Exotic Torenia's for Summer Pizzazz
Rather glamorous, relatively less well known as a garden plant, Torenia’s are members of the Snapdragon family and are generally referred to by gardeners as the Wishbone Flower or Bluewings. Although they originated in sub-tropical Africa and the warm wet forests of Taiwan, modern hybrids of Torenia fournieri have adapted well to life as versatile bedding annuals in sunny gardens all around the world.
Much loved for their extraordinary face-like yellow-throated three-lobed blooms, Torenia’s are now available locally in a range of cool colours to offset summer’s heat; from soft blue, blue and white, rich burgundy, plum, rose and violet to a pale white blush. In a favourable environment they can be counted on to give a full and even distribution of flowers from early spring to late autumn. In mild, frost-free areas they are biennial and will survive winter with a little care.
Pruning back the plants will promote branching and help prevent these herbaceous annuals from flopping, encouraging them rather to ultimately form a compact upright bush up to 35cm tall. Ultimately spreading up to 35cm in width as well, Torenia’s lend themselves wonderfully to borders and as edging for flower beds, adding striking interest to rock gardens, or as good companions for ferns and impatiens. Leaving the lush foliage to spread transforms them into a colourful groundcover.
Many pot plant enthusiasts will be familiar with Torenia as they lend themselves well to life indoors in pots as well as in hanging baskets and window boxes. Potted up, they will require initial support with a stake as well as frequent nipping of the new buds to encourage a dense, well-rounded plant.
In very hot areas, they thrive in deep shady corners of the garden, but their bi-coloured blooms will still command attention in half or even full sun positions in cooler parts of the country, provided they are generously watered.
Torenia’s needs are simple; a warm climate (we’ve certainly got that), seedlings planted about 25cm apart in well-drained compost enriched soil, watering enough to never allow the roots to dry out completely, but also not so much that would cause them to stand in water for long. Pay particular attention to watering during hot, windy weather. Applying soluble plant food periodically throughout the season will help maintain growth and an abundance of blooms all the way through to autumn’s knock.
Torenia are effortless beauty, not even needing deadheading, with their seed heads having an appeal all of their own. The mother plant will sometimes self-seed, so keep an eye open for their tiny fragile seedlings next spring.
Information supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association
Written by : Athelé Oosterbroek
Information Supplied by the Bedding Plant Growers Association. Contact Bronwen Tuck, chairperson 083 678 5907.