How to Grow and Care for Torenia (Wishbone) Flowers

Torenia Fournieri

If your shady spots are looking a little dull and uninspired, you may want to consider Torenia fourneiri, which blooms generously and brightly in shade.

Another mark in the “wow” column for this lovely annual comes from its velvety bicolored or tricolored trumpet-shaped flowers with their delicate throats of contrasting color.

The flowers are reminiscent of their cousins, snapdragon and foxglove. All three are members of the figwort (Scrophulariaceae) family.

A group of pink and white torenia flowers.

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Also known as wishbone flower, bluewings, and clown flower, this compact plant will grow in Zones 2-11.

Let’s learn more about this little cutie.

For the Birds

Native to Asia and Africa, this bushy plant grows seven to 12 inches tall and spreads six to eight inches. But it’s not aggressive or invasive, so there’s no need to fear a takeover.

Hummingbirds will enjoy torenia’s one- by one-and-a-half-inch flowers almost as much as you do, savoring their sweet nectar during the plant’s midsummer to mid-fall bloom period.

A close up vertical image of T. fourneiri flowers growing in pots on the patio with purple and white bicolored flowers.

Its “wishbone flower” nickname comes from the two stamens that grow from opposite sides of the flower, meeting in the middle and forming a structure that resembles a chicken wishbone.

A close up horizontal image of blue, black, and yellow multicolored torenia flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

Its “clown flower” nickname comes from its colorful “face.” “Bluewing” is derived from its often blue, wing-shaped petals.

Good companion plantings for torenia include impatiens and ferns.

Of Lemons and Wine

You’ll find torenia in shades of yellow, pink, purple, and white.For a deep blue variety, check out these seeds, available via Amazon.

Deep Blue Torenia Flower Seeds

You’ll get a minimum of 20 seeds that develop into a compact, upright bush that’s six to nine inches wide.

Brighten a dark spot with this ‘Lemon Drop’ cultivar, also available through Amazon.

Lemon Drop Wishbone Flower Seeds

This variety makes a particularly attractive container planting.

For a gorgeous Kauai mix featuring pink, yellow, and wine-colored flowers, visit True Leaf Market.

A close up square image of 'Kauai Mix' torenia flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo with text.

Torenia Seeds, Kauai Mix

This type is extra compact, with earlier blooms and a well-branched habit.

Outdoors and In

Low-growing torenia makes a lovely border or bedding plant that is glorious in containers, too. Some gardeners also grow it as a houseplant.

In the landscape, plant torenia in moist, rich soil in an area that is partly shady.

A vertical image of a garden scene with purple flowers and shrubs growing among landscape rocks.

You can start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the expected last frost, or sow seed directly in the garden just before the last frost date. Expect germination in 10 to 15 days at about 70°F.

You’ll want to apply a one-inch layer of mulch after seedlings emerge or after transplanting.

Pinch for Bushiness

Keep the soil moist but not soggy, as these plants are susceptible to root rot and powdery mildew. You may treat the latter with a fungicide, such as this one from Garden Safe, available via Amazon.

Garden Safe Ready-to-Use Fungicide, 24 Fl. Oz.

Water bluewings regularly, especially in hot weather, and be thankful that these plants have no serious insect or disease problems.

Fertilize wishbone plants once or twice a month with a plant food that is high in phosphorus, and be sure to water the plants thoroughly before and after fertilizing to avoid root burn.

A close up vertical image of a torenia flower growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

It’s not necessary to deadhead the flowers. In fact, some gardeners find the seed heads quite attractive.

When the young plants are about three inches tall, you’ll want to pinch back the growing tips of the plants to encourage branched growth and an attractive bushy shape.

Happier than a Clown

You’re sure to be cheered each time you see these clown-faced flowers smiling at you from the depths of the shady spots of your garden.

A close up vertical image of a swath of torenia flowers gracing the summer garden with pink and white bicolored flowers.

Why not add compact and colorful torenia to your landscape? Or perhaps you’re an old hand at growing this imported beauty? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

And for more information about growing flowers in your garden, check out these guides next:

© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via True Leaf Market, Garden Safe, and alphauction. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Gretchen Heber

A former garden editor for a daily newspaper in Austin, Texas, Gretchen Heber goes through entirely too many pruners and garden gloves in a year’s time. She’s never met a succulent she didn’t like and gets really irritated every 3-4 years when Austin actually has a freeze cold enough to kill them. To Gretchen, nothing is more rewarding than a quick dash to the garden to pluck herbs to season the evening meal. And it’s definitely time for a happy dance when she’s able to beat the squirrels to the peaches, figs, or loquats.

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ANNE MARIE BASCON (@guest_1672)
3 years ago

Are these Torenia plants annual or perennials?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
3 years ago

Thanks for your question, Anne Marie! It’s usually grown as an annual since most regions get too cold for it to survive the winter months- but it can be grown as a perennial in zones 10 and 11, where the winters are very mild.

Trisha Huddleston
Trisha Huddleston (@guest_1753)
3 years ago

My torenia are in “dappled” shade. They were beautiful when I first planted them from the nursery, but they have not bloomed since. I planted them in a mix of regular potting soil and Miracle Grow potting soil. They look healthy, but no blooms. What can I try?

Dlynne (@guest_4739)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
2 years ago

I purchased from a reputable nursery a beautiful heavily flowered torenia. I clipped it back after flowers gradually dropped off, but despite fertilizer and shade/sun I see no blossoms forming. Now I have a green well shaped but flower less plant. I expected it to flower back like impatiens fi

Dlynne (@guest_4741)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
2 years ago

Deadhead yes or no? Your response states to deadgead torenia, but the article says NOT to deadhead.

??? Clarify? I want my torenia to flower again.

Jessica (@guest_11960)
Reply to  Gretchen Heber
5 months ago

I think your best bet, if you want them to definitely continue blooming, is to deadhead.

Curt (@guest_10001)
1 year ago

I plant Torenia every year as annuals along a shady strip by my pool. I missed this Spring because of some work I was having done to my pool, so was just going to let that border lie fallow until next year. Around mid-August, I noticed some familiar looking leaves, and now in Sept. I have some blooming Torenia. I was surprised as I assumed they died off. Tough little plants.

Sheryl (@guest_10051)
1 year ago

Everything I have read says Torenia is an annual but have come back for 3 years now. Are they reseeding?

Clare Groom
Clare Groom (@clareg)
Reply to  Sheryl
1 year ago

Hi Sheryl, they are usually grown as annuals, but in Zones 10 and 11 where the winters are mild, they can be grown as perennials.

Jessica (@guest_11961)
Reply to  Sheryl
5 months ago

Just to clarify Clare’s totally accurate response (because I was very confused when I started gardening and I see many others with the same issue): many plants that are called annuals are not true annuals. They are what are called “tender perennials”: as Clare notes, they do fine in tropical and/or frost free areas, and will behave as perennials, coming back year after year. But in areas that have frost, they’ll die after one season. Impatiens and lobelia erinus are other examples of tender perennials. TRUE annuals–where the plant only grows for one season–include plants like sweet alyssum, four o’… Read more »