Achimenes

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 Blossom

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.

Achimenes Rhizomes

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.

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8 responses to “Achimenes

  1. Great info, but want to know a source.

  2. A bit late, but mcclure & zimmerman lists them….. mzbulb.com

    I remember my great-grandmother always having a big gorgeous pot of these on her front porch……the most memorable thing abot it was her remark that the bulbs were the size of “rat dumplins.” As i recall, she stored them in their pot, dry, in her basement over the winter.

  3. My mom gave me a pot of these, and I LOVED them! That was a few years ago. She didn’t know what they were named, and I didn’t have a clue. I just knew they were my favorite plant each summer, and so easy to grow! After dying off in fall and overwintering in the garage, they sprouted up every spring with no work on my part. A couple of springs ago, I was going to repot them before they started sprouting, but all I found was the rhizomes, at which time I was completely ignorant about them. I thought my pot had been infested with some type of worm or bug! I was disgusted and threw them all out. Then, later that spring, I wondered why my pot of pretty plants/flowers hadn’t come up yet. By summer, I gave up hope and figured they’d somehow died during the overwinter stay in our garage. I STILL had no idea they sprout from rhizomes, and that those rhizomes where what I’d mistaken for bugs and thrown away. Thankfully, though, a few rhizomes must have accidentally made their way into another pot that was hosting a bromeliad, and a few of them sprouted up amongst the bromeliad that same summer. I finally went online and posted a picture of the plants with flowers, and it was ID’d as achimenes. That’s when I found out about the rhizomes, and realized my folly. That was last summer, and this spring I’ve just sifted through the bromeliad pot that hosted the stragglers, and found a handful of small rhizomes, which I just planted into their original pot. I hope they sprout and fill the pot and that from now on, I can enjoy them each season once again.

    • What a GREAT story! Often there are some little rhizomes in the pot that are hard to see and those are the ones that survived for you. It just goes to show how tough plants are and how growing them is a constant learning process. Good luck with the achimenes this year!

  4. Yes, thank goodness for those tough little rhizomes that escaped my foolishness! I thought I’d update you. The handful of small rhizomes I planted in the original pot this spring definitely came up—the pot has been filled with gorgeous blooming Achimenes all summer…they’re just now tiring out (I am in north Florida) but it’s safe to say my beautiful Achimenes are with me for good now. And I still have a few stragglers that popped up in that bromeliad pot, though I thought I got them all out. I left them there because they look pretty surrounding the bromeliad. 🙂 Thanks for your posts.

    • Thanks and I’m glad to hear they survived and now you know what to look for when you replant in the spring. Mine were some of the best I’ve ever grown- must have been good conditions here as well!

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