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 bi-color or tri-color 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.
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 1-inch by 1½-inch flowers almost as much as you do, savoring their sweet nectar during the plant’s mid-summer to mid-fall bloom period.
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.
Its “clown flower” nickname comes from its colorful “face.” “Bluewing” is derived from is 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.
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.
This variety makes a particularly attractive container planting.
For a gorgeous Kauai mix featuring pink, yellow, and wine-colored flowers, visit True Leaf Market.
This type is extra compact, with earlier blooms and a well-branched habit.
Outdoors and In
In the landscape, plant torenia in moist, rich soil in an area that is partly shady.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.