Hot Water Plant – Achimenes

Hot Water Plant is a small perennial plant that grows from a fleshy root system known as a rhizome. It needs a little extra care and a winter rest to bring it into its long and dazzling flowering season.

First brought to England in 1778, it was a popular window plant in Victorian times. Recently there has been a great revival of interest in this little plant. It is known as Hot Water Plant since it was mistakenly thought that it thrived when watered with hot water.

Many people give their plants warm water in spring to start them into growth. Hot Water Plant, however, prefers to have tepid water or water at room temperature. It is said some people water them with boiling water and have some success.

The plant grows from small thin rhizomes (elongated, thickened underground stems) that multiply at a quick rate. You can easily propagate more plants by using new rhizomes. These are dormant in winter but in the spring they grow stems and leaves. The stems are furry and soft and the leaves saw-toothed at the edges and oval, with a fresh, velvety look.Hot Water Plant - Achimenes

Flowers and flowering

The plant is admired for its flowers, of which there can be up to 100 blooms for each. The first bloom appears in June. Individual flowers do not last long, but the flowering period

March—April

Plant dry rhizomes early in spring into a rich peat-based compost. Rhizomes should lie horizontally in the mixture about 2.5cm (1 in) below the surface. The pots must be kept in a warm, humid place.

May—June

The first green shoots will be visible. Pinch out the top of the plants to encourage them to grow to the side.

July—August

Flowers develop and the plants begin to look bushy. Keep the mixture evenly moist throughout the flowering period. Maintain high humidity by standing the plant on a tray of moist pebbles or placing it on a clay pot inverted over water.

September—October Remove spent flowers and dead leaves.Gradually reduce watering.

Continues through the summer into late September or early October.

November—December The top growth will wither. Stop watering the plant altogether. Leave the rhizomes in the potting mixture in the pot, or remove from the mixture and store them in dry peat in a dry place.

January—February

Check the rhizomes in peat for fungal attack. Combat mild attacks with a weak solution of fungicide. Discard any that are badly affected. Plants left dry in their pots do not suffer from fungal attacks.

The colour range is wide – shades of pink, blue, lavender and red, as well as creamy white. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and have a mild, sweet fragrance.

Size and growth

A Hot Water Plant grows to about 45cm (18in) in one season. To make a bushy display, grow several rhizomes in one pot.

Plant need thin canes to keep them upright. There are also dwarf and trailing varieties available.

Display ideas

Depending on type and variety you can display them in baskets or pots. They do best in bright windows, but need high humidity. An attractive way of providing this is to invert a clay pot in a saucer of water and place the plant pot on top of it. The plant will soon trail over the edge, covering the inverted pot.

Plant Problems

Flowers drop if a flowering plant is moved. This is caused by changes in temperature, light and humidity.

Prevention: Do not move the plant when it is about to bloom.

Malformed leaves are caused by infestations of whitefly.

Treatment: Major attacks may be impossible to combat and the plant may have to be discarded. For mild attacks use a pyrethrun-based insecticide.

The whole plant droops despite sufficient water. This may be due to excessive hot direct summer sun or too low a level of humidity.

Treatment: Improve humidity by placing plant on an inverted pot over a saucer filled with water, or grow it on a base filled with moist pebbles.

Red spider mites may be visible.

Treatment: They only thrive in dry air, so increase the humidity.

GENERAL CARE

These plants need a little extra care to bring them into flower each year, but otherwise they need only moderate attention.

Potting: Plant up the rhizomes in a rich peat-based potting compost. In winter keep them in the potting compost or store them in dry peat in a dry place.

WATERING

In spring water moderately. In summer, if it is very hot, you may need to water more frequently. In winter leave the rhizomes completely dry in their pots.

Feeding: Apply a liquid plant fertilizer every second time you water the plant.

CONDITIONS

  • Light: This plant loves the light, but must be kept out of direct sunlight. A bright but shaded windowsill would be ideal.
  • Temperature: The best summer temperature is from 20-25°C (68-77°F). In winter keep them in their pots in a place where the temperature is around 13°C (55°F).

When to buy

Buy dry rhizomes in winter or spring and plant in early spring before they bloom.

What to look for

Choose unblemished healthy rhizomes or plants that have healthy leaves and are not yet in flower.

Lifespan

Your plant will bloom for several months and if you provide the right conditions you can over-winter them each year. Make new plants from new rhizomes.

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