ACHIMENES (Magic Flower, Nut Orchid, Widow's Tears) Gesneriaceae A. hybrids
HABITAT: Tuberous plant native to Tropical America. Hardy Zone 10.
USES: Hanging baskets, planters, pots, house plants, and borders.
HABIT: Slender stemmed plants clothed with round, crisp, bright to dark green, hairy leaves and tubular Petunia-like flowers in pinks, blues, orchids, lavenders, reds, yellows, and white which bloom spring to fall. Height 12-24 inches with some trailing varieties.
SEED GERMINATION AND CULTURE: Sow on moistened Park's Grow Mix and do not cover seed with soil mix. Provide at least 12 hours of light daily, but out of direct sun.
Germinate with a soil temperature of 72° minimum. Germination will take 2-3 weeks. Keep soil surface moist at all times and transplant when four true leaves appear into 2 1/4" peat pots, then shift to garden or containers when roots emerge from pot walls. Seedlings require about three months at 70° to provide plants large enough to flower.
Plant the pine cone-like tubers in January or later with 4-6 tubers 1-2 inches deep in a 6 inch pot or basket or plant outdoors when the ground is warmed up 6-12 inches apart, 1-2 inches deep in light shade. Place potted tubers in a warm 70-80° area and subdued light. Use a soil mix high in humus (leaf mold, peat, compost, etc.) and some sand added.
Keep slightly moist until foliage shows then water well while actively growing. Lime at a handful per square yard is beneficial for the plants. Fertilize every other week with a standard garden fertilizer, fish emulsion, or incorporate a slow release fertilizer when potting. Begin fertilizing when flower buds show. Remove tubers after plants die down and before fall frost. Leave dormant rhizomes in the pot or container for a week or two then lift and store in dry vermiculite, peat, or perlite in a dry, cool (60°F) place until spring.
Achimenes will grow indoors in bright light or curtain-filtered sunlight or under 12-14 hours of fluorescent light. They require a night temperature of 65-70°F and day temperatures of 75° or higher. Pot in a loose, well-drained mix such as Park's Grow Mix and feed every other week with a standard house plant fertilizer such as Hyponex at 1/2 strength.
After flowering, allow the plant to die down and store as above.
INSECTS: Aphids, Mealy Bug, Mites, and Scale: Use an approved insecticide such as Malathion or Rotenone for control.
Caterpillar: Use an approved insecticide such as Sevin for control.
DISEASES: Bud Drop: Avoid low temperature and humidity, over-watering, and spray for mites.
Crown Rots, Stem Rot, Root Rot: Drench soil with Ferbam at 2 1/2 tablespoons per gallon of water.
Mildew, Botrytis Blight, Mold: Use an approved fungicide such as Benlate for control.
Leaf Scorch: Keep plants out of bright sun.
PROPAGATION: Stem, leaf, and rhizome rooting. Division and seed.
REMARKS: More striking than the African Violet; smaller and more appealing than the Gloxinia, Achimenes have many of the virtues of both these popular indoor subjects.