Wishbone Flower (Summer Wave)
Plant of the Week
Summer Wave, Wishbone Flower
Latin: Torenia hybrida 'Summer Wave'
There is a sense of amazement when you realize what the plant breeders have done with
this old garden standby, the wishbone flower.
At finishing school, the breeders turned a small, much-branched bushy annual into a trailing plant ideally suited for hanging baskets that will be covered with deep blue flowers all summer long if minimal care is provided.
Summer Wave wishbone flower is truly a new kind of plant that offers the adventurous gardener a chance to explore the world of creative plant breeding.
Summer Wave is a trailing annual herb in the snapdragon family that grows up to 6 inches high, but with a spread of 24 inches. The calyx, the green cup at the base of each flower, is winged with three to five prominent lobes. The corolla is an inch long and wide purple tube with an open throat and protruding lobes at the end. If you look inside the flower you will see that two of the stamen have joined at the tip to form a wishbone shaped structure which gives the plant its common name.
Torenias hail from tropical portions of Asia and Africa and are named after Olof Toren, (1718-1753) who traveled in China as a chaplain for the Swedish East India Company in the middle of the 18th century. This hybrid, of unspecified parentage, was introduced in 1997 by Proven Winners Inc., a consortium of European and American nurseries that introduce new vegetatively propagated annuals to the greenhouse and nursery trade.
Claude Hope, the owner of Costa Rica’s Pan-American Seed Company has done extensive breeding work with Torenia and introduced the ‘Clown’ series in 1989 which won an All-American award for that year.
Wishbone flower has been used in gardens of the Deep South as a substitute for pansies, which do poorly in the very mild winters of zones 9 and 10. In more temperate gardens, it has been grown as a front of the border plant, especially in lightly shaded areas. It was more popular a century ago than in recent years, but due to the efforts of several plant breeders, it seems to be enjoying a revival of popularity as gardeners discover its merits.
Summer Wave wishbone flower is intended as a hanging basket plant -- or a trailer for large patio planters. It should be given bright light, but some shelter from the late afternoon sun is preferable.
For best performance a good commercial potting soil should be used and the plants should be kept uniformly moist. To maintain good flower production during the summer, fertilize every two to three weeks with a complete houseplant fertilizer such as Miracle Grow. If plants stop flowering, trim them back a bit and then reapply fertilizer for a good flush of blooms in four to six weeks. Plants could be overwintered in the house in a bright window, but seeking out new plants each spring is probably a more practical way of maintaining the plant. No serious insects or diseases occur on the plant.
By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - May 5, 2000
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.