We always look forward to late June with the patches of Sinningia tubiflora burst into flower. This rhizomatous perennial, first cousin to African Violets’, is rock hardy to 0 degrees F. This South American native (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) forms a dense deciduous groundcover, topped with these long-tubbed, honeysuckle-fragranced flowers that attract nocturnal moths with a really long proboscis.
To most folks, especially car collectors and gearheads, Hemi’s refer to hemispherical combustion engines, but to those of us hortheads, Hemi’s refer to a group of gesneriads (African violet relatives) in the genus Hemiboea. We started growing the fall-flowering hemiboeas in the early 1990s, thanks to Atlanta gardeners, Ozzie Johnson and Don Jacobs, both of which were horticulturally way ahead of their time.
Our hemiboea collections are now up to six species that have survived in or climate, including two new gems that are flowering now. Hemiboea subacaulis var. jiangxiensis came from a joint JC Raulston Arboretum/Atlanta Botanical Garden Chinese expedition.
Hemiboea strigosa is a gem we picked up on a UK nursery trip in 2020 that’s also performed very well here at JLBG. All hemiboeas prefer light shade and average to moist soils. Winter hardiness is still to be determines, although some members of the genus have thrived as far north as Zone 6.
Sinningia ‘Pink Pockets’ was a Plant Delights/JLBG introduction in 2011…a hardy gesneriad that had thrived in our in ground trials. Here it is this week, planted in 2005 and still performing superbly in part sun. We love plants that stand the test of time in the garden.
We cannot think of any plant that draws more hummingbirds than the hardy upright sinningias. Most of these are Sinningia selovii hybrids that come in a range of colors from yellow to orange to red. We have them ringing our full sun patio, which results in a non-stop show of hummingbirds.
We’ve got a different take on going tubing. For us, tubing is something we do, starting in mid-June each summer, when we sit and enjoy our patch of Sinningia tubiflora. This amazing South American (Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay) gesneriad (African violet cousin) forms masses of underground potato-like tubers, which produce these amazing stalks of sweetly fragrant flowers for months each summer. These are reportedly pollinated by sphinx months. Sinningia tubiflora is insanely drought resistant and so easy to grow if given enough sun. Since it forms a large mass, don’t plant it near smaller, less-aggressive neighbors.