired, you could cut this into sections, and root each of them.  For each section, keep one pair of leaves at top, and remove the pair of leaves below.  Though each section won’t have a growing tip, it will soon produce one (or more) from that point once rooted.

Step #2:  Rooting the cuttings.

Since we want to have a “full” plant in a short time, we’re going to root 3 large tips into one 4″ pot, which we’ve filled with our regular potting mix and moistened well (damp but not soggy).

Kohlerias are relatively soft-tissued and will root very easily, with or without rooting hormones or gels (as shown here).  Make a narrow, deep hole (with a pencil or tweezers), insert the cutting, and firm the soil around it.

Step #3:  The finished product.

Shown at right is our “new” plant!  Three large tips have been rooted into one 4″ pot.  The pot has been labeled with the proper name.  To encourage quick rooting, the entire pot and plant can then be placed inside a clear, plastic bag and put in a bright (not hot) location.  Tips should be well rooted in 4-6 weeks, at which time the bag can be removed and the plant placed where you intend to grow it permanently.


Nature has given kohlerias (and other rhizomatous plants) an “insurance policy” against severe conditions (or your neglect).  If conditions are so harsh that the plant can’t survive, it will go dormant, with all the growth above the soil appearing to die.  The rhizomes beneath the soil (shown at left) however, may survive, waiting for good conditions to return, at which time they will send up new growth.

Step #1:  Collecting rhizomes.

On older plants, there can be quite a number of rhizomes–they will look like hairy worms with scales.

Each of these scales, in fact is capable of producing a new plant–if you want more plants, you can break each of the rhizomes into smaller pieces.

Step #2:  Storing the rhizomes.

You could choose to just leave the rhizomes in the pot, and wait for new growth to appear. We prefer to simply store the rhizomes.  Fill a clear, plastic baggie with some moist (not wet) soil and add rhizomes (and a label with the proper name of the plant), seal the bag, and place in a bright (but not hot) location.

Step #3:  The “sprouting” rhizomes.

When the rhizomes are ready, they’ll sprout and begin to produce new growth.  This may happen soon, or it may take many months for growth to appear, though kohlerias are usually pretty quick.  The best time to remove plantlets (with attached rhizome) for potting is when they are still short and thick-stemmed.  The bag on right is well past that time.

Step #4:  Separating plantlets

Gently separate each individual plantlet, keeping the rhizome attached, if possible.  This plantlet has been in the bag a bit too long, and has gotten long and leggy–we’ll need to “roll” it.

Step #5:  “Rolling up” the rhizome and plantlet.

Since the plant attached to this rhizome has gotten too long and leggy, we need to “roll up” the plantlet before potting it.  Do this in the same way as you would a larger plant, except here we roll the stem around itself and it’s rhizome (it will make a much smaller “ball”).  Had the plantlet been removed from the bag earlier, it would have been much shorter and may not have needed rolling up.  If you have a hard time keeping the ball “wound”, you can do what we’ve done here–using rubber band to keep it together.

Step #6:  Potting the plantlet.

Fill a small pot (2 1/2″) with moist soil and make a small hole in the center.  Drop the plantlet into the hole and gently firm soil around it, then lightly water.  Label the pot with its name.  The “finished product” is at right.

Other rhizomatous gesneriads.

These same procedures can be used for most any of the rhizomatous gesneriads, such as Smithiantha, Eucodonia, xSmithicudonia, Achimines, Diastema, Niphaea, to name a few.  All are fast, vigorous, growers that may go dormant if subjected to extreme conditions or neglect.  All will readily produce rhizomes (whether or not they go dormant) and can be propagated, groomed, and repotted in the same manner asKohleria. 


  • Bill FunkhouserMay 6, 2021 10:47 pmMy Kohleria ‘Jester’ looks like it has leaf miners. Do they get them and can I do anything about it?
    • Violet BarnMay 11, 2021 3:53 pmI suppose they can get them, but we’ve never experienced this. Without seeing the plant, guessing you are seeing something else–most likely environmental or care related. In any event, if the leaf is unattractive, you can trim, or remove it.
  • Ellen tashimaDecember 16, 2019 8:08 pmI bought a kohlerias a couple weeks ago. I waited a week and then repotted it. Now the stem has rotted and the leaves fell off. I think it got too much water. I’ve now taken it out of the pot and the rhizome is not rotted. Should I put in a baggies with moist soil and see if it will sprout or should I put it back in a pot and water less?Reply
    • Violet BarnDecember 17, 2019 4:18 pmYou can do either. We store the rhizomes in baggies with a little moist soil, then when it begins to sprout new growth, pot it up. It’s just easier for us this way.
  • AjSeptember 14, 2018 1:52 pmCan I plant a kohlerias in a self watering pot.Reply
  • Brenda HerbstMarch 1, 2018 2:22 pmMy kohleria was started from a slip I received at the state fair. It has grown quite rapidly, but the leaves are curling. Any suggestions?Reply
    • Violet BarnMarch 5, 2018 12:34 pmIt may simply be the nature of that variety–since we didn’t sell it, and you didn’t provide the variety name, we couldn’t guess about this. It could be partly environmental/cultural as well, but would need far more information. In any event, doubt it presents any issues.
  • Valerie GillmanFebruary 17, 2018 1:04 amHi,
    Which kinds of your plants will bloom and prosper in a north window? I’d rather put them in my north window because it’s in my kitchen and I could see them all the time. Right now I have a fuchsia with a few flowers and a fern. I have a violet that doesn’t bloom also. I also have an east window that I have to go in a seldom used room to see.
    Thank you for your time, Valerie G.Reply
    • Violet BarnFebruary 17, 2018 9:54 amKohleria are a good choice for any window, since they’re so tolerant. Every window is different, so there is no definitive answer to this question. However, more light generally means more blooms, so plants in northern exposures can go periods without blooming if the light isn’t bright, or days long, enough.
  • Debra SanchezJanuary 31, 2018 12:23 pmHi,
    I just purchased Manchu Gesneriads Kohleria. Just to start, beautiful plant and it had buds when I got it. My question is, can I pot it in one of the violet double pots or will it keep it too wet?Reply
    • Violet BarnFebruary 2, 2018 10:27 amYou can but, like any self-watering system, use a soil containing at least 50% perlite.
  • Susan B.February 18, 2017 9:17 pmI bought a kohleria from you last March at the Troy Flower and Garden show, and although I forgot to water it for over a month, it eventually bounced back and is now producing numerous additional stalks and (at last!) flowers!However, I am concerned that it is not getting enough light. All the stalks, especially the main one, are leaning over and bending toward the light source, rather than standing upright as in the pictures on your website. I have had it near a north-facing window, but not actually on the windowsill. I could move it to a west-facing window where it would get direct afternoon sun, but I’ve always been wary of putting plants there ever since I killed an African violet by putting it in that spot. What do you recommend?Reply
    • Violet BarnFebruary 19, 2017 3:47 pmKohlerias are VIGOROUS growers, meaning they sometimes grow TOO well (and tall). Easiest solution is to simply cut the plant back to the height you want it. It will simply branch out and look fuller in the long run. If the stem is pliable, you can also “roll” it around the soil ball, then put back into the pot (it will now be shorter)–much like rolling yarn onto a ball. Hope to show how this is done on the website in the future. Kohlerias will tolerate stronger light than violets, but if you notice leaves bleaching/discoloring, you’ll now differently.
  • Debra RobinsonFebruary 18, 2017 10:45 amHello…I purchased a Kohleria ‘Marta’ 1/30. It’s 2/18 today and the poor thing is drooping & no new growth….I keep it in my indoor greenhouse, warm & roughly 60% humidity. I’m worried it will eventually die….Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated..Reply
    • Violet BarnFebruary 19, 2017 3:51 pmIt won’t die, simply because it’s rhizomatous and can always resprout from these. It’s only been a couple of weeks, and it’s still winter, so it will yet grow. Do believe the ‘Marta’ we shipped at that time were just recently repotted. Once its roots grow a bit more it should take off.
  • MariaJanuary 3, 2017 8:28 amI bought a couple of kholerias late sprint and they never flowered. They grow little , I kept them in my winter garden. I wonder why.
    Only one produced little new grown that still is alive. How should I keep them alive through winter?Reply
    • Violet BarnJanuary 3, 2017 9:41 amKohlerias are generally very easy to grow and very easy to bloom, given the proper environment. Not sure what you mean by “winter garden”. If you are growing them outdoors, how well they grow and bloom, or whether they will overwinter, depends upon your climate. Keep in mind that this genus is native to central and south America. Because they are rhizomatous, they can survive for extended periods in dormancy. When conditions are favorable, new growth will appear from rhizomes. Grown indoors, as a houseplant, this is rarely an issue and they can be kept growing and blooming almost indefinitely.

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