Nematanthus Gregarius (Goldfish Plant)

Nematanthus Gregarius (Goldfish Plant) featured image

The Goldfish Plant got its name from its flowers with a yellowish-red color like a goldfish (goldfish plant scientific name: Nematanthus Gregarius). The plant blooms in spring and summer, and the flowers make it appear like some goldfish are jumping from the plant’s branches. One of the defining features of this plant is how prolific they are in flowering. They are a fantastic sight when they are in full bloom.

The leaves are dark-green, and they provide a fantastic contrast when the plant is in full bloom. One of the main advantages of the goldfish plant over other houseplants is how long it lasts; it can be good for more than ten years. We shall discuss it more shortly. The following table summarizes some of the features you need to know about the goldfish plant at a glance.

Botanical NameNematanthus gregarious
Common NameGoldfish Plant
Size2-3 inch stem and 3 feet long branches
FloweringSpring and Summer
Flower colorRed, orange, and yellow
OriginCentral America and the Caribbean

This plant can grow in many different environments, and its longevity has motivated many gardeners and scientists to develop cultivars. There are, therefore, many varieties of the plant, and many of them are cultivars.

Check out some goldfish plant varieties:

beautiful flowers and leaves of goldfish plant
Photo by @yoshikoodani via Instagram

How To Care For A Goldfish Plant

#1. Goldfish Plant Light Requirements & Positioning

This plant grows best indoors. It doesn’t do well under direct sunlight; however, it enjoys bright light. Therefore, you should keep it somewhere near the eastern window to get sufficient light but not direct sunlight. You can use grow lights as a substitute for sunlight if there is no sun in the season, especially when you are experiencing a brutal winter.

Even when the tree is getting the bulk of its light from sunlight, you need to supplement it with grow lights. It requires a total of 13 hours of light every day since, as we shall see in the next section, photosynthesis is an absolute necessity for the plant’s survival. A good quality grow light is necessary for this plant to do well, so don’t buy the goldfish plant without it.

#2. Goldfish Plant Soil

The goldfish plant, in its natural habitat, is an epiphyte. This means that it grows on top of other plants. As a result, it doesn’t encounter sitting water. It is important to note that epiphytes don’t feed off the tree it grows. It only anchors on it.

Epiphytes get most of the moisture they need, not from the soil but from the air surrounding them. You should, therefore, strive to create an environment that is as similar to its natural habitat as possible, and the soil should be as easy to drain as possible. This means that it should have a significant percentage of grit within itself.

If you use commercial pottage, mix it with 50% pumice, and if you use ordinary soil, have loamy and sandy soils in equal measure. Also, you can use sphagnum moss and mix it with perlite and vermiculite in a mix of three equal parts.

#3. Goldfish Plant Watering

The amount of water you give the goldfish plant depends on the season. Firstly, don’t allow water to settle in the container, but the soil should always be moist. It would help if you watered it more during summer to compensate for evaporation and moist soil in summer facilitates blooming.

Allow the soil to be a bit drier in winter as the goldfish plant blooms better in more parched soil when the weather is cold. Also, it would help if you didn’t allow the ground to get completely dry even in winter, only a little drier when compared to the summer pottage. It would help if you only used room temperature water when giving the goldfish plant a drink.

If the water is too cold, it causes leaves to drop and fall off. You can ensure the water is at room temperature by fetching it from the tap and keeping it in an open container overnight before watering the plant. It is holding the water overnight like this also allows water treatment chemicals that may be harmful to the plant to dissipate.

You know the plant is ready for watering when the first two inches of the pottage are dry. You can tell of the dryness by sticking your finger into the soil.

#4. Temperature and Humidity

The goldfish plant meets all its energy needs through photosynthesis, so conditions have to be just right to facilitate the process. The plant performs best in the temperature range between 65oF and 75oF (18-24oC). It also needs moderate humidity. Too much moisture will cause its leaves to drop off because it causes an imbalance in the combination of factors necessary for photosynthesis. Some people consider it a fussy plant because its husbandry is different from traditional farming.

#5. Goldfish Plant Fertilizer

The heaviest blooming seasons for this plant are spring and summer when it needs the most fertilizer. In these seasons, you can give it a half dose strength of a 10-30-10 high phosphorus fertilizer. Feed it every two weeks during these seasons.

#6. Grooming

As mentioned in the summary facts above, this plant’s branches can grow up to three feet. The stem is short and, therefore, when the branches grow so tall, they tend to curve and taper downward. This structure makes this plant ideal for hanging as that’s when people can see the full beauty of its leaves. This appearance is why many gardeners put this plant in a hanging basket and allow the branches to relax and flow.

It is usually advisable to cut the branches from three feet to two feet. When you cut off the heads of the components, the plant increases the number of sub-branches and leaves: your goldfish plant, therefore thicker foliage and a fuller appearance. More sub-branches and leaves also mean more flowers that enhance the whole plant’s appearance.

Husbandry Issues

This plant needs consistent moisture, but excessive water is a significant problem. Overwatering causes the plant to have leggy growth, and it also causes leaves to fall off. Leggy growth destroys the appearance for which many gardeners buy this plant. To have its best appearance, it needs to have a short stem from which branches grow in all directions—being leggy messes up all that.

Having leaves fall off the plant is dangerous because this plant feeds through the leaves. If there is a reduction of leaves, the plant can’t be healthy.

The goldfish plant needs a lot of light, and failure to get it causes it to proceed upwards, resulting in a leggy plant with the consequences, as mentioned earlier. Getting this plant to grow into the beautiful phenomenon you see takes effort. It does best in a pot as too much space hurts its average growth.

Pests and Diseases

This plant is susceptible to quite a few pests, including botrytis mold; mosaic viruses are the diseases that are most likely to affect the plant. You can manage these challenges using agrichemicals, but organic remedies are recommended. The pests include cottony cushion scale insects are some of the most common to affect the plants. Aphids are also a significant enemy, and you should always be on the lookout to ensure the plant is safe. If you catch an infestation early, your will be able to take care of it quickly and protect your goldfish plant.


You propagate the goldfish plant using stem-tip cuttings. Always choose the stem tips without flowers. The cutting you use to propagate should be at least two or three inches long. It should have a node because rooting occurs most efficiently at the nodes. You can use a rooting hormone to expedite the rooting process. Stick the plant to the right for the growth of this plant. Place the cutting in a well-lit place and humid place.

When the plant takes root, you should put it in a pot and let it grow. Potting the goldfish plant makes it grow faster and flower more. You may need to repot every two or three years if it outgrows its accommodation at the time. One of the critical things to consider when repotting is the size of the pot. This plant prefers tight spaces, and putting it in a vast pool, maybe with the goal of not repotting for a while, will ruin the outcome. If you need to increase pot size, increase it by one size with each repotting.

If you want to know more about this plant propagation, we made a detailed guide here.

tall goldfish plant placed next to the window
Photo by @ndutdut via Instagram

FAQs About The Goldfish Plant ‘Nematanthus Gregarious’

1. Why is my goldfish plant dropping leaves?

The goldfish plant can drop leaves due to overwatering or low humidity in the atmosphere

2. Is the goldfish plant toxic to cats?

The goldfish plant is not toxic to cats or other pets.

3. How can I get my goldfish plant to bloom?

This plant blooms in spring and summer, so you should wait if you haven’t had it in those seasons. If, however, the blooming season has come and you see no flowers, your plant is probably not getting enough light. Ensure you give it 13 hours of sunlight daily by putting it under indirect sunlight and then supplement the remaining hours with grow lights. The general health of your plant, including the level of humidity, determines flowering. The air should neither be too humid nor too dry.

4. Is a goldfish plant succulent?

The goldfish plant is not succulent. It is a tropical epiphyte.

goldfish plant flowers and leaves exposed to the sunlight
Photo by @tk84paddle via Instagram

Final Thought

The goldfish plant isn’t one of the easiest decorative plants to grow and care for. It requires attention, and the ranges of parameters it does well are usually relatively narrow. It may not be accurate to say that the plant can’t be grown by a novice gardener, but an inexperienced person needs to be meticulous in their care of the goldfish plant. Like with everything else, farming gets easier with practice. You will learn your plants’ rhythm, which is usually unique from location to location. If you get the husbandry right, this will be one of the most beautiful decorative plants you will ever have.


Richard Miller

Salute everyone. It's Richard, the author of this Succulent & Xeriscaping blog. I am a traveler and a nature lover looking for a connection with the wild green. In my journey, I found a love for succulents and xeriscaping. What attracts me is the long-lasting & unique beauty of every plant I have the chance to see with my own eyes. Welcome to my little blog and let's enjoy a good time together!

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Posted in Perennial Plants