Botanical Name: Achimenes Spp. and Hybrids
Show off your flowering plant in a hanging basket -- you'll enjoy showers of beautiful blooms from late spring till fall.
Some common names for this plant are Cupid's Bower, Hot Water Plant, or Magic Flower.
Dozens of hybrids are available to choose from, offering an abundance of red, pink, white, purple, violet-blue or yellow flowers. Some hybrids have contrasting striped throats.
Achimenes erecta is a popular variety. Despite its name, this plant has a trailing habit -- growing to 18 in (45 cm) -- with bright red flowers. A. longiflora trails up to 2 ft (60 cm) long, and has big, blue flowers with a white throat. A.l. 'Alba' and A.l. 'Ambroise Verschaffelt' both feature white flowers with purple lines down the throat.
Flowers appear on short stems that grow from the leaf axils. The tubular flowers grow up to 2 in (5 cm) long, and flare out into 5-petaled trumpets, up to 3 in (8 cm) wide. Each Achimenes flower lasts just a few days, but you'll enjoy continuous blooms for several months.
Deep-green, velvety leaves are carried in pairs, and can grow up to 3 in (8 cm) long with sawtoothed edges. The long stems are weak -- causing them to cascade over the edge of the pot. Show off those trailing blooms by displaying it on a plant stand. Those gorgeous blooms make a stunning accent to any brightly lit room.
Flower buds dropping? Dry soil, dry air and extreme temps may cause buds and flowers to fall off. Keep the soil lightly moist while Achimenes is actively growing. Dry soil will also trigger the plant to go dormant. Indoor air can become extremely dry; fortunately, boosting humidity around your tropical plant is easy. Use a humidity tray or a cool-mist room humidifier.
Pinch your plant. Pinch stem tips when they are about 3-in (7.5 cm) long to promote branching. You'll get a fuller plant -- and more blooms -- this way.
Something bugging your plant? Wet, peaty potting mixes sometimes attract fungus gnats. And aphids may attack new growth; check the along the stems and new leaves for these pests. Treat any infestation right away to prevent them from multiplying and invading your other indoor plants.
Give it a winter rest. Achimenes will go dormant in the winter. When flowering tapers off in fall, reduce watering and allow the plant to die back naturally. Cut off brown, withered stems at soil level with sharp pruners -- don't pull them off with your hands because that may damage the rhizomes. Take rhizomes out of the pot and store them in a paper bag, in a cool (60°F/16°C), dry place until spring.
Repot every spring. Pot the dormant rhizomes in fresh potting mix (see Soil below), planting them 1 in (2.5 cm) deep, about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Keep the mix lightly moist at all times.
Origin: Central America
Height: 1-2 ft (30-60 cm)
Light: Set your plant where it'll get plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. Protect your plant from hot midday sun, which may cause brown scorch marks on the tender leaves. Filtered light from a south- or west-facing window will give it the light it needs. Don't have a sunny window? Achimenes also responds well to artificial light. Set plant about 8 to 10 inches under a fluorescent light for 12 hours a day. Switch off the lights at night -- these beauties need their rest, too. Some flowering plants won't set buds unless they get 12 hours of continuous darkness. It's a good idea to use a timer to come on the same time every day.
Water: Keep the soil evenly moist during the growing season, but not soggy which will quickly cause the rhizomes to rot. If the medium is allowed to dry out, the plant will go dormant. Don't water in winter. (See "Give it a winter rest" above.) Always use room-temperature water because cold water is a shock to this tropical native.
Humidity: Try to maintain at least 40-50% relative humidity around your plant. The best way to raise humidity around your houseplant is by setting the plant on a humidity tray or near a cool-mist room humidifier. Don't mist Achimenes because its soft, fuzzy leaves will trap water, causing dark spots on the leaves and fungus.
Temperature: Average room temperature 65-75°F/18-24°C; Achimenes will tolerate temps as low as 55°F/12°C, but anything above 80°F/25°C will cause flower buds to shrivel and dry up.
Soil: Use 3 parts peat moss-based potting medium and 1 part perlite and/or vermiculite. African violet potting mix is ideal.
Fertilizer: Feed every 2 weeks while plants are budding and blooming with high-phosphorus liquid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 strength.
Propagation: Take 3 in (8 cm) stem tip cuttings in early summer. Or cut rhizome into pieces and pot separately. Achimenes rhizomes are small, so don't be afraid to crowd them a bit for a full, lush container. Plant rhizomes 2 in (5 cm) apart, covering them with 1 in (2.5 cm) potting mix. Keep potted rhizomes lightly moist and warm (around 70-75°F/21-24°C) until you see new growth, then resume normal care. Spring is a good time to divide rhizomes. Discard any rhizomes that are small or shriveled -- they're not worth repotting.