Gloxinia has sumptuous flowers, remarkably large for the size of plant. Vivid in colour, the blooms have an exotic look, which is not surprising as this plant originally came from Brazil. The colours are in shades of red, blue-purple and white, the flowers having a velvety texture that enhances the deep richness of the colours.
The flowers are broad and bell-shaped, flaring at the mouth with the edge of the bell turned back and partly split into lobes. Most kinds have a white area deep in the flower with lots of small spots. In some cases, the spotting extends up the flower. The flowers of other varieties have a shading of colour at the mouth, and some have a white band all around the edge of the flower.
The flowers are about five to eight centimetres across and at least as long, facing upward. The whole plant is usually about 25 centimetres tall, though often less. The flowers are carried over a rosette of thick, soft, fleshy leaves, covered with protective hairs. The stems that carry the leaves and flowers arise from a round tuber. These are about the size of a large walnut, but flattened, with a hollow dip on one side and a rounded hairy lower side.
The tubers are available in garden centres and can be started off now. The plant is not hardy, or robust enough, for outdoors because of its soft leaves and flowers, and is treated as a house plant or greenhouse plant, very happy in a conservatory. Even though it needs to be kept under cover, it is not difficult to grow.
Start off the tuber in a smallish pot of potting compost to which has been added some coarse sand, perlite or vermiculite to open the compost and allow lots of air to the roots. Fill in the compost mix, water it and allow to drain fully.
Then set the tuber, hollow side up, into a shallow depression made in the compost but leaving the tuber top level with the surface of the compost. Lightly water to settle the tuber and press very lightly to firm it in. Cover the pot with a sheet of glass and allow in some air under one side. Keep it in a reasonably warm place.
Do not water until there are signs of growth at the top of the tuber, and even then, water sparingly and carefully so not to saturate the compost. Increase watering with growth. Pot up as necessary and give a liquid feed every two weeks. The tuber can last for years if it is well enough fed and watered, and grown in good filtered, indirect light.