We were looking out at our iochroma this week, marvelling that it was still in flower and making a wonderful picture in the late autumn conditions. We tried to remember when it started flowering and we are pretty sure it was in bloom by late October. A plant which flowers for seven months is not to be sneezed it. Technically it is a shrub, though at over 3 metres high it is a large one, yet it never gets very woody. The stems are quite brittle. Iochroma hail from Central and South America – this one is mainly found in Ecuador. It doesn’t mass flower but keeps producing an apparently inexhaustible supply of these pretty blue trumpets which are about 10cm long.
Iochromas belong to the solanaceae family (think solanums, like tomatoes and aubergines) and you may see a resemblance to its pest cousin, woolly nightshade. The leaves are large, soft and almost felted. Being large growing, brittle, soft foliaged and from warmer climes, you might think it is not a starter for colder, frost prone areas but it is remarkable resilient. Wind, frost, cold and heavy rain will knock it about, even defoliate it at times, but as long as it is well established, it can return to fine form very quickly as soon as temperatures rise. It sets its flowers on new growth so as long as it is warm enough to keep the plant growing, it continues to produce blooms. However, it is not a tidy little plant suited to immaculate little gardens but sits more as a large border plant in similar conditions to abutilons. Tui are reputed to love it feeding from the flowers.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.