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Once upon a time when I was a newbie to Behnke Nurseries, Behnke’s grew our own African violets, Gloxinias, Boston Ferns and Streptocarpus. I remember getting in plug tray after plug tray of each of these items (“plugs” are what we horticulturists often call little plants for repotting).

The violets were my favorites.  African violets can be cloned from an individual leaf, and when the plugs came in, we would grow them to size and then we would frequently take leaf cuttings from both new and old varieties. I used to laugh at how the leaves in the propagation flats looked like chairs in a movie theater.

Several months later we would harvest the “babies” from the leaf cutting and plant them up for later sales. Even though the violets will forever be my favorite I also love the new varieties of Streptocarpus (cape primrose) that have come out in the last few years. If you haven’t tried them before you are really missing out on an exceptional plant.

Streptocarpus may be treated just as you would your violets as far as light and water and the fact that you should never water with cold water as it will spot the leaves. For many of the Gesneriads, members of the African Violet Family, water that is about 10 degrees warmer or colder than the air temperature will kill cells on the leaves if it lands on them, and cause permanent spots.

The flowers and leaves are very different than the violet, the leaves are long, dark green and strap like. They do not have the same symmetry as a violet but the flowers are simply outstanding with their larger size, tubular shape and unique colors and markings. Some have one color on the outside of the flower, and a contrasting color inside the throat, which is quite dramatic.  (This could be, but isn’t, called “strep throat.”)  A beautiful plant to drive away those winter blues.

by Marian Parsley, Behnke’s Annual Buyer

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Are your plants treated with neonicitinoid pesticides from the supplier? These chemicals harm bees and other pollinators. Do you sell neonics? Some nurseries like Valley View Farms stopped selling neonics and treated plants and seeds.

    1. Hi Renee,

      Thats a great question! Behnke Nurseries has a very specific policy about neonicotinoid insecticides. We have our policy on our website, here is a direct link…..


      If you have any other questions we would be happy to answer.

      Thanks Again

      Larry Bristow

    2. Regarding your comment on the streptocarpus article: thanks for your input. Our supplier of streptocarpus does not use neonics; that said, the risk to pollinators from neonics applied indoors in greenhouses in winter to plants that are sold as indoor houseplants would be negligible.

      We are aware of the neonics issue; I was recently at a gathering at the University of Maryland where “stakeholders” met to offer input to the Maryland Pollinator Protection Plan.

      At Behnke’s we stopped buying neonics in the summer of 2014 and were sold out of existing stock early in 2015. We’ve been working with Friends of the Earth on the neonic issue since they first approached us early in 2014. We don’t apply neonics on our property, including in our own houseplant greenhouses.

      We have a list of which of our plant suppliers don’t use neonics, and we make that available to our customers, so that they can make informed choices. We will update the list this spring. Most of our perennial suppliers [for example] no longer apply neonics, but some do (as of this time last year when I made the list). Our vegetable and herb plants, and seeds, aren’t treated.

      I haven’t spoken to Carrie at Valley View since last year when we both appeared on a panel on this subject, and I am glad that they have adopted a policy of not selling neonics. We and many other garden centers like Valley View are trying to “do the right thing” as we wait for EPA to issue new regulations.


      Larry Hurley

  2. What rose pink Streptocarpus cultivar did you sell in March 2019? I bought one and forgot to write down the name. They were by the registers. A bounty of Behnke plants will live on at Green Spring Gardens. Thanks!

    Brenda Skarphol
    Green Spring Gardens and Hyattsville, MD

  3. Last year I fell in love with the gorgeous streptocarpus and put it indoors. A week or two later all the flowers fell off. I was planning to use it as a gift. So much for that!

  4. Do you sell and ship Streptocarpus plants? I live in Thunder Bay and am seeking to buy some of these beautiful plants. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hi, We closed our retail garden center in 2019. Check with any of your local garden centers to find out when they might be getting some in. We typically got them in March and some in April.
      take care

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