Really Cool Flower for Shade

July 16, 2009 | By | Comments (7)

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.


  1. Shirley Cornelious

    I planted 2 crepe myrtles last Spring. One bloomed, the other didn’t. This Summer the non-bloomer is in bloom, the bloomer has only dried seed pods. What to do???
    Also, all the crepes I’ve seen In my area have multiple trunks, my trees have a single trunk.
    Is this unfavorable?

    June 12, 2016 at 12:00 pm
  2. Edward Haffenden

    The leaves on my newly planted crimson crepe myrtle begin folding in half down the center about 2 weeks ago. Do you know what the problem might be. Could it be over-watering and do you have a solution?

    April 24, 2016 at 9:29 pm
  3. Dave

    Very neat. Although it might not come back here in our little frost pocket of Tennessee. It would be a good test for it though.

    July 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    C’mon, Cameron! Like you can’t put up an umbrella?

    July 17, 2009 at 8:26 am
  5. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)

    If I only had some shade! 🙂

    July 17, 2009 at 7:30 am
  6. Jean

    A friend gave me one of these to see if it would come back in my shade garden.It has not but you mentioned the magic word.Rhizome.Now I know what happened to it. VOLES! It is a beautiful plant..sigh.

    July 17, 2009 at 5:34 am
  7. Karen

    I will have to look for this one, I have so much shade.

    July 16, 2009 at 8:46 am

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s