Callisia fragrans-Grandpa’s Pipe, Inch Plant, etc.

My new Callisia fragrans companion when I adopted it on 6-6-17.

Grandpa’s Pipe, Inch Plant, House Ginseng, Family Doctor, Golden Moustache, Heals 100 Ailments.etc.

Callisia fragrans

kal-LIZ-ee-uh  FRAY-granz

Callisia fragrans (Lindl.) Woodson is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species. It was given this name and described as such by Robert Everard Woodson in Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1942. It was first named Spironema fragrans Lindl. by John Lindley in Edward’s Botanical Register in 1840. It was also named Rectanthera fragrans (Lindl.) O.Deg. by Otto Degener in 1932 in Flora Hawaiiensis.

The genus, Callisia Loefl., was named and described by Pehr Loefling in Iter Hispan in 1758. According to Plants of the World Online by Kew, there are 20 accepted species in the Callisia genus.


Callisia fragrans on 6-18-17, #345-9.

My Callisia fragrans was given to me by the owner of Wagler’s Greenhouse in 2017. The owner of Wagler’s and I have been exchanging plants since 2013 and I always find something I don’t have. My sister and niece like to come down from Kansas City to buy plants from the local greenhouses and our first stop is usually Wagler’s. In fact, I lived here 3 years before I even knew there were 3 others. Anyway, the day I took them plant shopping I saw several of this plant I didn’t see before. I thought it was some type of Bromeliad because it looked similar. She said someone gave her a start and told her it was called “Grandpa’s Pipe”.


Callisia fragrans on 6-24-17, #349-21,

When I got home with several plants AGAIN, I took photos as usual then went to the computer. I had to know the genus and species of the Grandpa’s Pipe. Strangely enough, I typed the name in the search window and came up with Callisia fragrans. The name “Grandpa’s Pipe” was nowhere to be found as a common name on any of the websites I visited. How in the heck could I find the plant with that name when it isn’t even mentioned? Can my computer now read my mind?


Callisia fragrans on 7-30-17, #362-18.

I found out that this plant is NOT a species of Bromeliad as I suspected. It is a member of the Commelinaceae family (dayflower family and spiderwort family). SO, this plant is in the same family as the Tradescantia (Spiderworts).


Callisia fragrans on 8-7-17, #365-7.

Type: Tropical
Family: Commelinaceae
Origin: Native to Mexico
Zones: 10b-11 (35-40° F)
Size: 12”+
Light: Light to part shade.
Soil: Well-drained potting soil
Water: Average
Flowers: White flowers in late winter-early spring.
Propagation: Stem cuttings.


Callisia fragrans on 8-7-17, #365-8.

Right off the bat, “this plant” started growing like its life depended on it. It had found a new home with this crazy guy that likes weird plants and it decided to show me what it was made of. It soon started sending out shoots here and there and within no time my potting table looked like a Callisia freeway, sending roads everywhere it wanted to travel to.


Callisia fragrans on 8-23-17, 368-9.

Although some information online says the Callisia can be grown in sun to part shade, I think the full sun would not be a good idea. Mine did very well behind the shed with the other potted plants in light to part shade. Brighter light does seem to make the leaves have a reddish pigment, which according to the plant, is a good thing. I would imagine that full sun would burn this plant to a crisp, though.


Callisia fragrans on 8-29-17, #369-37.

San Marcos Growers says that when the Callisia fragrans is grown in more light, they will lay flat and they grow upright in more shade. When they grow flat they look like a cluster of Bromeliads. They say that the name Tradescantia dracaenoides and False Bromeliad are associated with this plant and the scientific name is invalid. I checked out the name and Plants of the World online says it is a synonym of Tradescantia macrophyllum. That species is native to central and southwest Mexico.


Callisia fragrans on 8-29-17, #369-38.

The Callisia fragrans has antiviral and antimicrobial properties. The leaves are used to treat various skin diseases, burns, and joint disorders. One website says chewing the leaves will quickly relieve headaches. Some information suggests the sun increases the medicinal quality. The leaves are said to be juicy and have a pleasant taste. Hmmm… Maybe I will have a sample.

Callisia fragrans, according to scientists, have biologically active substances, vitamins and minerals found at the optimum ratio.

Callisia fragrans Has being studied in Russia for more than 20 years by scientists.

This plant is also known as the House Ginseng, Family Doctor, Golden Moustache or Heals 100 Ailments.


Callisia fragrans on 8-29-17, #369-39.

The whole plant posses curative compounds, although the juice has higher concentrations in the stem. Callisia juice contains two groups of flavonoids, quercetin, and kaempferol.

Quercetin has antioxidant and anti-allergic properties and reduces the permeability of the capillaries and stabilizes membranes. It is used to treat inflammatory diseases, arthritis, arthrosis, bronchial asthma, allergic skin, mucous diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.
Kaempferol is used as a tonic, capillary-reinforcing and as a diuretic. It is used to treat urinary system and allergic diseases.

In addition to flavonoids, Callisia has a group of steroids. Steroids act as biological controls to help the body to stimulate protein synthesis cells, contributing to the early renewal of muscle tissue cells. Callisia fragrans highly active substances, such as beta-sitosterol, helps reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and to strengthen and cleanse the walls of blood vessels. It is used for the treatment of atherosclerosis, metabolic diseases, endocrine system, inflammations of the prostate, etc.

In addition to flavonoids and steroids, Callisia fragrans includes various vitamins and minerals. There is vitamin C, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and V15 (Pantothenic acid), ans vitamin RR (nicotine acid). It also contains the micronutrients copper, iron, nickel, among others.


Callisia fragrans on 10-11-17, #382-20.

Tha Callisia fragrans sure produced A LOT of new plants by the time cooler temperatures arrived in October. Now I was wondering what I was going to do with it over the winter in the house.


Callisia fragrans in the dining room on 12-30-17, #396-4.

I decided about the only place to put it was in the dining room on top of this stand. It was tall enough to allow the trailing stems to hang.




Callisia fragrans sending out a bud on 6-4-18, #453-5.

The Callisia fragrans has really been a very interesting plant. Then on June 4, I noticed one of the plants on a stem was starting to flower.I have also noticed, for me anyway, once the parent plant gets a certain height it doesn’t seem to grow anymore. After a year or so, it isn’t very attractive. It has lost all its lower leaves leaving only a few on top and all the stems with new plants hanging down. I had been wondering about putting all the plantlets in their own pots and cutting off the older stem and regrowing it.


Callisia fragrans flowers on 7-12-18, #476-6.

This one “plantlet” became really serious about flowering.


Callisia fragrans on the potting table on 7-12-18, #476-11.

Since the Japanese Beetles wrecked havoc with the Chinese Elm trees, I had to move my potted plants to the front porch and the potting table to the back porch. The plant tables and the potting table were behind a shed under one of the larger elm trees. The beetles started chewing on a few plants not to mention they turned a shady area into nearly full sun.

The Callisia fragrans has been bothering me for a while, so on July 12 I decided I would work on it


Callisia fragrans cutting on 7-12-18.

I removed all the stems with the plantlets on them then removed the plantlets from the stems. Most of them had already started growing a few roots. I also cut off the main stem just below where the leaves were.


Callisia fragrans cuttings in their own pot on 7-12-18, #476-8.

Some of the plantlets were pretty small, so I only re-potted the larger ones. Not there are eleven new pots plus the old stem still in its pot. I wonder what it will do now that it has no leaves?

The new plants didn’t blink a bit and are all doing just fine as of July 25 on the plant table on the front porch.


Callisia fragrans on 7-29-18, #487-25.

Ummm… Almost makes me speechless!


Callisia fragrans on 8-26-18, #499-11.

One thing is for certain, I have found out this plant is definitely a survivor. Not only did the plantlets readily take root, they are now sending out their own runners. The one that started flowering at the end of May still has flowers. Imagine flowers lasting for over three months! Not only that, but the smaller plantlets I discarded and didn’t put in any soil are STILL alive!

I have really enjoyed my Callisia fragrans companion. Watching it grow has been very interesting for sure. If you are looking for this plant, let me know. I am sure we can work something out. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant. If you notice I made an error, please let me know.



Interesting information HERE
NBCI-National Center for Biotechnology Information

6 comments on “Callisia fragrans-Grandpa’s Pipe, Inch Plant, etc.

  1. Wayne says:

    As an avid plant enthusiast I was given a starter clipping from a grandpa’s pipe. My first and know nothing of them. I’m hoping your tips will be helpful in getting this plant established. Very interested in the medical benefits of this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Wayne! Callisia fragrans is very easy to grow as you can tell from my post. If you check out the links at the bottom of the page, you will find several that may assist you better. I don’t know how long you have had your plant, but they send out runners which produce offsets you can later make more plants from. Glad to hear from an avid plant enthusiast! Thanks for the comment and feel free to ask more questions if the links don’t help. I would like to see a photo of your plant. You can attach in an email to


  2. Janet says:

    I’ve been trying to find info about this plant and decided it was a type of Bromeliad. Someone gave me 2 cuttings and it quickly grew roots in the soil. It’s in a lot of sun and some shade right now. I think I will move it over to get a bit more shade. It looks like ariel roots are forming, or maybe it’s just developing new leaves. Anyway, thanks for the info!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Janet! Callisia fragrans isn’t a Bromeliad. It is a member of the Spiderwort family. Light to part shade is best for them I think but I have never had their leaves burn in too much sun. The “aerial” roots are new offsets forming and will have new plantlets on the ends… Thanks for the comment and enjoy your plants!


  3. What happened with the leafless stump??

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Will! Well, the old stem never grew any more leaves all summer. It doesn’t feel like it died because it is still firm. Strange. I am not going to discard it because you just never know. I have more photos I need to add to this page. Do you have this plant? If not, I know where you can get one. Thanks for the comment!


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