Sinningia barbata (Kew)

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  • Photographer: Ron Myhr
  • Grown by: Kew Gardens, UK

Images copyright by the individual photographers or their institutions.


Sinningia barbata is a small shrubby plant, usually less than 30 cm [12 inches] tall.  There are at least four varieties of this species, differing in leaf and flower.

The leaf shape is about the same for the varieties, but coloration varies.  The standard form has plain green leaves, but the “Coaraci Vinho” and “Tancredo Neves” forms have leaves with dark green upper sides and maroon or dark red reverses.

The flower of S. barbata has a distinctive L shape, resulting from a 90-degree bend in the middle of the corolla.  This is an anti-hummingbird measure.  Bees can crawl into the flower, but hummingbirds, with their straight beaks, cannot get at the nectar.

The standard variety has a white corolla with a greenish tinge.  Other varieties may have purple markings on the white corolla.

S. barbata is not one of the easy sinningias.  The standard form is the easiest, although even that is not trouble-free.  The more glamorous forms are also more difficult.

This species does not have the fully-developed tuber of most other sinningias.  The rudimentary tuber is buried in the soil and not usually seen by growers, but it does provide a semi-reliable storage organ for surviving dormancy and resuming growth when conditions improve.

This species is recommended for experts and fearless beginners.  Other growers should select less finicky plants.