Achimene - hot water plants

by Adam Pasco

The Victorians knew their plants, and the gorgeous hot water plant, achimene, was one of their favourites.

Hot water plant - Achimene 'Ambroise Verschaffelt'The Victorians knew their plants, and the gorgeous hot water plant, achimene, was one of their favourites. Who can resist the charms of this little beauty, a relative of the African violet and Cape primrose. I'm a great fan of the gesneriad family, all of which make ideal pot plants for the home, greenhouse or conservatory.

Victorian gardeners believed achimene must be watered with tepid rather than cold water, hence their common name of hot water plant. I'm not convinced this is actually essential, but it has got me into the habit of always filling my watering can after watering. Left in the greenhouse its contents will have warmed up before the next watering session, (possibly) sparing the plants the shock of cold water.

The lovely variety pictured is Achimene 'Ambroise Verschaffelt', which has an upright growth habit unlike other trailing varieties. You can tell it's a good variety because the Royal Horticultural Society has given it an AGM (Award of Garden Merit).

Achimenes grow from funny-looking rhizomes that can be planted up in February or March in a heated propagator, planting several in one pot to create a bushier display. Later in the year you may find young plants for sale, possibly flowering ones.

When I edited a magazine called 'Greenhouse' back in the early 80s I remember visiting a specialist achimene grower near St Albans (I think he was called Mr Townsend). He has long since ceased trading, and the leading nursery now offering this and other gesneriads is Dibleys in Llanelidan, North Wales. I've enjoyed their stunning displays of streptocarpus, begonias and indoor plants at the Chelsea Flower Show, Gardeners' World Live and other events for many years, and am always tempted to try something new.

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Gardeners' World Web User 08/12/2008 at 15:35

Any information on Achimene plant would be most welcome. Is it right that it should be left to dry out completely after flowering and that the rhizomes must be kept in a cool dry place till the following February befor replanting?.

Gardeners' World Web User 13/09/2009 at 12:22

can someone help me please, I would like to buy Achimenes plant, where can I get one? Any help much appreciated

Gardeners' World Web User 29/03/2010 at 08:44

can anyone tell me where to get achimenes in australia

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:31

Saw these plants for the First time last night at the AGM of our gardening club and am desperate to start my own collection as I think they are wonderful

Suecamp 04/11/2012 at 19:29

Is there anything special I should do with this plant in the0 winter? Last year, on the advice of a friend, I put it in the shed all winter! When I removed it looked dead but I persevered and picked all the dead flowers and leaves off. This year, with lots of tender loving care from myself, its bigger than ever and I've had to buy a new pot about 2' across. Its still flowering in the conservatory and it seems a shame to put it in the shed. Please help!

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