Some plants are so common while others are seldom seen and difficult to find. For years I’d heard of achimenes and read about them in gardening books but I’d never seen them in garden centers. When I went on an internet search to find them, I only discovered one bulb site and a few eBay sellers who sold achimenes rhizomes. After finally growing them last year, I don’t know why they aren’t more popular.
Achimenes are part of the Gesneriad family along with african violets and gloxinias. The tubular pansy-like blossoms come in a range of colors including reds, purples, blues, whites and pinks. They grow from small rhizomes (underground stems) and are at home in any bright spot. The plant gets about a foot tall but the stems are not very strong so they’re best in hanging baskets or other containers that allow the plants to spill over the sides. While they need bright light, achimenes will burn if given more than a little morning sun. Last year I planted a small window box with about 10 rhizomes and placed it in an east window on an enclosed porch. I was amazed at the plant’s non-stop blooming from early summer until fall.
Achimenes are easy to grow. The rhizomes are planted about 2″ apart and 1″ deep in a container filled with potting mix. A 6″ pot will easily hold 5 or 6 rhizomes. After watering the pots, the soil needs to be kept just slightly moist until they start to grow. Once they begin growing, achimenes like moist soil and should be fertilized ever couple of weeks with 1/2 strength Miracle-Gro. That’s all it takes to have a summer filled with achimenes blossoms – I said this was an easy plant to grow!
I also like the fact that once you plant achimenes, you can have them forever with just a little special care. Here’s what I did to overwinter my achimenes.
After a summer of blooms, in October I stopped watering the soil and allowed the top growth to die naturally. I then cut off the stems and moved the pot to a cool place for the winter. During this resting time the rhizomes don’t need water or any other care – I just let them rest. This March I carefully removed the top few inches of soil and sifted through it to find the 1/2″ long rhizomes. Last year I planted 10 rhizomes; this year I have over 20. Like I said, once you plant achimenes, with a little care, you’ll have them forever.
I don’t know why this easy to grow beauty is so hard to find. All I know is now that I’ve found achimenes, I can’t imagine not growing them. Maybe I should become the Johnny Appleseed for achimenes… someone needs to get the word out about these amazing plants.