As the name implies, this magnificent plant has blooms that look like true goldfish—the resemblance is uncanny. Deciding to buy one of these beauties can be intimidating because of the care you imagine they need. You wouldn’t be entirely wrong with this assumption since they can be quite fussy growers.

But the reward of having a successful, hardy houseplant is worth it. Before you leap, you must learn about proper care so no silly mistakes cost you the life of your plant. So, let’s go over what the goldfish plant is and how to keep one in tip-top shape.

Goldfish Plant: Basic Info

The goldfish plant is native to tropical parts of the world including Costa Rica, Southern Mexico, and Brazil. There are over 25 varieties—all are equally beautiful. They thrive best in bright light, so make sure to put yours in a sunny, well-lit area out of direct rays.

goldfish plant (Nematanthus)

Image Credit: Cliff, Wikimedia Commons

Goldfish plants produce vibrant red, orange, and yellow flowers with strong, leaf-covered stems. If you play your cards right, these gorgeous plants will bloom year-round. You do have to work to make it happen, but it’s definitely possible with the right conditions.

If you have household pets, this is one plant you won’t have to worry too much about. According to the ASPCA, all parts of the goldfish plant are non-toxic to dogs and cats. Goldfish plants can be sensitive, though. So, you won’t want any animals chomping on stems or flowers.divider3 goldfish bowl

How to Grow a Goldfish Plant Successfully

Goldfish plants can be quite finicky and particular, so they aren’t for the faint of heart. You will have to make sure conditions are ideal so this plant can thrive. If you’re inexperienced with houseplants, the goldfish plant can prove to be challenging, but their beauty is worth the reward.

goldfish in aquarium

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These are also known as goldfish hanging plants because their stems cascade downward—it makes them perfect for hanging baskets. You can purchase them from local or commercial nurseries and greenhouses, but they can be hard to come by.

For proper growth, you’ll want to make sure you consider every aspect of care first so you know just how to tend to your plant.


Water

Giving this plant adequate water is essential to its survival. Even though they are tropical plants that live where moisture and rainfall are prevalent, they can still surprisingly suffer from root rot and overwatering.

A good rule of thumb is to wait until the soil loses 25-30% of its moisture (about 2 inches deep) before watering again. You can slow down watering in the winter months, as the plant doesn’t require as much for growth.

Watering issues are one of the primary reasons these plants might die or suffer in growth. Too much or too little water can cause the leaves to drop, so keep an eye on the greens.


Sunlight

Most of your goldfish plant’s energy comes from a large amount of light, so you must keep them in an appropriate space.

Your goldfish plant needs plenty of sunlight—over 13 hours per day! But that needs to be in indirect sunlight in a well-lit room. If your goldfish plant gets too much direct sun, the petals and leaves will wither or brown.


Temperature

Goldfish plants do best in temperatures between 65° and 85° Fahrenheit. If this plant is too hot or cold, it can cause damage to the leaves. These plants are very sensitive to extreme changes in the environment, so make sure there aren’t any drops or rises suddenly.

Keep your goldfish plant away from heaters, vents, stoves, and drafts. Also, make sure to keep them apart from windows in times of frost or freezing temperatures.


Humidity

Goldfish plants absolutely love humid environments, but they adjust well to indoor levels. If you live in a rather dry area, you can run a humidifier by your plant. Alternatively, you can mist the plant with room temperature water.

Never use hot or cold water since it can damage your growing plant. Use room temperature, chemical-free water.


Fertilizer

goldfish plant

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In the spring and summer months when your goldfish plant is growing most, you should fertilize it every two weeks for optimal health. You can reduce feedings to every month during colder months.

You can use an average fertilizer diluted to half potency.


Pruning

Your goldfish plant will be full and lush if you prune it frequently. You shouldn’t let the plant stalks exceed 18 inches before trimming.

Pinch off the growing tips to promote bushiness and fullness. Pinching the tips encourages the plant to grow out, which prevents legginess and scraggly stems.


Flowering

Goldfish plants flower best when you let them get tons of indirect sunlight. The more sunlight they take in, the more plentiful the blooms will be. For the best blooms, sunlight should match 13 hours.

Goldfish plants blossom at their peak during the spring months. It’s especially important during these months to make sure the soil stays moist and doesn’t dry out while your plant is trying to produce blooms.


Soil Type

The goldfish plant benefits most from a rich, light soil with a pH between 6.1 to 6.5. You’ll also need to make sure the soil is fast-draining so roots don’t sit in too much moisture. Root rot and fungus growth are common for these plants, so keep an eye out.


Propagation

You should propagate your goldfish plant during peak seasons—spring and summer. Cut off a new leaf growth and add it to fresh spring water. When it begins to develop roots, you can plant the leaflet to anchor it to the soil.

Because propagation can sometimes fail, having multiple starts will improve your odds. You can also add some rooting hormone powder to help things along.


Pot Size

Generally, goldfish plants do best in 6-8-inch containers. You won’t want to make the pot too large or small, but rather keep it in a controlled area for optimal growth.

Goldfish plants love to have their roots bound up and develop best this way.divider3 goldfish bowl

Potential Issues with Goldfish Plants

Goldfish plants can be hard to maintain, requiring more effort than many other houseplant choices. You can have a healthy, vibrant plant if you’re careful and provide adequate living conditions. There are a few problems you can encounter, so be sure to watch for signs.

goldfish plant outdoor

Image Credit: Cliff, Wikimedia Commons

Pests

When goldfish plants attract pests, you can be in trouble because it’s very difficult to eliminate. There are tons of little nooks and crannies where these tiny bugs can hide and they can do a lot of damage before you even realize you have an infestation.

Most commonly, you will see mealy bugs, spider mites, and aphids attacking your plant. You can use a green solution on the stems and leaves, but be careful to avoid the flowering parts.


Diseases

Because of their need for moisture, goldfish plants are susceptible to botrytis mold and fungal leaf spots. Both of these issues happen when spores nestle into the plant and take hold, creating moldy surfaces that can ultimately kill your plant.

You might also run into other diseases like mosaic viruses. These viruses live up to their name, causing leaves to lose color in certain spots, creating a mosaic look.


Growth Problems

  • Legginessthis is often caused by incorrect lighting and improper conditions. It causes the plant to grow long without a strong stem base, which weakens the plant. You can improve leggy growth by fertilizing and pruning properly.
  • Wrong-sized Pot—goldfish plants prefer to be root bound in smaller pots. If you plant one in too large of a container, it can cause the plant to grow poorly.
  • Overwateringeven though the goldfish plant is tropical, a major concern for this plant’s overall health is overwatering. Too much moisture in the soil continually leads to root rot. You can save your plant, but it will require work.

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Goldfish Plant FAQs

1. Can you grow a goldfish plant outdoors?

Yes, if you live in the right environment, you can grow a goldfish plant outside. But since these plants are so sensitive to extreme temperatures and direct sunlight, you do risk damaging your plant unintentionally. Most of the time, they work best indoors.

2. What can cause leaf drop, brown leaves, or yellow leaves?

Several conditions can cause the leaves on your plant to change and become unhealthy looking. Leaf drop and yellow leaves are often a sign that your plant is getting too much water or not enough.

Brown leaves may be a sign your goldfish plant was scorched by too much heat. If you get ahead of these issues, you can still save your plant.

3. Why won’t my goldfish plant flower?

Many times, environmental factors are to blame—whether your plant isn’t getting the right temperature or humidity.

If you experience a lack of flowering, try to cool things down a bit and water less often for roughly six weeks. Keep the room temperature between 55 and 60 degrees.

After this period of dormancy, resume normal care to see if blooms begin.

Goldfish Plants: Final Thoughts

The goldfish plant is nothing short of a spectacle—fascinating and distinct. Even though it may take some blood and sweat, maintaining a goldfish plant can be extremely gratifying. These gorgeous gold goddesses look splendid in any home, adding deep greens with pops of bright color.

If you’re up for the task, try your hand at housing one of these beauties in your own front room.


Featured Image Credit: luckypic, Shutterstock