Achimenes Planting Guide

Looking a bit like impatience flowers but with elegant trumpet necks, achimenes are easy to grow, happy-with-not-so-much-light sweeties. Blooming in oodles of bright colors from June through early autumn, these plants earn a place on everyone's gotta-have list. 

Achimenes are native to Mexico and Central to South America, love humidity and 80 degree days, and are equally happy indoors with 70 temperatures.  Note: our bulbs are packed with a little Pearlite to manage moisture and there's often white powder on the bulbs. This is normal and not grounds for concern.

Choosing a Growing Site

Achimenes prefer bright shade. They do well in sites with a few hours of early morning sun but burn in sunny locations. Hanging baskets on porch edges and pots on shady patios are ideal. Achimenes also thrive indoors on windowsills with good indirect light and can even flower inside where only florescent lights offer bright illumination. Small tan speckles or patches on the foliage are usually indications that the plants are getting too much direct sunlight.

Soil Prep

Achimenes are usually planted in containers, allowing you to choose your soil rather than amend an existing planting area. Choose a commercial planting mix, making sure that it is one designed to drain well. Achimenes are not happy in heavy soil or clay.

When to Plant Achimenes

Plant anytime in the spring. Achimenes are seasonally active plants; they sprout in the spring, flower summer through fall and sleep through the winter. 

Plant outdoors when frost danger has past and nighttime lows are at least in the 60s. Achimenes are tender and need to avoid freezes. (The one exception to this is Achimene Harry Williams, a tougher variety that can manage light freezing temperatures during winter dormancy, once established.)

How to Plant Achimene Rhizomes

Plant your rhizomes on their sides, about one inch deep. Cover and water to settle the soil. Water lightly until sprouts develop; then provide more moisture as the plants grow. The goal is to keep the soil slightly moist.

Note: Achimene rhizomes are often slow to break dormancy and start growing. March and April planted tubers typically develop visible sprouts by May. Plant the tubers, keep the soil very lightly moist (resist the urge to overwater) and go on about your business. The sprouts will appear but on their own leisurely timeline. In our recent trials, achimene bulbs took 3 to 7 weeks to sprout and appeared in succession, not all at once.

During the Growing Season

Achimenes prefer soil that’s slightly moist but not wet. Wet soil can lead to rhizome rot. In their native lands, autumn weather brings lighter rains. Too little moisture (or oops, forgetting to water at all) can fool achimenes into thinking winter is around the corner and signal the plants to slip into dormancy. "Slightly moist" is the goal for the soil.

To encourage branching, pinch off top shoots when the plants have 3 pairs of leaves. If you're growing in a hanging basket, pinch for fuller plants. Or don't, your choice. Allow to cascade.

Unless slow release fertilizer was added to the soil at planting time, water with half strength "flowering plant" liquid fertilizer every few weeks. A steady supply of low-dose nutrients encourages more buds and flowers.

At Season’s End

Achimene plants sleep through the winter, enjoying a necessary period of dormancy. In mid to late fall, the foliage will begin to yellow, signaling that the plant is ready to wrap up the season's activity. Ease back on watering, eventually stopping entirely.

Take the pot of achimenes and store it for the winter; anyplace with temperatures that range from 50-70 and is dry, will work. Breezeways, basements, warm garages and even the back of a closet will do. No light is needed because the plants are sleeping, not growing.

In late February or March, bring your potted achimenes out of their dark storage site. Snip off any dead foliage from the prior season and water. Bright indirect light and a little moisture - be stingy with the water - will prompt your achimenes to wake up and start growing again.

If you choose, in spring you can dig up the prior season plants. You'll find rhizomes clinging to the roots. Pull off the larger ones and replant. These new rhizomes will expand your achimene collection - feel free to share with friends.

Insider Tips

  1. Achimenes are related to African violets. Like their relatives, achimene have leaves that can spot if cold water is left on them. Watering with a can that has a narrow spout allows you to tuck under the leaves to reach the soil. Or, place a saucer under your pot and add a little water to the saucer. 
  2. Plant achimenes rhizomes 2 to 3 inches apart in containers, hanging baskets (choose trailing varieties) or mixed planters. One pack of 12 bulbs plants two 6" wide pots.
  3. Keep the soil in your achimenes pots lightly moist. Allowing the soil to become bone dry can nudge the plants into premature dormancy. ("Oh, it's autumn already? Time to settle in for a nice winter sleep.")
  4. Sheltered outdoor sites are great for growing achimenes: baskets hanging from eves or along the edges of covered porches, pots decorating east- or north-facing entryways, and porches that receive indirect or early morning light.
  5. Achimene rhizomes vary dramatically by cultivar; pink, brown or tan and 1/4" to almost 1" long in ropey or pinecone shapes. All are odd looking.
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Success Snapshot

Light: Bright shade or dappled shade; not direct sun

Soil: Fertile and well drained

Depth: Cover rhizomes with 1" soil

Water: Lightly moist, not wet, soil

Uses: Pots, planters, hanging baskets & windowboxes

Tips: Indoor sites with high humidity are ideal, like kitchen and bathroom windows

GUIDE: Achimenes Planting Guide

They Start Out Looking Like This: