Family Gesneriaceae

The hybrid achimenes plants which are grown today are derived mainly from the species Achimenes hngi/lora, a native of Mexico. One of the most successful raisers of modern hybrids is Mr Konrad Michelssen of Hamburg, who has specialised in breeding new hybrids for many years.

Achimenes are grown from rhizomes or tubers, which are scaly in appearance. The fleshy scales are arranged in the manner of a closed pine cone and each scale is capable of propagation, but in practice one usually uses the whole tuber. Healthy plants usually produce several new tubers tn a season's growth, so once you commence growing these plants your main difficulty is restraining yourself from growing too many plants. Select the biggest and most healthy-looking tubers for the next season's growth and discard the rest if you are unable to give them away.

Achimenes are beautiful plants which have a long flowering period, particularly if the tubers are started into growth m mid-winter. The flowers, which are usually available in violet, pink, red and blue shades, are ]l/i~2]/2 in (4-6 cm)across, and although each individual flower only lasts a few days new flowers are continually opening, giving a constant succession. Each individual ilower consists of a tube, growing from the flower stalk, which (lares out into five flat petals. As the colours are bright shades against an attractive green background achimenes are very decorative plants.

CULTIVATION

Tubers can be started into growth any time from midwinter to mid-spring., but as they require a minimum temperature of SO^F {15°C) during the growing period the time to start them will depend on the amount of heat you have available.

Using compost E6 place the tubers on their sides and cover with 'A- 1 in (13-25 mm) of compost. Allow three tubers to a 4-in (10*cm) pot or five to six to a 5-in (13-cm) pot. Water the pots at the time of planting and only water again when it is absolutely necessary, i.e. when the surface of the compost is really dry. Start the pots in a propagator in a temperature of 65-70°F (18- 2TC) until the shoots appear, after which the plants can be moved to a slightly cooler place. A temperature ol'60oF(15°C) is ideal.

When tubers have been started in mid-spring, by the time the shoots have appeared the greenhouse day temperatures will be averaging the required temperature for growth and, providing the night temperatures do not drop below 453 F (7°C), the plants will thrive quite satisfactorily.

The modern hybrids usually form bushy and compact plants but, should any stems appear to be growing 'leggy', do not hesitate to nip out the

Flowering Pot Plants
Acktmtntu "Rumpilf'iltilUn* grown (torn tubers. There arc minv varieties available in a wide ringc of colours.

growing tip. Other than this the plants do not need any attention, apart from watering, until they have flowered. When grnwn in a greenhouse they should be lightly shaded on bright sunny days in the summer.

After the plants have finished flowering, or by the middle of autumn, cease watering and ensure that the compost dries out completely. As the compost dries, the leaves will die off the plants and when the stems are obviously dry and dead they should be removed. Providing the compost in the pots is completely dry, the tubers can be left in the compost until the following season.

The pots should be stored in a minimum temperature of45liF (7°C) during the winter months. If you cannot provide these conditions, remove the tubers from the compost and store in a cool place in the house. Achimenes should be grown in fresh compost every year.

Although achimenes are usually grown from tubers they can, of course, be grown from seed. The seed is extremely small and must not be covered by the sowing compost. Sow thinly on the surface of JI seed compost or similar, press the seed into the surface, then lightly spray with water using a fine spray. Sow from mid-winter onwards and keep the seed pan in a temperature of 65-70°F (18-20flC) covered with a sheet of glass.

Unless you have a greenhouse it is unlikely you will meet with success growing these plants from seed.

Achimenes can also be propagated from cuttings by selecting a strong shoot and taking a 3-in (7,5-cm) tip cutting, but as the plants produce so many new tubers each year there is not much point in propagating by this method unless you have a special reason for doing so.

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