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The Plant Whisperer September 2021 #2

Rhodochiton atrosanguineus
To nurture this South American climber  from Mexico through the winter in the lakes is a horticultural challenge.  It can be grown as an annual climber in temperate zones, a half hardy or hardy specimen !  (Could the latter be possible ?) Well yes it can ! Technically the Rhodochiton is a perennial. TLC and a practical hands on approach is required. 

It will depend of course upon the harshness of winter, much can be by chance, winter protection, cultivation methods, aspect of the plant and a strong gardening faith! 

Rhodochiton atrosanguineus (Purple Bell Vine) family (Plantaginaceae)  is a real eye catcher that will flower from late spring through until autumn. This stunning flowering climber can grow up to 3 metres! 

I have planted the climbers  in a wooden trough and trained them up a trellis, this was carried out in mid May, and they have really taken off, tripling in size and flower formation. 

The aspect of choice is a position facing south/west in a sheltered area. This spot will have a bearing on the climber's  winter hardiness in relation to however the winter pans out. Full sun proliferates the flowering process. A semi shaded position will still achieve an aray of flowers, but the qauntity and quality is a marked difference.

The dangling flowers comprise a pink bell shaped calyx of sepals which surrounds a prominent corolla purple/black in colour. It's this striking feature of the morphology which really melts the gardeners heart, and why wouldnt it, (exquisite) to say the least.

The foliage too is pleasing being a rich green, with broadly toothed and heart shaped leaves with a terminal point.

Once you've hit upon such an outstanding climber as this one proves to be, it's hard to not keep recommending it! 

From the practical hands on perspective the next challenge is to bring it through the winter. Cutting the climber hard back to base is the plan. At that point the base of the climber will be covered with a mulch of home made compost. This will hopefully protect the roots against the likelihood of cold weather. 

I plan to collect seed from the Rhodochiton atrosanguineus at the end of this month. The seeds could be sown straight into modules when ripe, and I will trial these under cool glasshouse conditions to grow on under protection of a propagator unit during autumn/winter. As a comparison to onward growth and a trial, I will store the seeds in envelopes under cool conditions and sow under glass in spring.

Kevin Line Posted by Kevin Line

Kevin works as a Freelance Horticultural Plant Consultant

He is a member of Butterfly Conservation and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, the Hardy Plant Society, the Wildflower Society, and the Botanical Society Of Britain & Ireland. He also writes for the RHS Plant Review (formerly RHS Plantsman), he is currently researching historic plant propagation/ taxonomy for the Gardens Trust ( formerly Garden History Society ).

Kevin had previously worked for three and a half years developing the garden of an Arts & Crafts period Country House Hotel to National Gardens Scheme standard. (South Lakes)

He has also previously worked as Head Gardener in the Cotswolds for over 10 years, prior to that, BBC Gardeners World, and the National Trust.

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