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What is Incarvillea?

Alex Tree
Alex Tree

Incarvillea is a genus of flowering plants that is categorized under the Bignoniaceae family. As of 2010, there were 16 noted species of these perennial herbs that mostly grow in the mountains of central and eastern Asia. The genus was named after the French Jesuit and botanist Pierre Nicolas Le Chéron d'Incarville, who discovered these plants during his mission in China.

Members of the Bignoniaceae family are commonly known as trumpet creepers or perennial trumpet flowers. These names are relevant to the appearance and pattern of growth of Incarvillea plants. Its flowers are bell- or trumpet-like in form and are held by soft, thick stalks that crawl like vine on trees and on the ground. Flowers of these perennials come in shades of pink, purple, and fuchsia, with steaks of yellow at the center that appear only during full bloom in the late spring and early summer.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Some garden-variety species are breviscapa, grandiflora, and compacta, but the most common sort among this category is the hardy gloxinia, otherwise known as the Chinese trumpet flower. Its naturally drooping blossoms grow in clusters, and when in full bloom can measure up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) across. Long green leaves surround the flowers, reaching lengths of up to 2 feet (0.61 m). In order to prolong its blooming period, one must remove any withering flower heads before it completely falls off the bulb.

Fleshy tuberous roots nurture and support these plants’ systems. Perennial trumpet flowers gather as much food and water as they can during the warm seasons so that they have enough stock during winter. Garden-grown Incarvillea require the help of mulches like leaves or dried straw to successfully live through the cold climate, while wild-growing ones have better adaptive skills for such conditions.

Full maturity for these types of plants is reached after five to six weeks. Its intertwining stems can cover distances of more than 20 feet (6 m) and can climb tall trees and wall structures. Parts of the Himalayan Mountains are abundantly covered by thick clusters of one native species of the genus — Himalayan gloxinia. The high altitude and soil quality of such terrains attract these perennials that eventually turn into woody shrubs after a year or two.

Older Incarvillea tend to invade the space of neighboring plants. Providing 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 cm) of soil space around this garden plant is recommended. Pots can also be an option. One can propagate via division or direct sowing of its seeds.

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