Iochroma spp


No Common Name


A group of shrubs and small trees called Iochroma that come from central and NW South America, generally flower in late summer. Named from the Greek  “Io” = “violet” and “chroma” =”colour” referring to the flowers.

Belonging to the Nightshade (Solanum) family, care should be taken with these plants as they are poisonous but beautiful. A species I don’t think is in New Zealand has berries which are eaten fresh in their homeland.

Three species are grown in New Zealand and are sometimes misnamed.

Iochroma coccinea from Central America has salmon to rose- red clusters of tubular flowers

  1. cyaneum from NW South America has glossy smooth dark blue tubular flowers
  2. grandiflorum from Ecuador has larger blue flowers which are softly hairy. Other shades from bluish red to near white can sometimes be found.

One I would like to see is I. fuchsioides which has red fuchsia like flowers but I have not heard of it being in NZ. Flowering of all species is over a very long period of time. Species can cross pollinate which will give forms which are very hard to name.

Plants can be pruned back in the winter each year for height otherwise they can grow up to six metres high giving an upright vase shaped plant. They will not stand much frost and enjoy water in the dry times though I have found that they will survive very dry periods.

In their native habitat hummingbirds drink the nectar and pollinate the flowers and here tuis take their place. With their long tubular flowers waxeyes cannot get in so they short circuit the system and break the tube to get at the nectar. I haven’t seen it but I wouldn’t be surprised if bumble bees do the same.

These plants are easy to grow from cuttings or seed.