Striped flowers in various colours. The marvel of Peru is usually grown as a half-hardy annual in temperate zones, it flowers freely in its first year.
Plants also self-sow freely in warmer areas (these seedlings can be easily transplanted).
This species was cultivated as a medicinal plant by the Aztecs prior to the Spanish conquest.
The flowers are sweetly scented and do not open until the afternoon.
Succeeds in almost any ordinary garden soil. Prefers a fertile well-drained soil in full sun or part day shade.
Sow spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in early summer, after the last expected frosts.
This species is not very hardy in Britain. The top growth is cut back by frost but the tuber survives the winter outdoors if the temperature does not fall much below -5°c, a good mulch would be beneficial. Tubers can be lifted and stored over winter in a cool frost free place in the same way that dahlia tubers are stored.
Tender young leaves - cooked as a vegetable. An emergency food, only eaten when all else fails.
An edible crimson dye is obtained from the flowers. It is used for colouring cakes and jellies.
The seed is crushed and used as a pepper substitute. - but are reported to cause stomach upsets.