Sinningia barbata 'Tancredo Neves'

This variety of Sinningia barbata is one of the most difficult in my collection.  The flowers and foliage are very attractive, but fraught with horticultural problems.

  1. Main page for S. barbata
  2. Drawbacks
  3. Comparison to main variety
  4. Irina Nicholson's plant
  5. Feature table

Sinningia barbata is by no means the easiest sinningia species to cultivate.  However, the variety 'Tancredo Neves' is exceptional in the difficulties it presents.  It is not as impossible as S. canastrensis, but nothing is.

The attractions are the wine-dark glossy foliage and the spotted flowers. 

TN: plant
TN flower

This flower has the same L-shape as can be seen on the Main page for S. barbata. However, unlike the standard variety, this variety has purple spots on the flower, as if it thought it were actually S. guttata. But it's not.


Foliage and flower: That's the good news.  The bad news is legion.

Humidity: the plant appears to require high humidity, but so do lots of gesneriads.

Mildew: In years past, I had substantial problems with powdery mildew on this variety.  This has not been the case recently, after I increased the watering to flood levels.  I hope to be able to report my own or somebody else's similar success in coping with the more persistent problems described below.

Leaf drop: As the stem elongates, the leaves on the lower half of the stem droop and drop.  In a number of sinningia species (such as S. reitzii), the lower leaves dry up, shrivel, and eventually fall.  This variety is unusual in that respect.  The leaves do not necessarily shrivel -- only the petioles do.  The leaf, still at least partially turgid, hangs from the dried-up petiole, looking ugly.

Bud blast: the worst problem is bud blast.  The keeled flowerbuds are quite attractive in their own right.  Unfortunately, at any stage of bud development, the bud's pedicel can undergo the same shriveling as described in the previous paragraph for petioles.  As the picture shows, it can happen to open flowers, almost-open flowers, and developing flowerbuds.  It is particularly disappointing, after one has worked so hard to get those flowerbuds.

To get any flowers at all, one must water heavily.  In my experience, drying out at all is death to flowerbuds on this plant.  However, mere wetness is not sufficient to prevent most of the flowerbuds from blasting.


Comparison to main variety

The main differences between this variety and the standard variety of the species are:

  • Leaf coloration
  • Flower spotting
  • Cultural difficulties

Similarities with the standard variety include:

  • Distinctive L-shaped corolla
  • Hairiness of corolla
  • Four-angled stems

Irina's Plant

I gave a plant of this type to Irina Nicholson in 2013, and hers did bloom.  This picture shows the flower (her plant, her photo).

Tancredo Neves (1910-1985) was a Brazilian politician. Among the places named after him was a district in the city of Salvador, capital of Bahia state.


Feature table for Sinningia barbata 'Tancredo Neves'

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Stem upright, with square cross section
Leaves Shiny dark green, reverse maroon
Dormancy Small tuber, or none (see the picture)


Inflorescence Axillary cyme, usually with 1-2 flowers
Season Late autumn, winter
Flower Corolla is hairy, white with purple spots on lobes

Horticultural aspects

Hardiness S. barbata comes from the part of Brazil not far south of the equator (mainly Bahia state), so it is unlikely to be very cold-tolerant.
Propagation From stem cuttings.  Leaf cuttings have rotted rather than rooting, and I have not been able to set seed on my plant yet.
Recommended? Not until somebody figures out the bud blast problem.

External Link

Mauro Peixoto's Brazil Plants web site has a page on this variety.  I suspect the "degree of difficulty = easy" line was copied from his main barbata page.  Don't believe it.