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In the warmest gardens, this Mexican species is a fine perennial, dying down in autumn and usually protected with a mulch of bark against winter frosts. Elsewhere it has often been grown as a greenhouse pot plant, and makes an impressive shrubby plant in a 25cm (10in) container. It is easily raised from seed, however, for planting out as late summer bedding, particularly effective when the soft 'Cambridge Blue' variety is combined with bedding dahlias. The tuberous roots can be dried and stored like dahlias, to make larger plants in the second year. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
Cultivar: Cambridge Blue
Plant type: Tender perennial
Flower colour: Blue
Foliage colour: Mid-green
Sun exposure: Full sun, Partial shade
Soil: Well-drained/light, Moist, Sandy
Skill level: Beginner
Time to plant seeds: March to May
Time to take cuttings: August to September
Flowering period: July to September
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