Solanum flowers, also known as nightshade flowers, are easy to grow, bloom profusely, and are also deer-resistant. There are a few things to keep in mind when growing these toxic plants, however.
Solanum flowers are relatives of several well-known vegetable garden plants, including potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and eggplants. They're all considered part of the nightshade family, and, though this is a very diverse family of plants, they do have a few things in common.
- All solanum flowers, whether ornamental or on vegetable plants, have the same general appearance: round or star-shaped blooms with bright yellow, tubular centers.
- All parts of the plants in the solanum family can be toxic. The exceptions are potatoes (except for green potatoes), tomatoes, and eggplants (but only when they're ripe -- unripe tomatoes and eggplants contain higher levels of this toxic alkaloid, known as solanine).
- All members of the solanum family are deer-resistant.
- Certain members, such as bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) and black nightshade (Solanum nigrum) are considered to be weeds.
How to Grow Solanum Flowers
Solanum flowers are available in a wide range of growth habits, sizes, and forms. They generally prefer full sun, though some do well in part shade. They grow best in fertile, well-drained soil, though once they're established, most solanum plants tolerate brief droughts pretty well.
Solanum is generally hardy in Zones 9 through 11 and grown elsewhere as an annual. They often re-seed readily, dropping their small fruits, which often germinate the following year.
Solanum flowers bloom in summer, and generally flower in shades of purple and white.
Solanum Pests and Diseases
While they're generally easy to grow, solanum flowers are susceptible to the same pest and disease issues many of their other family members can succumb to, including:
- Fungal diseases such as leaf spot, verticillium wilt, and powdery mildew.
- Potato beetles
The best way to remove aphids is to give the plant a good blast of water from the hose, or use insecticidal soap. Cutworm damage can be prevented by putting a cardboard collar around the stems of your plants early in the season, when cutworms cause the most damage. For other insect pests, your best bet is to inspect your plants regularly, pick the insects or worms off, and destroy them.
How Poisonous Is Solanum?
Solanum can be toxic, especially if eaten in large quantities. Eating any part of this plant can cause a range of conditions, from stomach upset, to convulsions, and, rarely, death.
Popular Solanum Varieties for Your Garden
Solanum plants come in a wide range of sizes and forms. While there are over 2,000 varieties of solanum worldwide, only a few are commonly grown in ornamental gardens.
Blue Potato Bush (Solanum Rantonnetii)
'Royal Robe' can grow to eight feet tall and produces deep purple, very fragrant flowers in the summer. It's hardy in Zones 9 through 11, where it's grown as a shrub. In areas where it's grown as an annual, it won't get nearly as large.
Chilean Potato Bush (Solanum Crispum)
Chilean potato bush reaches 15 or 20 feet tall and wide if you're growing it in Zones 9 or warmer, since it's perennial there. In colder zones, it's best grown as an annual. It blooms in summer, producing plenty of small, bluish flowers.
Potato Vine (Solanum laxum)
Also known as jasmine nightshade, Solanum laxum forms starry white flowers if grown in the shade, but if it's growing in a sunnier spot, the blooms have a purplish tint to them. As with most Solanums, this variety is hardy in Zones 9 through 11 and grown as an annual everywhere else. It can grow up to 30 feet in ideal conditions, and is semi-evergreen as well.
A Flower That Deserves a Bit More Love
Solanum flowers aren't commonly found in nurseries, likely due to their reputation for being toxic. Luckily, they're easy to grow from seed (the same way you'd start tomato or eggplant seeds indoors), so, if you'd like to add some of these beautiful summer-blooming plants to your garden, get ready to start some seeds! You'll be glad you did.