Sinningia speciosa

  1. Varieties
  2. The Abyss
  3. Propagation
  4. Charles Lawn (hybridizer)
  5. Feature table
  6. Publication and etymology

As with the African violet, originally derived from one species (Saintpaulia ionantha), breeding has brought out a high degree of diversity in flower color and patterning in Sinningia speciosa.  The picture shows the peloric flower of a seedling from a "mini red" selection from the AGGS [now Gesneriad Society] Seed Fund.


There are a number of natural varieties of this species which grow mostly in Rio de Janeiro state of Brazil.  Dave Zaitlin has done a lot of work on the genetics of this species and its many varieties.  Two of these varieties have their own pages here.

There are more wild varieties, such as 'Cabo Frio', 'Pedra Lisa', 'Buzios', and 'Cardoso Moreira', which do not yet have their own pages.

The picture to the left shows the flower (May 2018) of Sinningia speciosa 'Pedra Lisa'. This plant was grown by Hung Nguyen of Santa Rosa, California.

The Abyss

This is a closeup of the innards of a Sinningia speciosa hybrid grown by Brigitte McKnight of the Peninsula Gesneriad Society.  This flower has parts in sixes: petals (not visible in this picture), stamens, and nectaries, which alternate with the stamens around the "pedestal" at the base of the stigmatic pillar.

Charles Lawn

A most active and prolific hybridizer of Sinningia speciosa was the late Charles Lawn, of Australia.  The internet has pictures of some of his spectacular hybrids.


Sinningia speciosa is particularly easy to propagate.  Normal stem cuttings work well, of course, but so do leaf cuttings, just like an African violet.  Sometimes the result is a tuber which never sprouts, but with several leaves planted, the chances of success are very good.

Another method is pedicel propagation.  Vincent Parsons describes this method in detail (link still valid as of May 2018).

Feature table for Sinningia speciosa

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Short stems with opposite leaves
Leaves Large, often brittle
Dormancy Completely deciduous.  Dormancy is obligate.


Inflorescence (often one-flowered) axillary cymes
Season Flowers in summer
Flower Bell-shaped, nodding or upright (peloric). Many colors.

Horticultural aspects

Hardiness Has survived 30F (-1C) in my yard.
Propagation The easiest of sinningias to propagate: stems, leaves, even pedicels (see above).
Recommended? Yes.  I do not have good luck keeping S. speciosa alive, but there are many many striking hybrids that are worth a try.


Taxonomic group The speciosa group in the Sinningia clade.
Its closest relative is S. macrophylla.

Publication and Etymology

The species was first described as Gloxinia speciosa by Conrad Loddiges in 1817 -- and what a naming muddle that has caused!  William Philip Hiern published it as Sinningia speciosa in 1877.  Two other published species, S. discolor and S. regina, have been reduced to varieties of S. speciosa.

In fairness to Mr. Loddiges, it should be pointed out that a number of other species we now call sinningias (e.g. S. tubiflora and S. hirsuta) were originally published as Gloxinia species (see the chronology), without causing any confusion in later years.  So we have the "florist gloxinia" and live with it.

Etymology: Latin speciosa ("handsome").  The species epithet presumably does not invoke the secondary meaning of speciosus, namely "attractive but false" (whence the English "specious").  speciosus derives from the Latin root spec, having to do with seeing, the same root underlying the species name conspicua -- and the word species itself.