Torenia is a very small genus that has three species of very delicate-looking flower plants in it. These plants include T. crustacea, T. asiatica, and T. fournieri. The torenia flower has many different common names you may call them, including Bluewings, the Wishbone flower, Nanioola’a, and Ola’a Beauty. However, the species most people think of when they look at this genus is Torenia fournieri.
From the looks of them, torenia flowers look very fragile. However, this isn’t further from the truth. They are annual plants that are hardy throughout the spring and summer months. Aside from the moderate water needs, they won’t need constant attention from you to be happy. If you’re ready to start growing this plant, let’s read on to get all of the care requirements.
This pretty flower is very beginner-friendly as it doesn’t have a lot of hard and fast growing requirements, and it’ll reward you with prolific blooms all season long.
Torenia Flower Overview
|Bloom Time:||Spring and summer|
|Botanical Name:||Torenia fournieri|
|Common Names:||Bluewings, wishbone flower, or clown flower|
|Flower Coloring:||Bi-colors of dark and pale purple, dark purple and yellow, pink and white, and white and dark purple|
|Hardiness Zones:||2 to 11|
|Mature Size:||6 to 12 inches tall and 6 to 9 inches wide per plant|
|Native To:||Asia and Africa|
|Soil pH:||Neutral to acidic|
|Soil Type:||Well-drained and loamy|
|Sun Exposure:||Partial shade|
History of the Torenia Flower
The first thing that catches your attention with the torenia plant is the flowers it produces. They have a very velvety feeling to them, and they come in a range of stunning colors. Depending on the variety you pick out, the blues can be lavender, blue, white, or pink with yellow. This is why the plant is sometimes referred to as the clower flower or bluewings.
The origin of the wishbone name for the torenia flower isn’t known, but the theory is that there are two stamens that grow out of the flower and join in the middle to look like a chicken’s wishbone. If you break this wishbone piece, it’ll bring bad luck to the flower. So, you want to avoid this at all costs.
As a native to Africa and Asia, the flowers have a long bloom time. They start opening in the early summer months and stay open and blooming until mid-fall or the first frost of the season hits. You can grow them in zones 2 through 11, and it’s hardy to most soil types and weather conditions.
When you look at the plant itself, it’s slightly bushy in appearance, and it gets roughly 11 inches high and six inches wide at full maturity. Once the flowers start to bloom, butterflies and hummingbirds tend to stay around them. It’s also an excellent companion plant for an array of veggies that need pollinators to produce. No matter if you decide to grow it inside or outside, you can mix the popular torenia plant varieties to create a pretty combination of different blooms.
Popular Types of Torenia Flowers
There are several types of torenia flowers available with different looks, and the most popular cultivars include:
- Catalina White Linen – As the name suggests, the white flowers have a yellow center with a compact growth habit. It gets roughly 12 inches wide by 18 inches high, but it has a very low sun tolerance. You should plant it in partial shade or in a spot that never gets direct sunlight.
- Kauai Rose – This is another cultivar that produces showy white flowers with pink spots around the edges and a bright yellow center. This small plant won’t get over eight inches high and wide at full maturity. It has a very high humidity and heat tolerance, but you want to grow it in partial shade as it won’t thrive in the sun.
- Moon Purple – The flowers on this plant are bluish-purple, and it gets up to 10 inches long. However, it also spreads around 16 inches, so it makes a very hardy and colorful groundcover. If you live in a hot zone, you can grow this torenia plant in full shade. As long as you keep the soil slightly acidic and moist, it’ll grow very well.
- Moon Yellow – The cultivar’s flowers are a light yellow, and they have a yellow center that makes them look like daisies. They’re very similar in size to Moon Purple, and they work well as a groundcover. However, they grow well in partial shade or full sun, which more torenia plants don’t do.
- Summer Wave – This cultivar is best known for the large flowers it produces. The flowers come in a huge range of colors too, ranging from blue to amethyst.
- Torenia Clown Mix – The multicolored flowers come in a range of different color combinations, including pink and white, yellow and cream, or purple and white. They do well in hanging baskets and planters to add colors to your space.
It’s possible to mix and match most wishbone flowers as they have almost identical growing conditions. Doing so will give you a very colorful basket or pot.
Torenia Flower Care
Along with keeping the plants fed and watered, you won’t have a lot of maintenance with these plants. Deadheading isn’t essential, but it does help to encourage more flowering and growth. If the plant looks scraggly or leggy, you can trim it back half of the current size.
Regularly fertilizing your torenia plants gives them the nutrients they need to keep it blooming throughout the spring into the fall. You should give it an all-purpose plant food with a ratio of 20-20-20, 10-10-10, or 5-10-5. Mix it at a rate of one tablespoon of fertilizer to one gallon of water, and repeat every two weeks. Apply it carefully to keep the fertilizer off the leaves, and apply it to damp soil to prevent scorching the plant roots.
Light is the hardest condition to control. Most cultivars in this category are adverse to bright, direct sunlight, and many of them prefer full shade. So, when you’re planting the torenia plant in your garden, pick a spot that gets as little sun as you can. Keep in mind that the summer sun tends to cover more areas in your yard than in other seasons. So, don’t make the mistake of relying on a younger tree to cut off the sunlight. You should plant them in a permanent structure’s shaded area like a big mature shade tree or a shed. If you keep them inside, don’t put them near a window that gets afternoon sun.
Even though the torenia plant blooms best during warmer temperatures, it doesn’t do well with humidity and heat. Plant it where it has a shaded spot in the afternoon during the hottest part of the day, or put it in a full shaded spot if you live in a hot climate. This plant likes moist, rich, well-drained, and slightly acidic soil where you keep the pH levels between 6.0 and 6.5. You want to dig one or two inches of compost into the soil when it’s time to plant them to improve the soil drainage and quality.
As long as the soil drains well, this plant isn’t hugely picky with the growing conditions, as long as you keep the soil moist and it out of direct sunlight.
Torenia flowers detest direct sunlight, but they thrive in higher temperatures. On average, they like the temperatures to range right around the low 70s during the day and stay in the high 60s during the night hours. A light temperature dip during the night usually won’t hurt your plants, but if the cold spell continues for several days in a row, it’ll cause your plant distress. Stress signs in your torenia plant include curling or yellowing leaves and flowers that fall or droop. If frost hits your plants, they likely won’t survive.
The surface soil should stay slightly moist roughly one to two inches down until your seeds germinate and the plant establishes itself. You should see healthy new growth before you slow down on the watering sessions. They prefer moist soil, but they’re likely to have problems with fungi or root rot in soggy, wet soil. Water your plants to a six to eight inch depth until the roots are soaked and don’t water again until the top inch of soil is slightly dry to the touch. Water at the base of the plant while keeping the foliage as dry as you can because getting the foliage wet invites mildew and mold.
Growing Torenia Flowers – Step by Step
As an annual with a shorter lifespan, torenia flowers grow best when you start them from seed. So, you won’t be very successful growing it from a cutting or through division. You can try cuttings with moderate success if you’re feeling adventurous. The biggest drawbacks of using seed to grow your plant is that they can take up to six weeks to germinate, and this is under favorable conditions. The germination rate is also lower. So, you should make a point to start a full bag of seeds and thin them later as they start to grow. To start from seed, you’ll:
- If you’re growing your favorite torenia flower cultivar, you want to wait for the flowers to start fading and the stems will turn soft before you pick them.
- Keep the flowers in a paper bag for a few days to give them time to dry out. Once they do, shake the bag to extract the seeds and store them in a ziplock until spring rolls around.
- For those who live in a colder planting zone, you want to start your seeds indoors. You can also wait until the last frost of the season passes before starting them directly outside in the soil.
- Fill your seedling tray with a potting mix and water it slightly to create a moist environment.
- Sow the seeds roughly a quarter of an inch into the soil and lightly cover them.
- Cover the tray with a plastic sheet and keep it at room temperatures between 67°F and 73°F. If the temperature dips below 67°F, the seeds will take even longer to germinate.
- Regularly water the tray to keep the soil moist.
- The first seedlings will start to emerge from the soil in roughly a week.
- Remove the plastic sheet and put the tray by a window where it can get sunlight.
- When the seedlings are roughly four inches long, you can move them to their own pot or transplant them outside as long as the soil temperatures stay at or above 60°F.
Planting a huge amount of seeds helps to ensure that you get a decent amount of germination, and it’s always easier to go back and thin out the plants than it is to plant a few and not have enough.
To try and propagate the torenia flower from cuttings, you’ll want to get cuttings that are a minimum of six inches long. Try to get a node at the bottom of your stem because this bump is more likely to root. Remove any leaves on the lower half of the cutting and put it in water. Once the roots start to grow, you want to plant it in a paper or peat pot filled with a high-quality potting soil. Keep your soil moist and bring the plant outside for longer stretches over the span of a week to harden it off before you transplant it into the garden.
Torenia Flower Pruning
To help keep a bushier growth habit, you’ll want to pinch off the growing tip of the flower when it gets a few inches high. If the plant has a scraggly look, you can shape it however you like. You can prune it back to half of the original height without any damage.
Suggested Uses For Torenia Flowers
This plant works very well in a woodland, forest, or shaded garden in your yard. It works well in borders and flower beds as long as you keep the soil evenly moist and well-mulched. The plants shouldn’t get exposed to direct sunlight or a lot of heat. The flowers also work well in window boxes, on a balcony garden, as a container plant, or in hanging baskets outside in the spring and summer. This way, you can bring them in during the winter months.
Getting Torenia Flowers to Bloom
The flowers produce many blooms if you get the conditions right. The biggest reason why your torenia plant won’t bloom is moisture. It hates sitting in soggy soil, and it may not blomo if the soil is too wet. You want to grow it in an area with moderate temperatures and humidity. If it’s too hot, you’ll stunt your plant’s growth and the ability to produce a lot of flowers.
The torenia plant is a prolific bloomer with the correct growing conditions, and you can use this short guide to get the perfect environment to encourage flowers from early summer to late fall. It’s a low-maintenance plant that is perfect for beginners, and it’ll reward you with a flower show all season long.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.