Thursday, July 8, 2010

Torenia fournieri , Bluewings or Wishbone Flowers

Torenia (Torenia fournieri) is a low growing flowering annual plant. It is also known as bluewings or wishbone flower. Torenia is related to snapdragons and foxglove. This resemblance can be seen in the shape of the flower. While blue is a common color for torenia, the velvety flowers are often white on the bottom with a color such as pink or purple on the upper parts. There are also sometimes yellow spots on flower petals. The stamen inside the flower looks like a wishbone to some.

This dainty looking flowering plant is actually very tolerant of shade, humidity and heat. Using torenia is an excellent way to bring color to shady areas. This flower is also good in containers, edgings, rock gardens, borders. Some people like them in hanging baskets as the plant will hang over the side when they spread. Other gardeners even grow it indoors as a houseplant. Native to Africa and Asia, wishbone flower has a compact growth habit and can also do well in full sun.

Types of Torenia

Consider the local climate and personal preference when selecting which type of torenia to grow. Most types of torenia grow between eight inches to a foot tall. The Happy Faces Mix torenia is bred in warm areas of Taiwan and can stand up to summer heat. Dutchess Mix is mostly white, shades of blue and some pink. Clown Mixture grows in a wide variety of colors and is also heat tolerant. Blue Summer Wave is almost completely blue, except for gentle streaks of white. It is with this variety that the name “bluewing” is particularly fitting. Many home and garden centers carry the more common types of wishbone flower, but for something special buy seeds from a catalog and start them indoors.

How to Grow Torenia

Torenia seeds are slow to germinate, so plan to be patient. Start the seedlings indoors about ten to twelve weeks before the last frost date. The seeds very tiny so scatter them on the surface of the soil and only cover them lightly. Germination of these seeds can happen in about ten days, but the can also take up to three weeks to emerge. When all danger of frost has passed, plant the seedlings or purchased plants outdoors, about six inches apart. Torenia does best in moist, well drained soil that has a neutral pH. The wishbone flower spreads quickly and will sometimes reseed itself.

Caring for Torenia Plants

Keep the wishbone flowers well watered but do not let them get soggy. Even though the wishbone flower plants like humidity do not overwater them. Conversely, they are also susceptible to damage from conditions that are overly dry. If the weather is hot and windy make sure to water the plants more often. Torenia will flower better at the end of summer when the weather is warm and hot, but not as intense as it is in mid-summer. Fertilize the plants with a mixture high in potassium. This will give the torenia the nutrients to flower more abundantly.

by Catherine Mezensky

The Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri)
By Brenda Hyde

Wishbone Flower (Torenia fournieri) is a dainty and delightful little flower that can take heat, humidity and shade. There are not many annuals that can accomplish that! You can usually find torenia available as a bedding plant, but you can also start from seed inside. You'll need to do this in the winter, 10-12 weeks before the last frost. If you are in a mild climate you can grow torenia year round as long as it doesn't get below about 28-30 degrees.

One torenia can cover a 12" square area if planted in the garden, but you can plant them closer in containers. They make great plants for windowboxes, pots and hanging baskets as long as you don't allow them to dry out between waterings. Moisture and shade in very hot climates are a must for torenia. Given this they will bloom constantly from early summer until frost if deadheaded.

When you water torenia, the soil should be moist to the touch, but not soaked. Fertilize every 2 weeks or so, especially in containers. When the plants are small pinch shoots off gently to encourage them to bush out. Plant them in groups for a charming display.

Torenias are described many ways, but I personally think they are a little like small, short snapdragons in lovely contrasting colors. They only grow to about 12 inches tall, and some new varieties are trailing as well. If you live in a climate with frost, be sure to dig up at least one of the torenia plants 6-8 weeks beforehand and bring it indoors. They can also be grown indoors as a houseplant!

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