SOLANUM

FAMILY: Solanaceae

TYPE
  • Deciduous
  • Evergreen
  • Shrubs
  • Vines / Ground Covers
SUN EXPOSURE
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Shade
WATER
  • Moderate Water
  • Regular Water
SPECIAL FEATURES
  • Poisonous/Toxic

Plant Details

In addition to eggplant and potato (described under those names), Solanum includes a number of ornamental plants. All have small, star-shaped, five-petaled blue or white flowers with reproductive parts that form a pointed yellow structure in the blossom's center. A few of the species described here produce decorative fruit.

S. crispum. Evergreen vine. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. From Chile, Peru. Modest (even shrubby) climber to 12 ft., with ovate to lance-shaped, soft green, often wavy-edged leaves to 5 in. long. In summer, bears 4-in. clusters of fragrant, lilac-blue flowers with yellow centers. Small, inedible yellowish fruit. Must be fastened to its support; well suited to trellises, walls, posts. May lose leaves in hard frost. Selection 'Glasnevin' has deeper blue flowers in larger clusters.

S. jasminoides (S. laxum). POTATO VINE. Evergreen or semievergreen vine. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. From Brazil. Twines rapidly to 30 ft. Purplish-tinged, arrow-shaped, 112- to 3-in.-long leaves. Bluish white, 1-in. flowers are carried on threadlike stalks in clusters of up to 12; bloom is almost continuous all year, heaviest in spring. Grown for flowers or to provide light overhead shade. Cut back severely at any time to prevent tangling, promote vigorous new growth. Control rampant runners that grow along ground. 'Album' bears pure white flowers; 'Variegatum' has leaves edged with creamy yellow.

S. pseudocapsicum. JERUSALEM CHERRY. Evergreen shrub. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11; annual or indoor/outdoor plant anywhere. From Madeira; widely naturalized in tropics and subtropics. To 34 ft. high and wide (about half that size if grown as an annual). Shiny, deep green, smooth, elliptical leaves to 4 in. long. White, 12-in. summer flowers are followed in autumn by a fine show of scarlet (rarely yellow), 12-in. fruit that looks like cherry tomatoes but is poisonous. In mildest-winter areas, plant bears flowers and fruit (and self-sows) year-round. More popular than taller kinds are the many dwarf strains, which grow to 1 ft. high and bear larger fruit (to 1 in. across). Leaves and developing fruit of 'Variegatum' are striped in green and white; fruit matures to orange.

S. seaforthianum. BRAZILIAN NIGHTSHADE. Evergreen or semievergreen vine. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. Slender-stemmed plant to 15 ft.; must be fastened to its support. Oval, 4- to 8-in.-long, medium green leaves are either undivided or quite deeply cleft into three or more lobes. Clusters of violet-blue, 1-in.-wide flowers bloom in summer. Pea-size red fruit is enjoyed by birds but should not be eaten by people.

S. wendlandii. COSTA RICAN NIGHTSHADE. Deciduous vine. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. From Costa Rica. To 1520 ft., climbing by twining stems and hooked spines. Glossy, green, ovate or (sometimes) lobed leaves 410 in. long are corrugated in texture. Foliage forms a lush backdrop for dense, domed clusters of lavender-blue, 212-in. summer flowers. Somewhat reminiscent of bougainvillea. Let it clamber into tall trees, cover a pergola, decorate eaves of large house. Loses leaves in low temperatures, even without frost; slow to leaf out in spring.

S. wrightii (S. macranthum). BLUE POTATO TREE. Evergreen shrub. Zone TS; USDA 10-11. From Brazil. Grows quickly to 615 ft. tall and wide; can be kept smaller by tip-pinching or pruned up into a small tree. Prickly, irregularly lobed leaves to 15 in. long. Fragrant flowers 2212 in. across open purple and age through shades of lavender to white; blooms intermittently from spring to fall. Needs rich soil. Good for a tropical effect.

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