This increasingly popular, care- free annual from tropical Asia deserves much wider use. Due to its shade tolearance and array of colors, it is often used as a complement to impatiens. However, new strains take a good bit of sun and also thrive in heat and drought. Grows to 1 feet high and wide. Blooms from spring to frost; the flowers look like miniature gloxinias (Sinningia), with stamens arranged in a wishbone shape. Species has pale lavender blossoms with deeper purple markings and bright yellow throat; a white-flowered form is also sold. Use as edging or in pots and window boxes.
Summer Wave hybrids are the top performers in the South; their spreading habit makes them a good choice for hanging baskets. The Moon series comes in a range of blue, purple, and pink shades, as well as yellow and white, with contrasting markings. Plants sprawl nicely and grow 610 inches high. Duchess strain prefers more shade, is more compact (68 inches tall and wide), and offers blooms in light blue, dark blue, blue with white, pink, and burgundy. Kauai series grows 8 inches tall and wide, with blooms in blue, burgundy, magenta, rose-pink, and white with lemon-yellow markings; needs more shade than others.
Sow seeds in pots and transplant to garden after frost danger is past; or buy nursery plants. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Keep roots cool with a mulch. Prefers light shade in the hot afternoon. Deadheading not necessary. No serious pests.