San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Achimenes Brighten Shady Corners

Houseplants are always a pleasant theme for gardeners, and for many home owners indoor plants are as significant as pets around the home.

Here in the tropics, we have a dazzling selection of indoor plants to choose from to adorn our dwellings.

One in particular sticks out in my mind as worth mentioning. I’m referring to a close relative of gloxinia called achimenes (a-KIM-ee-neez). Achimenes spp. belongs to the family Gesneriaceae, along with gloxinia, cape primrose and episcia. In Costa Rican nurseries, it is correctly called achimenes, but many refer to it incorrectly as gloxinia.

The form and beauty of an achimenes flower in bloom is lovely to see. The trumpet- like flowers have a soft, velvet-like appearance, in colors that range from tones of red and violet to white varieties with speckles of dark violet in the throat of the flower.

The round, downy leaves are variable as opposite or whorled and grow in a low, compact form, which makes them ideal as potted plants for window boxes and porches. Since they thrive best in shaded areas, achimenes are perfect for corners around the home or as a centerpiece for a desk, table or stand.

Leading nurseries around the country offer achimenes plants, or you may find a friendly neighbor who is willing to share “un hijo” or vegetative shoot that arises from the rhizome of the mother plant.

Start your new shoot in a pot with aged compost that is rich in fibrous material or mixed with sand to promote good drainage. Because soil nematodes often attack the tender rhizomes, you can sterilize the potting mix by cooking it in an old, discarded kitchen pot until it steams.

Keep your new plant in a shady area and water frequently. As new leaves develop, move it to an area with partial shade. Plants exposed to full sun tend to suffer from scorched leaves and dehydration.

We’ve found that achimenes plants thrive with a monthly application of compost tea or seaweed extract. You can spray the leaves or apply the liquid to the soil. Occasional foliar spraying with citrus-seed-oil extract is useful for combating leaf and root diseases, while insecticidal soap solutions can be used to control mites and mealy bugs.


For more information on home gardening in Costa Rica, visit www.thenewdawncenter or e-mail the


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