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What is a Calceolaria Plant?

Beautiful orange and yellow flowers of the calceolaria plant growing at the tops of green stems with a blurry background

Genus Calceolaria

Calceolaria plants are members of the genus calceolaria and the calceolariaceae botanical family. This genus consists of 388 different herbs and shrubs, though there are only a couple of hybrid cultivars that are actually available for purchase!

Calceolaria plants also go by the nicknames of pocketbook flower or pocketbook plant, lady’s purse flower, slipper flower, or slipperwort. The botanical realm is cool because they like to be super obvious about their name choosing, and always pick names according to literal shapes and colors.

In the case of the calceolaria plant, this trend is no different. The flowers of the calceolaria plant have a very unique and strange shape. These tender flowers have the shape of a pocketbook that make you wish you were the size of a Borrower (90’s children movie throwback) and could just slide your credit card into the mouth of the flower.

Okay, now let’s get serious. Growing pocketbook plants is no joke. They are extremely high maintenance, are very easy to disturb, they have a very short growing season, and they only last for that one season! So if you’re an amateur gardener or you prefer a plant that will last a little bit longer, head on over to this list of Amazing Flowering Plants where you’ll certainly find the right match.

If not, keep on reading. It isn’t likely going to be another plant that will add the same amount of drama and beauty to your early spring garden, windowsill, or balcony.

Looking down at calceolaria plant growing in a pot with remarkable red and yellow flowers in full bloom

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What are Some Calceolaria Species?

Despite there being so many different species in the genus calceolaria, there are actually only a handful of cultivars that are actually sold commercially. This is because they are notoriously difficult to care for, and there are not many folks who are interested in purchasing a plant that has such a singularly short blooming season.

Darwin’s Slipper (Calceolaria Uniflora/Calceolaria Darwinii)

Darwin’s slipper is a perennial plant that comes from the most southern parts of South America, specifically Tierra del Fuego. This super rare plant only grows to be about 4 inches tall and bears flowers that are a mix of auburn, white, and yellow. They are exceptionally unusual flowers.

Incredible unique and unusual Darwin's slipper flowers in full bloom of the calceolaria plant growing at ends of stems next to large green leaves

Bush Slipperwort (Calceolaria Integrifolia)

Bush slipperwort is a perennial plant that is native to Chile and Argentina. It’s a rather large shrub that can grow to be nearly 2 metres tall. It has puckered leaves and yellow flowers that grow in clusters. This plant has one of the longer blooming seasons out of the genus.

Bunches of yellow bush slipperwort flowers growing the ends of long stems

What do Calceolaria Plants Look Like?


There is no other reason to have a calceolaria plant than to gaze upon the short bloom of its dramatic flowers. These flowers are borne in a rounded slipper shape with an opening at the top.

The body of the flower is similar to the shape of certain orchid species, and is usually a yellow or orange color with distinct red spots. These pouch flowers have a very short blooming season, even when the plant is cared for perfectly.


The calceolaria leaf is commonly arrow shaped and is a dark green color. Leaves are highly veined and scalloped edges and are borne at the very end of the stem.

Growth Pattern

Calceolaria plants vary in size depending on the species. There are some plants that only grow to be 4 inches tall, whereas others can become shrubs that are nearly 2 metres tall.

That being said, most cultivars are very small and are usually kept as a potted plant indoors , as they may be swallowed up by other plants that have fewer growing requirements.

Close up shot of red calceolaria flowers in bloom and some buds growing at the tips of branching stems

How do you Grow a Calceolaria Plant?

If you’ve already done some research of calceolaria plants, you’ll learn that garden experts will advise novice gardeners to avoid planting or attempting to grow their own calceolaria plant, or avoid purchasing a plant all together.

This is because of the rather obnoxious growing requirements of the plant. They are picky about soil type, water level, light exposure, and temperature. If you’re intent on growing your own, here are some steps and recommendations.

Red blossoms of the pocket flower or calceolaria plant growing in a white pot above rosette of green leaves

1. Ensure that seeds are planted in a potting mix that is based with peat moss. The pot should be placed in an area that doesn’t experience direct sunlight or a heavy draft.

2. Seeds require light for germination, so do not cover the seeds during this period. Germination takes between 5 and 10 days.

3. Maintain the temperature of the room at 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit during the germination priod.

4. Maintain the soil moistness throughout germination, though ensure that the soil never becomes soggy. A way to accomplish this is by placing the planting pot above a tray filled with moistened pebbles.

5. Once the seedlings start to grow leaves, avoid getting any water on the foliage of the plant. This will encourage mold.

6. Once the seedling is established, it will experience its most productive growth in temperatures of 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

7. From here, come the specific light requirements. Though calceolaria plants appreciate sunlight, it should not be direct. Place the plant in a north facing window. If this is not possible, place it in a south facing window but cover the window with a light curtain.

Fully grown calceolaria plant sitting in root ball taken out of pot next to spade sitting on a wooden table

Where do Calceolaria Plants Grow?

Calceolarias are native plants to central Mexico and Patagonia. They have an expansive natural growing range where almost 400 different shrub and herb species grow.

These plants can be found growing in cooler plains regions that experience low water and low sunlight. They exist in USDA growing zones 9 through 11.

What are the Growing Conditions of Calceolaria Plants?

Get ready. Calceolaria plants have many specific requirements that we will go over in the next section. Keep in mind that these specific requirements, if done perfectly, will only result in a 2-3 week blooming season. Growing these plants outdoors make it much more difficult to maintain these specific growing requirements, and so it is recommended to keep them as house plants.

Several different varieties of calceolaria plants in full bloom with yellow flowers and red flowers

Soil Type

As a potted houseplant, calceolaria plants should be planted in a loose potting mix that is enriched with either compost or peat moss. The soil should be very well-drained, and should NEVER become soggy. This could result in no bloom or the death of the plant. If these conditions are maintained, it could extend the bloom life.

Water Level

Calceolaria plants are very particular about how they would like to be watered, and watering is one of the most difficult things to control if the plant is living outside. As an indoor house plant, it is much easier to keep soil moist, and to keep water off the leaves of the plant.

It is important to ensure that the soil remains moist, but never becomes soggy or water logged. These plants also do not react well to getting water on their leaves, as this can cause gray mold.

An easy way to make sure that you can keep soil moist but not soggy, is by placing your plant pot over a tray of wet pebbles. This way water can be absorbed when needed, and also drained when needed.

Amazing bunches of calceolaria plants with red and yellow blossoms growing in large terra cotta pots

Sun Exposure

One of the most specific growing requirements of the calceolaria plant is the amount of sun exposure. They like light, but do not like direct sunlight. The easiest way to control this is by keeping the plant indoors.

If you have a north facing window, this is the best place for the plant. Short amounts of morning light is good for the plant, or partial shade during the day. They do not like bright light for too long, and will not perform well in a greenhouse.

If you only have a south facing window, make sure to place a sheer curtain in the window so that the pot plant is not receiving direct sunlight. This could scorch the leaves and result in no flower boom.


Calceolaria plants will die pretty much as soon as the warm summer weather hits, making them an early spring or late spring thriver, depending on where you live. They can only exist in cool temperatures that hover between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit at night.

Strange looking Darwin's slipper calceolaria flowers growing in a bunch on a rocky beach


Since this plant is so short lived, it may not be considered as being entirely necessary to give it fertilizer. It may result in a longer blooming season if the plant is give a weak solution of balanced fertilizer about once a week.


A way to encourage a longer blooming period is by pruning the plant. Remove wilted leaves, flower heads, and stems to allow that extra energy to maintain the shelf life of the healthy parts of the plant.


All in all, calceolaria plants are extremely high maintenance. They do not tolerate full sun, or water logged soils, or water on their leaves, or temperatures that exceed 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep in mind that when growing these plants outdoors, they are also very susceptible to attacks from the whitefly and spider mite, as well as aphids. Unexpected moisture can result in gray mold developing on the plant foliage.

Incredible yellow flower with red spots of the calceolaria plant growing in on a window sill in a pot