Columnea ‘Melissa’ is a wonderful plant to have at home. It has large showy flowers, that surprisingly last for a very long time. The leaves are small and darker somewhat variegated at the edges and redder on the bottom side. The flowers are large, bight orange with yellow throat and darker red lines. They look very similar to Columnea ‘Lava flow’, another everblooming columnea.
Columneas are generally seasonal bloomers, but a lot of hybrids and cultivars are available that bloom constantly and heavily. Some columneas are cascading with softer stems, other grow more shrubby and have more rigid stems and upright habit. Some have tiny leaves, other large, some are hairy others glossy and so on. The flowers range from yellow, orange, red, and any type of marking in between, some cultivars have pink flowers. The strange shape of the flowers are why those plants are commonly called “flying goldfish plant”, “dancing dolphins” or “shark plant”.
On general columneas are epiphytic plants, and like orchids, require very well draining , open medium, higher humidity, and like to be kept lightly moist with very slight drying out between watering. Some varieties are more tolerant to drying out. They generally prefer warm environment, though some are high altitude plants that require lower temperatures. The seasonal bloomers sometimes require colder periods of time to promote blooming.
Columnea ‘Melissa’ is an excellent hybrid, very easy to grow, and starts blooming very early and profusely. It has somewhat more rigid stems medium sized leaves and very large flowers. It’s quite tolerant of a bit of neglect, and if grown from cutting, it takes only a few months to have it start blooming.
Medium watering needs. Allow the plant to slightly dry out between watering it in the winter, and try to keep it evenly and lightly moist during the summer. Grows wonderfully with hygrolon strip though the medium to keep constant moisture in the soil without letting it get soggy. If you overdry out plant, don’t overwater it right after (though usually that’s fine for other pants), as it most likely will rot your columnea, rather water it slightly and slightly increase the watering.
Part shade, though it can take higher light if slowly accustomed to it. You can grow this plant on south/west/east window and even a north window, though it will reduce the flowering and make the growth leggy. Allow for plenty of light to get the maximum out of your plant. You can also grow under artificial light.
Columnea ‘Melissa’ is not very needy as some other columneas, or columea species. It can tolerate lower humidity. Don’t directly spray the leaves though to avoid wilt spots. Humidity trays will help you plant look its best. Very low humidity will make your leaves dry at the edges.
Soil Type and Fertilizer:
Make sure your soil is very well drained. I sometimes add orchid potting mix (little chunks of wood) to the bottom of the pot, and a bit throughout the medium, quite a bit of per-lite, and either african violet soil or peat moss and maybe a bit of regular soil. Columneas don’t mid underpotting, and they seem to flower more when potbound. I use african violet fertilizer, though orchid fertilizer might work just as well. Fertilize more during spring and summer when the plant is growing rapidly. Columnea ‘Melissa’ is quite a rapid grower.
Colmuneas are very easy to propagate though cuttings. I root the cuttings in moist soil and an enclosed environment to keep the humidity high (either a glass bowl, in a ziplock bag, or a pot wrapped with a plastic bag).
Other Care Tips and Personal Observations:
Make sure you don’t over dry your plant as recovery will be difficult. Trimming will help maintain shape and create a fuller specimen. Columnea ‘Melissa’ is a wonderful plant to have. It will be perfect for hanging baskets, even though it has more of a bushy growth habit. Very easy and fun to propagate, since it starts blooming almost right away. I highly recommend it! The flowers are quite spectacular and numerous, and it makes for quite a display!