Achimenes like the same care and culture as African violets and are equally rewarding. By comparison with the achimenes, the African violet is just an infant.
First introduced to England from Jamaica in 1778, Achimenes coccinea became popular almost immediately. The African violet did not appear until 1889.
In the period from 1838 to 1850, when Theodore Hartweg of the Royal Horticultural Society of London and others were searching for plants throughout the Americas, numerous species of achimenes were introduced to cultivation.
- Achimenes patens
- Achimenes rosea
- Achimenes hirsuta
- Achimenes longiflora
- Achimenes grandiflora
… and others were widely grown.
As would be expected, hybridization began immediately. In 1848 William Backhouse received a Certificate of Award for his hybrid Venusta, a cross between Achimenes rosea and Achimenes patens.
This first variety is still grown and is one of the finest available today.
Achimenes Grow From Small Rhizomes
Grow Achimenes bulbs from small rhizomes, often called tubers or tubercles, which vary in size and shape among the varieties. Some are like small pine cones, others like pipe cleaners.
Achimenes and African violets can be grown under similar conditions.
The rhizomes are planted as soon as they are received in late winter, or early spring, about 1/2″ inch deep in a light porous compost made up of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite – African violet soil works as well!.
Do not add manure or artificial fertilizer until the plants are up and actively growing. Many of the reported failures with achimenes can be traced to the use of manure in the potting soil.
Water the containers lightly and set them in the basement or under a greenhouse bench away from frost and where they will not get too wet, dry, or hot.
A temperature of 50° degrees Fahrenheit during storage is satisfactory.
Check them from time to time to see that they do not dry out for an extended period.
As soon as the sprouts show above the soil in the spring, they should be moved to a lighted window, and the soil top-dressed with light fertilizer – outdoors, try well-rotted manure.
Weak liquid fertilizer should also be given regularly during the growing and blooming season for the largest flowers.
Conditions similar to those suitable for African violets will be satisfactory. They need considerable light but resent full sunlight except in the early morning and evening.
As autumn approaches and the number of flowers decreases cut down on the water and allow the plants to dry off.
When entirely dry, cut the stems above the soil. Set the pot, with soil and tubers undisturbed, in the basement or under the greenhouse bench.
Do not disturb them until the tubers sprout again in the spring, except to sprinkle the soil with water from time to time if needed.
Storing Achimenes Bulbs For Winter
Most cases of loss over the winter are caused by removing the tubers from the soil and allowing them to dry out.
If stored in the pot, undisturbed, the tubers are very tolerant of cold, moisture, or drying.
We have had some varieties survive a few degrees of frost, and most are unharmed at temperatures near freezing for short periods.
The plants will make a fine show if left in the same soil and container for two seasons. If three to five tubers were planted in a 5″ or 6″ inch pot the first spring, the second season should find the pot full of blooming plants.
Repot before the third season, however, using fresh compost.
We have found glazed pots and 1-gallon plastic pots very satisfactory containers.
Some varieties show off the best advantage if grown in hanging baskets, but all types can be grown in boxes or pots.
If the plant proves to be of hanging growth, the container can be placed on an inverted pot or other stands to permit the stems to cascade gracefully over the sides.
Achimenes Increase Naturally
Achimenes increase naturally by the tubers. For most varieties, this method will more than supplying the needs of the gardener.
If more plants are wanted, however, stem or leaf cuttings, treated in the same manner as African violet leaf cuttings, will produce a number of tubers and bloom in a season.
The tubers can also be broken into two or even more pieces. Usually, each piece will grow. Even the scales of which the tubers are composed can be gently rubbed off and planted like seeds.
If handled carefully and given a gentle bottom heat, many will grow. Seeds, if obtainable, grow easily when given the same care as an African violet or begonia seed.
Those interested in hybridizing African violets might try crossing them with achimenes to increase the color range.
Do not be discouraged if your first efforts fail. Numerous plant groups are crossed by breeders, which were considered impossible only a few years ago.
Approximately 50 varieties of achimenes are being grown in this country today.
It is, of course, impossible to offer a group of varieties that everyone will consider the best, so find colors you like and try Achimenes out.
Hanging Types Of Achimenes
For the hanging basket, you can find large flat flowers of the mottled blue, yellow throat, and crimson eyes, to dark blue flowers and dark foliage that will create a sensation.
Several varieties developed from the species Achimenes scheeri and have blue-purple flowers like gloxinias and large velvety green leaves like isoloma (tydaea).
Last but not least is – Venusta, the oldest Achimenes variety known. This is a medium-sized semidouble of rich purple with very dark blue-purple foliage.
Free blooming and graceful growth, this variety will make an outstanding display.
There are many fine varieties of Achimenes available. We know you will be enthusiastic about achimenes and will want to grow them along with your African violets.
FGR-0151 – By K Mosher