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Lapageria - Growing Guide
Caring for Lapageria
Lapagerias have grown up to 12 or 15ft on the castle walls at Caerhays for over 100 years and flower away from August through to November. The 5in pinkish-red flowers last for months and, in a mild winter, you may well still find a long bell shaped flower in January.
These plants are very particular indeed about what they need to grow well and flower and growers are often puzzled by exactly how they grow. Lapagerias must have their roots in full shade even if the plant itself grows in the sun. Damp and shade are essential for the roots but this can be achieved by regular heavy mulching and the use of a slate slab or large stones over the root system.
Each year your lapageria will produce a vigorous new shoot from ground level. Small young plants can look horrid and nearly dead until this appears. The new shoot will soon outpace and outgrow last year’s stem or stems and, although the long tendrils of new growth will readily twine away on wire, canes or other trellis supports, they may well need tieing in and assisting periodically.
Slugs and snails enjoy gorging themselves on young lapageria leaves so control is essential. In more mature plants the old growth does not die off but it may well look very scruffy and disappointing. It is however the older shoots which produce the best flowers so do not be offended by the appearance of the plant in a pot or against a shady wall in spring. Yes, you can remove any dead leaves or shoots, but do NOT prune it as you may well prune out the shoots which will flower.
When planting lapagerias put plenty of dung and leaf mould in the planting pit. Grit to loosen the soil and make it easier for the annual new shoots to emerge is a good idea. In pots the plants can be fed monthly with a liquid feed.
Lapagerias are not fully frost hardy so protection with fleece in the greenhouse or outside in severe weather may be advisable. However our old plants here have survived -5°C regularly once established. In the very cold 1963 winter they were cut back but some leaves and the roots survived. Cold winds and wind chill will kill them more quickly so shelter and shade are the key.
The gorgeous white Lapageria rosea var albiflora is more tender than L. rosea. Other forms of lapageria with picotee markings on the trumpet or the pink L.’Nashcourt’ do grow outside here but we plant them so that they grow through camellias whose leaves shade the roots and protect the plants from wind.
These plants are not easy, they often look tired and scruffy, but when they flower there is nothing more impressive as an evergreen climber than this Chilean plant.