What Is Variegated Goldfish Plant?

Its botanical name is Nematanthus Variegata. It is an epiphytic native of Brazil and an excellent decorative plant, especially when displayed from a hanging basket. The leaves of variegated goldfish plant have a light green hue with cream-white markings on various parts. The leaves are waxy and relatively soft to the touch.

Features of Variegated Goldfish Plant

Besides the beautiful variegated leaves, the variegated goldfish plant also has orange-red flowers that look like tiny goldfish. This is where the plant gets its name. When well managed, the goldfish plant can be quite prolific in its flowering, giving your house an excellent appearance.

The other physical attributes of the goldfish plant, besides the leaves and flowers, are a short stem that hardly grows beyond three inches high. Branches then proceed from this short stem, and they can grow up to three feet long.

The variegated goldfish plant grows slowly, and unlike many other decorative plants, this goldfish plant can survive for up to ten years. It may interest you to know that this plan is not succulent, it is a tropical epiphyte, and therefore, its husbandry is a little different from most decorative plants as we are going to see.

Below is some information about it in summary.

Botanical NameNematanthus Variegata
Common NameGoldfish Plant
Size2-3 inch stem and 3 feet long branches
FloweringSpring and Summer
Flower colorRed, orange, and yellow
OriginBrazil, Central America, and the Caribbean
Life SpanTen Years

This Nematanthus goldfish plant is one of the many varieties of the goldfish plant. Some family members aren’t variegated, and the different family members have developed cultivars. The common dominator between them is their beauty, similar care regimes, and the longevity of the plants.

The following are some care tips for the plant.

Light and Positioning

When they hear that variegated goldfish plant is tropical, many people assume that it requires to stay under direct sunlight; this is erroneous. The vast majority of the smaller tropical plants usually encounter direct sunlight for short periods during the day. It remains under a canopy of the taller trees for the rest of the day owing to the covering. These plants are, therefore, not adapted to direct sunlight. It would help if you kept them under a shade.

Putting these plants under direct sunlight leads to scorched leaves, which ultimately drop off. Although the plant doesn’t do well under direct sun rays, it requires a lot of sunlight for its processes. An epiphyte gets very little food from the roots. Most of its metabolic activities happen on the leaves through photosynthesis, for which sunlight is imperative. If the sunlight is not enough, the leaves are likely to drop, and if it is just enough, it will keep the leaves, but there will be no flowers. Also, inadequate light causes the plant to be leggy as it tries to reach for the light. This manifests by the stem becoming longer than average, thus denying the plant of its natural beauty.

The variegated goldfish plant requires at least thirteen hours of light every day to bloom well. You will have to supplement whatever sunlight the plant will get with grow lights. It is impossible to tend this plant without growing lights adequately, and you need to invest in some as you plan to keep it. For natural, indirect sunlight, keep the plant next to the eastern windows during the day.


The variegated goldfish plant doesn’t do well in waterlogged soil. As earlier noted, photosynthesis is the primary way it meets its energy needs; this is what it is adapted for. Therefore, the soil must be easy to drain to get the best results from this plant.

Since you will be planting the plant indoors, your plant will likely be in a pot. Buy the commercial potting mix and add 50-70% pumice to make it easy to drain. If you use the natural soil, ensure it has 70% sand and 30% loamy soil. The soil will be moist, which is essential, but it will not hold too much water.

You need to ensure that the pot where you grow this plant has drainage holes to drain off any excess water.

How to Water Variegated Goldfish Plant

From our discussion above, you may have already picked that the variegated goldfish plant doesn’t like too much water. However, no one amount fits all seasons when it comes to watering. The volume of water you give the goldfish plant depends on the season. Don’t allow water to settle in the pot, 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, you shouldn’t allow the soil to get completely dry even in winter, only a little drier when compared to the summer pottage. You should only use room temperature to 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 room temperature by fetching it from the tap and keeping it in an open container overnight before watering the plant. Keeping the water overnight like this also allows water treatment chemicals that may be harmful to the plant to dissipate.

You know variegated goldfish 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.

Temperature and Humidity

The ideal temperature for variegated goldfish plant ranges from 65oF – to 75oF (18oC -24oC). Although it is a native of the tropical jungles where the sun is always shining, it stays under the foliage, and the temperature is usually relatively calm. It requires a moderate level of humidity to perform photosynthesis at the rate it needs to. If the humidity is too low, the plant lacks the necessary energy to run its processes since photosynthesis generates the glucose it needs. If the humidity is too much, the first evidence will be leaves dropping.

Feeding Variegated Goldfish Plant

The heaviest blooming seasons for variegated goldfish plant are spring and summer, when it needs the most fertilizer. You should give it a half dose strength of a 10-30-10 high phosphorus fertilizer in these seasons. Feed it every two weeks during these seasons. Go slow on the feeding if you find the plant’s leaves turning yellowish. Ultimately, you will learn the rhythm of your plant and know when to feed it without taking too much time to understand it.


The best way to show off this plant’s beauty is by planting it in a hanging basket. It is advisable to prune them, which can grow to three feet and retain only two feet. Beheading the branches facilitates increased growth of leaves, causing the foliage to get denser and, therefore, more attractive.

You can improve the foliage’s density by planting several cuttings in one pot. Flowering is a part of grooming, so ensure you have given it the optimum conditions for flowering.

Pests and Diseases

Variegated goldfish plant is susceptible to some 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.

How to Propagate Variegated Goldfish Plant

The fastest ways to propagate this plant are either by division or cuttings. The best time to propagate by division is when repotting (which should occur every two to three years). Propagation by division is when you take a plant with many shoots and pick a few from the group. Should then trim the leaves and pot the plant in a new pot under the appropriate growing conditions.

The best cutting for propagation is the greenish, supple end cuttings on a branch. The cutting shouldn’t have any flowers as a flower would divert the resources needed for rooting. Once you have identified the correct branches for propagation, disinfect the cutting tool you will use to harvest the cutting. Sterilizing them with alcohol will ensure no infection gets into the mother ot daughter plant.

The next step is to remove leaves on the lower third of your new variegated goldfish plant cutting. Apply a rooting hormone where you expect the rooting to occur and put the cuttings in a water bottle. Rooting should occur in about three weeks. Transplant after the roots are well established. You can embed the cuttings using sphagnum moss, following the same procedures before planting them.


The Variegated goldfish plant is an excellent addition to your decorative plants. It, however, requires you to be a lot more attentive than many domestic plants do. Humidity, temperature, water, and light are the key to enjoying the majesty of this plant. 


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!

Contact me: richard.succulentcity@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Posted in Succulents