Calceolaria slipper flower

Height 30-38cm (12-15in)

Planting 30-38cm (12-15in)

Flowers early summer to early autumn

Light, acid soil

Sheltered sunny or partially shaded site

Half-hardy annual

The curious kidney-shaped blooms of the slipper flower were favourites for formal bedding schemes in Victorian gardens. Calceolaria integrifolia and its varieties can be grown outdoors, but they must be given a warm sheltered spot, preferably at the base of a wall. Here their brightly coloured flowers, coming in various yellows, either plain or blotched, make a cheerful display among their pale fresh green wrinkled leaves. The flowers are borne in succession from early summer until mid autumn.

Popular varieties

Most of the popular varieties have been bred specifically for summer bedding and include:

‘Little Sweeties’ a seed mixture producing plants up to 38cm (15in) tall with an abundance of small pouch-shaped flowers of pale yellow, orange, pink and scarlet often with contrasting speckles. They will grow in full shade.

‘Midas’ has golden-yellow blooms, renowned for their long flowering season. The neat, bushy and branching plants reach 20-38cm (10-15in) high.

‘Sunshine’ is a free-flowering hybrid, bearing bright yellow flowers throughout the summer. It reaches 20-25cm (8-10in) high and has a bushy, compact habit.

Cultivation

Sow the tiny seeds under glass in late winter – they require careful handling. Prick the seedlings off into boxes when they are large enough to handle. In late spring harden off in a cold frame, and then plant outdoors.

They will grow in ordinary garden soil, though the best results are achieved in well-drained acid, rich soil. The site must be sheltered, in sun or partial shade.

Pests and diseases

Aphids and slugs are sometimes troublesome.

22. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
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