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Master Gardener: Tips for planting the Black-eyed Susan vine

By in Press Enterprise on November 16, 2017

By Ottillia "Toots" Bier

Q. On my daily commute, I pass an industrial area that is enclosed by a fence covered with vines that have bright orange flowers with dark centers. They always seem to be nice and green and flowering. It looks like a perfect solution to a section of unsightly chain-link fence that I have at the back of my garden. Can you possibly identify it for me?

A. From your description, I suspect that the vine is Thunbergia alata, commonly called the Black-eyed Susan vine. This African native is a perennial vine in frost-free locations but is commonly grown as an annual in colder climates. In our mild Southern California climate, it is likely to live for many years without being killed or seriously damaged by cold weather.

Black-eyed Susan vine has a twining growth habit and should easily reach the top of your fence in a few months. The leaves are somewhat heart-shaped and the tubular flowers are up to two inches across. Although the orange flowers attracted your attention, there are many named cultivars that have flowers that are white, light yellow, apricot, and even a rosy color too. It grows best in full sun, is tolerant of most soil conditions, and will need normal garden water.

You may find container plants offered for sale at garden centers, as well as seeds. Container plants may be planted year-around, but if you decide to plant from seed, keep in mind that seeds of Black-eyed Susan vine grow best planted when the soil is warm in the spring or early summer.

If you choose to grow from seed and want to get an early start, you could plant your seeds indoors about six weeks before the spring planting season. Just fill small pots […]    

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