Plant Collector: Iochroma grandiflorum

Our Iochroma grandiflorum on a magical late autumn day

Our Iochroma grandiflorum on a magical late autumn day

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.

3 thoughts on “Plant Collector: Iochroma grandiflorum

  1. Keith

    I grew this last year and was delighted with it. Sadly, it wasn’t hardy down to -12°c.
    This year I’m growing I.australis from seed, and have just ordered the purple form of I.cyanaea. I.australis is certainly easy from seed and very fast growing too. Treated like a Brug or Datura (ie; feed heavily) they perform really well here in the UK.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Out of the “I have been told school”, apparently if your plant is well established it can recover from even such extremes as -12. But if it is a young plant without a big, strong root system, it is likely to be killed. The advice (from Glyn Church in his book ‘Trees and Shrubs for Flowers’), is to get the plant as soon as possible in spring so it can get established before cold hits. However, as one who lives in a climate where any temperatures below zero Celsius cause a fair swag of damage, it is a bit of a miracle to me that anything from warmer climes can survive -12!

  2. Keith

    We found this nursery ( last year and as it’s one of their staples I was rather cavalier with regards to it’s winter welfare. However, as I have now moved house I have more space to over-winter the tenders.
    My five year old Erythrina failed to survive despite being well established. My Fuchsia perscandens only made it through by the skin of its teeth too.

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