Bro what? Browal­lia

A stand­out for shade

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - Contents - By Sera Madri­grano

If you’re look­ing for a pretty shade plant that will bloom pro­fusely through­out the grow­ing sea­son; con­sider browal­lia. Its showy, trum­pet-shaped flow­ers, in shades of blue, pur­ple or white, will bloom against its emer­ald green fo­liage from spring to the first frost. Browal­lia is a sim­ply bril­liant plant that is not only beautiful but low­main­te­nance.

Browal­lia is a won­der­ful al­ter­na­tive for Im­pa­tiens wal­le­ri­ana. It loves the heat, just don’t place it in full sun, as this plant prefers par­tial to full shade and east­ern ex­po­sures. Another bonus, it does not re­quire much, if any, fer­til­iza­tion to thrive.

A mid-sized an­nual in our cli­mate, browal­lia grows in a mound­ing habit of 12 to 16 inches tall with a spread of 10 to 14 inches. In its na­tive cli­mate of Cen­tral Amer­ica (and parts of North Amer­ica), browal­lia can reach one to one and a half feet in height. Sev­eral more species can be found there, in­clud­ing the gran­di­flora which grows into a two-foot-tall plant with bright blue flow­ers and a yel­low ca­lyx. The most com­mon va­ri­eties avail­able here are – B. speciosa, B. vis­cosa, B. amer­i­cana and B. elu­dens. The “Bell” series are won­der­ful for hang­ing bas­kets, while the “Starlight” and “Troll” series are com­pact and dense plants great for beds, as are the hy­brids “End­less Il­lu­mi­na­tion” and the new “End­less Flir­ta­tion” from Proven Win­ners.

Fam­ily history

Botan­i­cally speak­ing, browal­lia is part of the Solanaceae fam­ily, bet­ter known as the Night­shade fam­ily. This group con­tains 42 gen­era and in­cludes many im­por­tant agri­cul­tural plants such as toma­toes, egg­plants, pota­toes (Solanum), chili (Cap­sicum) and to­bacco (Ni­co­tinia). Browal­lia is also re­lated to Datura, An­gel's Trum­pet (Brug­man­sia) and Ly­cianthes.

Don’t try this at home

As browal­lia is a trop­i­cal plant, its re­quire­ments for care and ger­mi­na­tion are not eas­ily met in most home en­vi­ron­ments. In many cases, es­pe­cially if you are a begin­ner, you are bet­ter off to pur­chase your browal­lia at your lo­cal nurs­ery. How­ever, if you are de­ter­mined to try you can start seeds in­doors six to eight weeks prior to plant­ing af­ter the last frost. Seedlings should be planted in in­di­vid­ual pots and placed in a green­house. with tem­per­a­tures be­tween 21 to 24 C. They should be­gin to ger­mi­nate in 14 to 21 days. Plants should re­main in a green­house, be ex­posed to a great deal of sun­light and pro­vided with well-drained soil to flour­ish. They can be planted out­doors in June or when the weather is warm.

Browal­lia how-to

The rec­om­mended plant­ing dis­tance be­tween plants is eight to 10 inches. Browal­lia works as a won­der­ful filler in con­tain­ers, hang­ing bas­kets, borders, rock gar­dens and in mass plant­ings in shade or part shade. Hu­mus rich, welldrained and moist soil will keep your browal­lia happy all sea­son, and you never need to do any dead­head­ing.

As a plant with trop­i­cal ori­gins it’s only fault is its in­tol­er­ance for cold weather. Browal­lia is a peren­nial hardy to zone 8A. There­fore, the only care you need to take when plant­ing is to en­sure that you do not plant it un­til all chances of frost or cold weather have passed. If un­sea­son­able, frosty weather oc­curs, con­tain­ers should be brought in­side. In fact, you can bring your browal­lia in­side over the win­ter and have a flow­er­ing plant all year long! If you do de­cide to over­win­ter a cou­ple of plants, cut them back a fair bit.

Plant browal­lia this year, you will not be dis­ap­pointed with its per­for­mance or its beauty.

Browal­lia goes by many names and is also known as the sap­phire flower, amethyst flower, bush vi­o­let and Ja­maican for­get-me-not.

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