Achimenes plants (a-kim’e-neez) are members of the Gesneriad plant family. There are twenty-six members in this group of perennial plants, all hailing from South and Central America.
You may hear these plants referred to as the Magic Flower, Hot Water plant or Cupid’s Bower.
These plants are relatives of Gloxinia and African Violets, but they are quite an ancient plant by comparison. African Violets were introduced as houseplants in 1889. Achimenes plants, on the other hand, have been kept as houseplants since 1778.
Size & Growth
Different species may vary in size, but generally speaking Achimenes plants grow to be one or two feet high and wide.
The leaves of the Achimenes plant are rather furry and display bronze, red, and burgundy highlights. Some varieties have pure green foliage.
Flowering & Fragrance
The flowers of healthy plants fairly well cover the entire plant. The blooms resemble those of petunias and come in shades of:
There are also many combined variegations of these colors.
Light & Temperature
If you have conditions suitable for African Violets, you have conditions suitable for any type of Achimenes plant. They like lots of bright indirect sunlight throughout most of the day, but they can tolerate direct sunlight early in the morning or in the evening.
These plants like to be kept warm, and a room temperature ranging from 65° to 75° degrees Fahrenheit are best. In the wintertime, they can tolerate temperatures down to 55° degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures higher than 80° degrees Fahrenheit cause bud drop.
Watering & Feeding
Soil should be kept evenly moist throughout the growing season and slightly dry during the winter. If the soil becomes too dry during the growing season, the plant will become dormant.
These tropical flowering plants like relatively high (40%) humidity levels.
Throughout the growing and blooming season, use a weak solution of water-soluble houseplant fertilizer on a monthly basis.
Soil & Transplanting
Grow Achimenes in loose, well draining, slightly acidic potting soil. Add organic matter to keep consistent moisture levels.
A good combination includes equal parts of vermiculite, leaf mold, peat moss, and perlite or coarse sand. Standard African Violet mix works well.
Plant Achimenes bulbs promptly after purchasing them. Barely cover them with about a half-inch of a good potting mix. It’s better to plant a larger number of bulbs in a larger pot then to plant one or two bulbs in smaller pots.
Ideally about fifteen bulbs should be planted in an eight-inch pot. This combination allows enough soil to be used for good moisture retention. Smaller pots with fewer bulbs tend to dry out more quickly.
Don’t add any fertilizer or soil amendment such as manure at the time of planting. Wait until the plants are growing well before adding any nutrients.
If you’re starting your Achimenes outdoors, place the pots in a sheltered area under light shade until the plants are well underway, then move them to a brighter setting.
If starting them indoors earlier in the springtime, keep them in a darker area such as a basement or beneath a greenhouse bench until sprouts appear. Then move them to a bright window.
Repot every two years.
Grooming & Maintenance
As the weather cools, your plants will die back. Cut back the dead foliage and overwinter your Achimenes in a cool, dark place such as under a greenhouse bench or in your basement until late winter when they will begin to sprout on their own.
During this time, you’ll want to keep the soil very slightly moist. If the tubercles are allowed to dry out completely they will shrivel up and die.
Don’t remove the tubercles from the soil for storage. If you do this, they are sure to dry out and die.
How To Propagate Achimenes Plant
For the most part, these plants naturally increase quite prolifically so you really don’t need to put much effort into propagation. The tubers will multiply and spread, and you can divide them when you repot your plants.
Achimenes may be propagated by taking stem tip cuttings late in the springtime or early in the summer. They may also be propagated through rhizome division.
If you don’t have access to stem cuttings or tubers, you can grow these plants from seed. However, it’s a bit difficult and the mortality rate can be rather high. If at all possible, rhizome division is the best option with stem tip cutting running a close second.
Achimenes Plant Pests or Diseases
For the most part, proper care and the right amount of humidity will keep these pests under control.
Is the Achimenes Considered Toxic or Poisonous?
There are no reports of toxicity in any of the species of Achimenes. Even so, the plant is not considered edible and should not be consumed. Keep in mind that pets and children can also be harmed by choking on plant parts – even non-toxic ones!
Is Achimenes Invasive?
Although this plant can be used as an easy-care ground cover in tropical settings, such as Florida, it is not considered invasive.
Suggested Uses For Achimenes
Magic Achimenes flower makes a wonderful companion for your African Violet collection. The wide range of colors bring interest and variety, and the plants require exactly the same care as African Violets.
In tropical and semi tropical settings, these plants can be used as bedding plants and groundcover throughout the spring and summer months and into the autumn.
Cupids Bower is especially attractive displayed in hanging baskets under trees or on the porch or patio. The plant is also quite pretty spilling over the sides of a container planting.