A glasshouse gem often seen on a kitchen window sill is the Hot-water plant with its long flowering display of pastel trumpet blooms. Related to Gloxinias several dozen species were introduced from Central America in the late 18C early 19C. These were tropical plants requiring hot house conditions and were soon hybridised to be more tolerant of cooler conditions.
The crosses were so much more successful they supplanted the originals. Although other Achimenes are still available almost invariably you encounter pale mauve and white hybrids. No problem for these are superb performers.
Although usually flowering from midsummer into early winter with warmth and extra light these can be forced into earlier bloom from late spring. They will naturally stop flowering and go dormant in late autumn when they need drying off till revived the following late winter or spring.
As so often it’s possible to start with seed but only the avid collector is going to try. Achimenes are commonly supplied as what look like mouse dropping sized catkins. These rhizome come tubercules consist of tiny scales each of which could become a plant, and indeed division is the best way for multiplying these.
They prefer a leaf-mould rich sandy free draining compost, well sieved so the fine roots can penetrate. Plant the tubercules about an inch or two/3-5cm apart about an inch/2-3cm deep. Achimenes habit is upright, but need supporting as the huge masses of blooms cause them to flop. Thus they are well suited to hanging baskets and tall pots which they can simply hang over.
These like warmth and bright light but not scorching direct sun and are called the Hot-water plant just because they’re commonly watered with warm water. A wise choice as their biggest risk is cold wet conditions when they mould away. A minimum temperature of 60F/17C is required for growth.
Water lightly initially then more heavily once they’re growing away and feed regularly. Water the compost never the flowers or foliage though on very hot days they may enjoy a fine misting. This will deter Red Spider mites which with Aphids are their only likely woes.
Achimenes are compact plants and well suited for serious collection. For although you will undoubtedly find the pale mauve hybrids most frequently around thirty species and improved varieties in a wide range of colours are available from specialist nurseries.