A Happy Vine For A Summer Hotspot

Before the spring outdoor activity list becomes really busy, it’s exciting to study new plant adventures. Have you tried Thunbergia alata?

I like botanical names, because they take the guesswork out of a plant’s true identity. Thunbergia is also known as Black-eyed Susan Vine. But that can get confusing, because Black-eyed Susan is a common name also used for a perennial daisy, completely unrelated to today’s topic.

Thunbergia is an annual vine, planted in the spring for enjoyment during the growing season. It doesn’t survive winter outdoors. Some gardeners with sunrooms bring it indoors before frost and then move it back outdoors in spring. I don’t have a sunroom, but we bring ours indoors to a sunny south window.

Here’s what so special about Thunbergia, Black-eyed Susan Vine:

  • It grows very rapidly. When planted outdoors in spring, it quickly fills a trellis or support, and can grow up to 8 feet in one season.
  • Thunbergia loves sun and heat. Full sun, southern exposures are ideal, where other annuals often suffer.
  • Although it loves sun and heat, it is flexible enough to also grow profusely if it receives half-day sunshine.
  • It makes a beautiful pillar of bloom when grown in a container with a vertical trellis or support. Works great of patios.
  • Thunbergia can be planted into the ground at the base of fences or trellises.
  • It’s a great hanging basket plant in spots too sunny and hot for other plant types.
  • Available colors include orange, gold, and white, but the bright, sunny lemon-yellow variety is extremely showy.

Here are some growing pointers:

  • Thunbergia is sold in garden centers as small, starter plants for transplanting into larger containers. It’s also offered as larger, ready-to-go pots with trellis attached.
  • Thunbergia can be started from seed also. Sow seeds indoors about April 1.
  • Because Black-eyed Susan vine is sensitive to frost like most bedding plants, it should not be planted or located outdoors until danger of frost is past, or at least until mid-May, with the ability to cover or protect if late frosts threaten.
  • Locate where the plant will receive full, all-day sunshine, or at least half-day.
  • Although it thrives in sun and heat, it will wilt if it becomes overly dry. Planting in a large enough container helps buffer this. If the pot or container is too small, watering becomes more of an issue.

  • Fertilize with a Miracle Gro-type fertilizer at least every 2 weeks.
  • If you’d like to bring it indoors during winter, do so before the first fall frost. Give plenty of sunshine indoors and treat with systemic insecticide granules, because it is prone to spider mite activity when growing in low-humidity, heated indoor winter air.

My wife, Mary, and I have enjoyed our Thunbergia for years. If any plant can be called happy, Thunbergia is it.  Until next time, “Happy Gardening!”