Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, January  2017
   Lapageria rosea cultivar  - by Susan Tindall
In 2001 I had a telephone call from an Australian nursery man who lived in the Melbourne Mountains requesting to buy auricula from me - not really buy, he asked was I prepared to exchange  plants, he wanted auricula and he would send me plants of Lapageria.
Never ever grown Lapageria as I thought they needed warm conditions of a conservatory; he assured me I could grow them as I had listed in my catalogue Philesia magellanica, asked if I grew Philesia outside, to which I replied in the affirmative, he said in that case you can grow Lapageria outside. Cultural suggestions, he said the plants had to face east, outside, and do not let them dry out during the summer, and when they flower, ‘They will knock your socks off’

 L. Double Red

L. Rosado Fuente

As promised he sent me some very good strong plants, about 12 different varieties, including 300 seeds of Lapageria rosea album, giving me instructions on how to get them germinate.  I think every seed germinated and they grew very quickly into good strong plants. The instructions I was given by my Australian friend on how to germinate the seeds, was to germinate them in heat and humid conditions, and as I have a propagator temperature about 75F – 23C I placed the seeds in the propagator. The growing medium was 100% vermiculite.  
  There were signs of germination in as little time as 6 weeks. The seed sowing was in 2001 therefore I cannot be too precise regarding times. 

L. Pan de Piedra

L. Nuba Blanca

 I kept them in the heat until the seedlings were well formed.  Timescale, not sure how long they were under heat, maybe three months. After being an environment of heat and humidity the seedlings had to be hardened off, I placed them in a cool part of the glasshouse to harden them off before potting up the young climbers into 9cm pots.   Within a year the plants were saleable.

  The named varieties grew well, and put on a lot of growth, and soon I had to plant them into 40 litre pots.

Sadly I did lose nine of them when a few years ago the temperatures plummeted to about minus 11 for about a week, and very windy. 
 I also lost 12 Tree Ferns that year as well. Tree Ferns are much easier to replace. Happy to say the three Lapageria  survived - two of the plants I had to give  a lot of tender loving care, but this year (2016) they repaid my kindness and flowered very well. I start looking at the vines during July to see if the flowering buds are beginning form on the plant, gradually the buds increase in size, I would say it takes 6 weeks before the first trumpets show themselves, once flowering  the vines give a wonderful display until New Year.  
Lapageria is of course no 'Alpine', coming from the Valdivian temperate rainforest in Chile, but a nice plant nevertheless. A member of the order Liliales (which also contains the family Liliacea)
The common name for the Lapageria is ‘Chilean Bellflower’, the large waxy trumpets are indeed quite remarkable, size of trumpet 7.5 cm, it is an evergreen vine and climbs counter clockwise.  I have to say the leaves can get a bit scruffy and do need to be tidied (if you are that fussy).  Snails nibble the leaves a bit. The leaves are very leathery, my impression is that they are too tough for the snails as they do very little damage to the leaves.
The plants are hermaphrodite (both sexes are on one plant) the plant must have acid conditions, no lime.  Even so I have never had any seeds on my Lapageria rosea album, the seeds capsules are on the plant for a year before the seed is ripe enough to sow, I keep looking and living in hope seed will be produced one day.
The large waxy trumpets hardly look real, as if they have been made out of icing sugar and very beautiful, and really do ‘Knock my socks off’