Really Cool Flower for Shade

Think summer flowers for shade and what comes to mind? Impatiens? Impatiens? More Impatiens? Well, here's a nifty flower I really like that you've probably never heard of. It blooms all summer and for many of us, it comes back year after year.

It's called Achimenes 'Purple King.' Wonder how to pronounce it? OK, I'll help you. PURR-PULL KING.

Oh, it's firstword you're having trouble with. Sorry. That's pronounced UH-KIM-EN-EES. There are many different kinds, native to the tropics, and they're related to African violets and gloxinias. Where we live, most aren't very cold-hardy and are relegated to growing in hanging baskets and containers. But 'Purple King' is hardy to 0 degrees -- which means many of us can grow it in the ground.

These have been growing in a little square planting bed outside of our lobby at Southern Living for years. (No doubt any co-workers reading this will feel ashamed for never asking me what they are. Ignorance is bliss.) The plant grows about 6 inches high and has trailing stems. Showy, blue-violet flowers, about 1-2 inches wide, appear atop handsome, glossy, burgundy-green foliage. They remind me of the blooms of Mexican petunia (Ruellia).

How to Grow

'Purple King' grows from a rhizome that you plant in fall or spring. It's late to sprout in spring, sometimes as late as May, so don't give up on it too early. It likes moist, well-drained soil and shade. Don't plant it where the soil stays wet in winter. If the plant is not hardy where you live, dig and store the rhizomes over winter in a cool, dry place and replant it spring.

Where to Get It

Although in truth the Grump is the only person alive who really "gets it," you can obtain this fine perennial from Plant Delights.

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