1. Type species
  2. Development
  3. Blooms
  4. Tuber
  5. One Year To The Next
  6. Flowerbuds
  7. Hybridization
  8. Feature table

Sinningia helleri

This is Hung Nguyen's picture of his own plant, taken early November 2015.  The plant was only four months old at the time.  It is possible that Hung was the first person outside a small area of Brazil to see a flower on this species in 100 years.


Type Species

Sinningia helleri is the type species of the genus Sinningia, which means the genus is tied to this species.  As long as the genus is recognized, it must include S. helleri.  Therefore, to some extent, the definition of sinningia depends on the characteristics of S. helleri.

Until a few years ago, this species was unknown either in the wild or in cultivation, and was believed extinct.  It was found in the wild in 2015 and Mauro Peixoto distributed seeds.

A few people sowed seeds obtained from Mauro.  Most got germination.  The seedlings bore a strong resemblance to Sinningia guttata plants at that stage.




This is my largest plant, photographed on 15 December 2015. It was just over 4 months old at the time, from seed.  (Hung's plant was already in bloom at that age.) It was 20 cm [8 inches] across at this time.  The leaves are distinctly silvery.

This is the same plant, three months later, still not in bloom.  The silvery color of the leaves is even more pronounced.


Here are my three plants in May 2016.  The picture shows the differences in foliage and growth rate.



This is the middle plant in the above picture, in bloom in June 2016.

This is the large plant from the group picture, photographed in June 2016.



Sinningia helleri has a normal-looking tuber.


One Year To The Next

When this species comes to the end of its growth in the autumn or winter, it is very tempting to cut it back at a point near the base, since by that time it will usually have developed a bare stem with a tuft of leaves at the top.  This may be a mistake.

More than one grower has noticed that plants cut back in this way may not resprout in the spring.  The growth habit of this species somewhat resembles that of Sinningia gigantifolia, to which is is related, both species being in the Sinningia clade.  The two species resume growth from a point at the top of the stem or near it.  Removing that point may leave the plant with no tissue from which to grow further.

Restarting the plant from seed is the best option for getting a more compact plant.  Another possible idea is rerooting the top of the plant after it is removed.

I speculate that this inability or at least unwillingness to put out new growth from the base of a stem might be one reason why this species was lost to cultivation a century ago.


This is from Hung's picture of his own plant, taken 7 October 2015.



This is the first Sinningia helleri hybrid of the modern era.  The seed parent was Sinningia guttata.  Hung Nguyen is the hybridizer and grower.

This plant won Best In Show at the San Francisco Gesneriad Society's show on 27 August 2016.

This is Hung's picture of his own plant.

Feature table for Sinningia helleri

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Stem(s) upright, red.
Leaves Green, glossy like those of S. guttata or silvery-gray.
Some red coloration on back, especially venation.
Dormancy The plant has a substantial tuber.  At northern California temperatures, the plant does not die back to the tuber in winter, either outdoors or indoors.  Outdoors, growth stops until warm weather returns.


Inflorescence So far, it's just one flower per axil. Probably, it will prove to have pair-flowered cymes in the axils.
Corolla White, usually five lobes.
Lobes have faint grooves (probably bee-bright).
Corolla tube is yellow, with some longitudinal red striping.
Calyx Vivid dark red.
Season Late summer, autumn

Horticultural aspects

Hardiness This is being tested in the winter of 2017-2018.  So far the plant has withstood 32 F [0 C] without damage.
Recommended? You think?


Taxonomic group It has long been speculated that this species was closely related to S. guttata.  According to preliminary information from Alain Chautems (email communication to Gesneriphiles mailing list), this speculation appears to be correct.  Accordingly, it should be in the speciosa group.


Sinningia helleri was first published in 1825 by Nees.
This represented the first publication of the genus Sinningia.