Flower Tales-Torenia

“Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair…”   

~Susan Polis Schutz


With winter deeply snuggled in for the foreseeable future, I am thinking of spring thaw and summer heat.  And in that spirit, I recently started some early seeds in my basement grow station; specifically pansies, snapdragons and Torenia.  The seed starting got me thinking about flowers, and the fact that I haven’t written a plant profile in a while.  So I thought I would share with you another of favorite container plants.

I first saw Torenia at a local nursery one year when I was looking for a different container flower that would grow in shade.  I planted a few, and a love affair ensued.  I found seed the next year, and grew my own although they were not as lush as those from the nursery.  But I learned a lot about growing my own, so I am ready to try again as my local nurseries do not regularly sell these wonderful flowers.

Also known by their common names, Wishbone Flower, Bluewings or Clown Flower, Torenia fournieri is classified in the family Linderniaceae. You can see by the picture above how they came to be called Wishbone Flowers, with their united stamens resembling a wishbone.  And it is said these brightly colored flowers resemble the face of a clown.  They are native to Asia and Africa where they are usually in shades of blue, but through hybridizing now come in a myriad of colors, from white to yellow to violet and purple.

These profusely blooming, snap dragon-like flowers form a mound of blooms up to a foot tall that spill over, beautifully, in containers. They require very little deadheading or maintenance, and bloom nonstop until the first hard frost.



Growing Conditions

Torenia are considered an annual in most of the United States, but can be grown as a perennial in zones 10 and 11.  In hot climates they prefer more shade, so they do well in my shaded areas in summer.  They do need a rich, moist, well-drained soil, and do not like to left standing in water so they are not a good drought tolerant plant. 

They grow best in containers or hanging baskets.  As they do not like to dry out, mulching them is a good idea to keep them moist and cool.  You can pinch them back to promote a bushier growth, but I have not found that necessary.  Because they are heavy bloomers, you’ll want to fertilize them every 2-3 weeks.

Torenia are virtually problem free as long as they have good circulation and the container drains freely.  Otherwise you might see some powdery mildew and root rot. Pollinators and hummingbirds love these flowers, and I have not seen other critters nibbling on them.  But we shall see as my newer resident rabbits seem to eat anything.




If you want to start your Torenia from seed, it is recommended you give them 6-8 weeks, before the last frost date, to germinate and grow.  I actually give mine about 12 weeks as I have found them to grow slowly. And they can take a week or two to germinate.  

You should not cover the seeds with soil, and keep them moist. Give them lots of light and warmth to germinate. Torenia does not transplant well, which may be why mine take longer to grow.  I hope to transplant the seedlings into biodegradable pots to help them grow a bit faster.  After the seeds germinate they can handle cooler temps, although my basement is about 60 degrees so I will probably keep them on heat mats for a while.

In warm climates, Torenia can be direct sown outdoors, about 1 week before the last frost date.



Garden Uses

If you have the right conditions to plant these in the ground, they can make a great edging plant especially in a shade or woodland garden.  You can pair them with other shade lovers like hostas and ferns.  And if you have window boxes in the shade, they would make a great display as they love to spill and trail.

I usually plant mine just when pansies are fading, and other shade lovers like coleus are taking off.  I love pairing the two.

Although I have never cut my Torenia for a vase, I have read they last a long time when cut.  So I am looking forward to seeing if this is true.  I have also read you can bring the containers indoors for winter bloom and color.  I may have to try that as well.



Do you grow Torenia?  What is your favorite flower or plant for shady summer containers?

Paperwhites are stealing the show in my Belleek Valentine vase.  Paired with left over boxwood foliage, red twig dogwood stems and winterberries they look perfect for this holiday vase.



Planting some of the paperwhites later in the season has been a bonus.  And the left over plant material from my Christmas vase has held up nicely to use again.



As there were loads of paperwhites this year, I made another vase.  This one just simply arranged in the first vase I purchased almost 40 years ago.



A long crystal bud vase.  I love the height of these flowers in this vase.


I am joining Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful In A Vase on Monday meme. The pictures shared here were created with my iPod Touch camera and two free apps, Pixlr and Prisma.

I am posting poetry, almost weekly on Sundays, on my other blog, Living From Happiness.  You can read my latest poem here.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2018.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only

28 Replies to “Flower Tales-Torenia”

  1. The paperwhites are beautiful in that tall vase. I think I’ve grown something called clown flower, possibly the same as your Torenia. Will have to look for it again. Have a good week.

    1. I really loved them in the tall vase too. Torenia is really a fabulous flower. Hoping mine turn out well as the are just germinating in my basement.

  2. Donna thank you for putting a name to one of my favorite annuals! I always buy these if I see them at the nursery! I hope yours grow well and I look forward to seeing them this summer!

    1. Glad I could help Kathy….they are a delightful flower and mine have germinated after 8 days….I found the seed this year and can’t wait to see these bloom !

  3. You are right, Donna, these a perfect fillers for your Valentine vase and as always the photo apps produce amazing versions of your origial photos (I have downloaded them, but not really had time to play around with them yet). Thanks for the infor on torenia too – it looks so versatile and I am not sure if it is something available in the UK but I shall investigate

    1. Glad you enjoyed the vases and photos Cathy….I have seen Torenia seeds for sale in the UK especially when I can’t find it here so definitely try them out.

  4. I’ve never grown Torenia but your post has convinced me to look for it! Gorgeous and fragrant vases! Happy Valentine’s Day, Donna!

  5. While I haven’t had great luck with Torenia in the past, your post encourages me to try again.
    I had forgotten that it is Valentine’s Day this week. Gosh, Feb is half over!

  6. Torenia appear in the garden centers here occasionally but I’ve never grown them – I generally steer away from thirsty plants. They are pretty, though, and anything that delivers a punch of color in the shade is of great value. I love your vase pics. That first one in particular looks just like a painting.

    1. Thank you Kris. I was thinking of you as I wrote this and I figured these would not be practical for your continual drought conditions. Too bad though.

  7. I didn’t plant any paperwhites but that is a good tip to plant them later. Another note taken. They make a great show in the white vase against the red berries.

  8. I discovered Torenia last year, and it was gorgeous in my woodland garden right up until frost, just as you said. I plan to plant lots more of it this year.

    All of your photos are so lovely, Donna. Stay warm, and I hope you have an early spring!

  9. Yes, I have used Torenias several times and I like them–especially as filler around other plants in pots. Your Paperwhites arrangements are really special, Donna! Perfect with the red elements and in those vases!

  10. For some reason I have never warmed to Torenia. Something about the shape of the flower. But you have me thinking I should give it another chance.

    1. Yes they do not like a lot of heat, but if kept in the shade and watered they do fine…and I know a few southern gardeners who use these in their shaded gardens and woodlands with great success.

      As far as pollinators, with flowers from nurseries I see less pollinators drawn to them due to the chemicals they use in growing the flowers. But on ones I grow from seed, I have seen pollinators…that was so long ago when I grew my own from seed that I don’t recall who visited. As I am growing my own this year, I will keep a close eye on them to see who visits.

  11. Hi and hello again Donna. I confess i am not coming over here more often, but i see you on FB.

    We have torenia here too but not that color as in your first photo. I love to look at them but i don’t want to really plant it, like other plants.

    1. I was glad to be able to be well enough to visit your blog. An injury to my shoulder kept me from blogging for a year. So nice you have torenia there.

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