Achimenes (Magic Flower, Nut Orchid, Widow's Tears)

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.