Flower Patch

Growing Salpiglossis: Impressive Blooms and Elegant Luster

By Frances Santos

About Salpiglossis

Want beautiful blooms that offer a kaleidoscope of color and glossy, spectacular details? Well, you will surely love Salpiglossis! This plant produces flowers that posses flamboyant pigment shadings and vivid veins. This annual, meaning it grows just one year, bears showy blooms that are open-faced and trumpet-like.

Salpiglossis (Salpiglossis sinuata) is often called, "painted tongue" and the reason why is quite obvious. It has many varieties that come in jewel tones of lilac, azure, purple, scarlet, rose, brown, orange, beige, yellow and gold. Other more unique varieties are netted/veined with rich, contrasting color. In a closer view, the overlaid veins and patterns resemble a stained glass.

Salpiglossis is a native of Chile, and thrives in areas with long periods of cool weather.  In truth, it is not recommended for dry and hot regions. Salpiglossis plant reaches up to three feet tall in the garden. It makes a good cut flower or as container plants. Clusters of Salpiglossis look wonderful for borders or as focal point for beds. However, surround their untidy feet with low -growing plants. If you want to showcase somewhat unusual and beautiful, Salpiglossis will make it work!

Varieties

Dwarf hybrids usually grow from 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 feet). "Bolero" is a popular variety that has huge flowers and comes in many colors. "Key Blue" is a beautiful new strain endowed with rich blue flowers and gold veins. 

Propagation

Salpiglossis is propagated by seeds.  (see instructions below)

How to Grow

It is best to start the seeds indoors, 10 to 12 weeks before the last frost date in your region then transplant them at a later date. Salpigloss is a cool-season annual that flourishes best before dry, hot weather hits.

Fill a flat, shallow dish or an 8 cm (3-inch) pot with moist seed compost. Sow the seeds and cover them lightly with a very fine layer of compost. Trap moisture by covering the flat/dish with a pane of glass or a polythene bag, and place them on a shaded location. The seeds require darkness to germinate well. The germination process takes about 15 to 20 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. When the seedlings emerge, remove the cover or bag. Water the seedlings with caution.

Once the first true leaves appear, it's time to transplant them to another planting dish/flats at 2 inches apart to be transplanted again later on. Keep in mind not to hold the stem. Sow seedlings in small plant holes, then scatter some compost around them. Moisten the soil. After establishing the young plants, you can again transplant them in 13 to 15 cm (5 to 6 inch) pots.

Note: You may also re-plant the seedlings directly to your garden or outdoors when the soil is warm, preferably in the spring. Just make sure all the dangers of frost have passed. Don't grow Salpiglossis in high temperatures because they won't bloom well. Spacing between plants must be 6 to 9 inches apart. Keep in mind that the planting site must have fertile, rich, moist and well-drained soil. Improve the quality of soil by mixing compost into the soil. The site must get full sun or light shade. This means the plants must absorb six hours of direct sunlight or more each day.

Care

When growing Salpiglossis, there are few pointers to follow:

  • Mulching keeps the roots cooler for longer periods.
  • Provide continuous supply of moisture. However, do not overwater your Salpiglossis and make sure that the plants do not stand on wet soil for so long, or the roots will rot.
  • Pinch back the tips once the seedlings develop two or more true leaves. This will aid in promoting thicker and healthier plants.
  • Deadhead or pinch off spent blooms for optimum flowering.
  • Protect your Salpiglossis from strong winds. Here, you need to support the stems using thin sticks.
  • Feed the plants with 1/2 to 1/4 flower fertilizer twice a month. This will encourage more blooms.
  • Salpiglossis will not tolerate very hot weather. Dispose plants once they get ragged by summer heat.

Plant Diseases

Watch out for aphids. These are small, slow-moving insects that suck nutrients and fluids from the plants. In addition, root rot can also be a problem wherein the stem base becomes stained and rots. To avoid root rot, only make use of sterile compost when growing Salpiglossis.

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