All in all, there are over 300 species of Calceolaria, with the majority of these commonly cultivated as hybrids of the Chilean species, also known as Calceolaria crenatiflora.

Sometimes referred to as Pocketbook Plants, Slipper Flowers or Pouch Flowers, Calceolarias come in the shape of soft-stemmed biennials that form dense, mounding plants that reach a size of six inches to 15 inches tall. This is however dependent on the cultivar.

These blooms boast soft, light green leaves that are deeply textured, which measure three inches in size.

The leaves also have scalloped edges, with the foliage disappearing under the masses of unique, brightly hued, pouch flowers that span one and a half inches in size before they begin to open. These blooms are usually available from the spring.

With the correct care, these plants can bloom indoors for several weeks.

More about this plant…

Calceolaria’s nickname — the pocketbook plant — is well chosen for several reasons. The main reason being that these blooms feature pouches that sit at the base of the plant. These look like purses, pocketbooks, and sometimes slippers. They’re a great plant to gift on Valentine’s Day as this is when they begin to surface.

Growing pocketbook plants

Growing these plants isn’t hugely complicated, provided that you offer them the correct care and place them in the correct environment. For best results, choose an environment that is cool and not too bright.

How to grow Calceolaria indoors

This annual can be grown both indoors and outdoors. Most people prefer to grow them as a potted houseplant. The specie is native to Central and South America, where it grows in the cooler plains where bright sunlight and water aren’t so plentiful.

For best results, try to imitate the Pocketbook plant’s native environment when growing these in your own home. It’s also a good idea to place the plant close to a bright window but avoid direct sunlight.

Place a sheer curtain between the plant and outdoors to sieve the brightest rays, but only if your window option is on a bright southern exposure. To ensure a more hospitable environment for these plants, choose Northern windows and tables away from the light source.

Calceolarias as house plants

To ensure your shrubs thrive indoors, use a peat moss based potting mix. A good option comes in the shape of a pre-fertilised potting mix. Pouch Flowers grow well in cooler daytime temperatures of 15°C – 18°C and night temperatures of 10°C – 12°C.

It’s wise to place them in an area free of draft. They prefer an environment with plenty of bright, indirect light, but avoid full sunlight. Place the planter on a tray filled with moistened pebbles to increase additional humidity.

Water frequently to keep the soil evenly moist and don’t allow it to become oversaturated. This is particularly important when your Calceolarias are in bud or bloom. It’s also wise to avoid getting water on the crown of foliage.

Pocketbook plant care

It’s vital to carefully monitor the water supply when caring for this plant, as these plants don’t thrive with too much moisture on their roots. Begin by giving the plant a full watering, and then allow the pot to drain in the sink for about ten minutes.

You must then allow the soil to dry out – to test this, touch the surface before watering again. Despite being a tender perennial, Calceolaria plants are grown as an annual shrub. Once the flowers die, a new batch of blooms won’t show.

This is why it’s important to enjoy these rare blooms while they are in flower, then place them in the compost pile when they begin to die off, dry up and droop.

Pocketbook plant care outdoors

Although pocketbook plants are most often grown as houseplants, they can be used outdoors as bedding plants. This smaller shrub can grow up to ten inches tall, which is why it’s important to place them close to the front section of the flower beds.

Make sure the soil has a large amount of compost, as this will help with drainage. You should also position the plants around 12 inches/ 30cm apart.

When to grow Calceolaria

Grow these plants in early spring for best results. This is when evening temperatures are around 13°C – 18°C. When summer (and the heat arrives), remove them and substitute them with a more heat-resistant shrub.

If you are unsure about whether the time is right to plant Calceolaria, consult with your local garden center, or seek assistance from an online florist.

Noteworthy characteristics

The impressive traits of this plant are the unique blooms. They come in a wide range of hues, including shades of orange, yellow and red. They are either solid, spotted or bicolour.

They measure one inch in diameter and boast an enlarged lower lip that resembles a slipper, pocketbook, or pouch, which are hosted in thick corymbs that often cover the foliage. These shrubs are chiefly sold in late winter or early spring and the genus is native to Central and South America.

The genus name comes from the Latin word ‘calceolus’ which translates to a slipper, which is also a reference to the appearance of the flower.

Common problems and ailments

As with all plants, these shrubs are susceptible to certain ailments, including root and crown rots. This tends to occur when the soil is too wet or fluctuations in watering take place. Other ailments include gray mold, aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites.

Limp leaves are a sign to watch out for, as they usually indicate the plants are too dry and in need of watering.

Garden uses for Calceolaria

Calceolaria plants are mainly used as pot plants. They are also given as gifts in the late winter and early spring. With their hot hues and unusual flowers, they add a beautiful hue to the household and look great when placed on a sun-drenched windowsill in winter.

Interestingly, calceolaria plants are increasingly being used for summer borders and as annual bedding plants, although they are not always suited to the warm conditions.


Lily Calyx is our in-house flower whisperer, an expert on all things botanical and an enthusiastic orchids collector. She loves discussing the insights of the secret world of flowers, shares her gardening tips and hacks and moons over the latest additions to Serenata Flowers flower range. Ask Lily anything about flowers and we can guarantee she will have the answer.

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