Sinningia nordestina

Sinningia nordestina is a tropical species with weak stems but bright, spotted flowers that resemble a kohleria or smithiantha. Growing several in a clump can help to support the stems. Unfortunately, this species appears to have a short lifespan.

Sinningia nordestina
  1. Habit
  2. Dormancy
  3. In nature
  4. Coming back from dormancy in 2009
  5. Hybridizing
  6. Feature table
  7. External link
  8. Publication and etymology

Sinningia nordestina


I grew this species from seed supplied by Mauro Peixoto at the 2002 AGGS convention.  It bloomed, with small but very striking red-and-yellow flowers.

At least in my house, S. nordestina has very lax stems.  Once the flowering axis elongates, it tends to flop over sideways.  I have an aversion to staking plants ("if it needs a stake, it's a mistake"), but I make an exception in this case.  Perhaps it needs more light -- when I have more than one plant, I'll experiment.

Despite its floppiness, this species is one that doesn't have the resupination trick, as shown by the flower on the center left in the above picture: it is upside down!  If it were S. cooperi, it would automatically orient its flowers to keep them right side up.

This picture, taken in Mauro Peixoto's greenhouse in 1999, shows that Sinningia nordestina stems don't always have to flop.  On the other hand, I don't know what his secret is.

Dormancy: the Rise in Fall of Sinningia nordestina

One of the reasons that Sinningia nordestina has gotten the reputation of being an annual is that it comes out of dormancy at an unusual time of year.  In 2007, mine sprouted in early August.  Toshijiro Okuto, on the Gesneriphiles mailing list, wrote that his tuber regularly came out of dormancy in July.

The other reason for its reputation as an annual is its short lifespan.  Sometimes it is an annual!  Sometimes it doesn't come out of dormancy.  This lack of longevity seems to apply to its hybrids too.  John Beaulieu and I have created hybrids with this species, and the hybrids bloomed, but they have all since died.

Sinningia nordestina

Sinningia nordestina in nature

Sinningia nordestina grows in really tropical conditions.  It was first discovered in Pernambuco state (Brazil), much closer to the equator (about 8 degrees latitude south of the equator) than most sinningia species.  It is therefore unlikely that it can tolerate cold temperatures, even if it does not freeze.

The unusual growing period (sprouting in mid-summer) is due to the difference in dry season between northeast Brazil and the southern states where most other sinningia species grow. 

In the original publication, it was speculated that this species was probably intolerant of drying out, and that the tubers would not resprout after a prolonged dry period.  My own experience with cultivated seedlings suggest that even young tubers given very occasional watering (e.g., once a month) will eventually sprout.  The fact that the tubers sprout so late in the growing season would certainly make it seem as if the plants were never going to come back.  On the other hand, I have not kept them completely dry until new growth appeared; most sinningia tubers do not require any water at all during dormancy.

The original publication also noted a number of seedlings near the wild plants, and suggested that this species relies on abundant seed production for survival, much like an annual.  This matches my observations.  The plants readily set seed, and the seeds germinate in profusion.

Sinningia nordestina

Waking up in 2009

In the spring and summer of 2009, I had seven pots (of various sizes) of this species sitting in my Tuber Dormitory.  I had no idea whether there were any living tubers in those pots.  I just left them alone, except for once a month or so giving them some plain water (no fertilizer).

In mid-August, I noticed a green shoot in one of the pots.  A couple days later, green in another pot.  Then another...

At this writing [August 31, 2009], there are plants growing in six of the seven pots.  The impressive thing is not that they came back.  Seeds are a lot smaller than Sinningia nordestina tubers, and they can last a long time in completely dry soil.  What's impressive is that they all came back within a couple weeks of one another.  How do they know it's the middle of August???

Postscript: the seventh pot had green sprouts shortly after the beginning of September.

Hybridizer Challenge!

As far as I know, John Beaulieu was the first to get a S. nordestina hybrid.  He posted a picture on the Gesneriphiles mailing list of his S. nordestina x sellovii.  The hybrid had the pendant flowers of S. sellovii and the general inflorescence appearance of S. nordestina.  John's message said that S. nordestina was the seed parent.

Unfortunately, John could not keep the hybrid plant alive.  This is consistent with my limited experience too, that hybrids of S. nordestina are not easy to maintain.  Perhaps that is a result of the low life expectancy of the species.

Let this be a challenge to all you expert hybridizers.  Get those beautiful red-and-yellow flowers on a sturdier, hardier, more durable plant!

I crossed S. nordestina with S. araneosa, and got one seedling.

nordestina x sellovii

John Beaulieu's picture of his own plants.

From the left: S. nordestina, S. sellovii, and the hybrid between them.

Feature table for Sinningia nordestina

Plant Description

Growth Indeterminate
Habit Upright stem is not very sturdy
Leaves Green and somewhat sticky (like S. amambayensis and S. araneosa)
Dormancy This species goes dormant and remains that way for a longgggg time! In my yard, it comes out of dormancy in August (mid-to-late summer), when I'm just about ready to give up on it.


Inflorescence extended axis, one flower per axil
Season Blooms in summer
Flower Kohleria-like speckles

Horticultural aspects

From seed Bloomed within 12 months, under my conditions.  Be patient with the seed; mine usually takes two months to germinate.
Hardiness This species is from a tropical area of Brazil, so it is very unlikely to be hardy.
Propagation From seed.  Germination rate is very good.
Recommended? Try it at least once!  The flowers are small, but there's nothing like them in the genus Sinningia.  Collect seed, so you can restart.


Taxonomic group By itself in the Corytholoma clade.

External Link

Mauro Peixoto's Brazilian Plants site has a page about S. nordestina.


This species was published in 2000 by Alain Chautems, George S. Baracho, and José A. Siqueira Filho.  The second- and third-named authors discovered living specimens of this species in Pernambuco state (Brazil) in 1996.

Etymology: "north east".  Presumably from Nordeste, the northeast region of Brazil, which includes Pernambuco state.

Classical Latin for north is septentrionalis, from septem (seven) and trio (plow ox), describing the Big Dipper.  You only have to say septentrionalis a few times while trying to give somebody directions to appreciate why the heirs of the Roman Empire adopted the Germanic word for north.

Latin east was oriens (rising, beginning) from the same root as origin.  In many languages (including English), the words for east and west are ultimately derived from roots having to do with the rising and the setting of the sun.