Black-eyed Suzanne, known in Latin as Thunbergia alata, is a pretty, exotic climber. It is instantly recognizable by its five bright orange petals and black center, botanically called the corolla tube. Although grown in our gardens primarily as an ornamental annual, Black-eyed Susan will reach surprising heights in its short growing season and produce equally stunning, long-lasting flowers. With optimal care conditions, this ornamental climbing plant can grow up to 2 meters high. Once her flowering period begins in May, her attractive buds linger well into October! What care requirements does black-eyed Susanne have? We would like to dedicate today’s contribution to this very topic. Here we will show you how to properly care for your Thunbergia alata so that you too can enjoy its breathtaking blooms. Here you will also discover additional facts worth knowing about this magnificent exotic species. Have we already piqued your interest? Then read on!
We will show you how to properly care for your Thunbergia alata
The rapid growth of this climber can sometimes get out of control
Interesting facts about Black-eyed Susanne
Black-eyed Susanne is a popular and pretty, fast-growing climber. Although originally from the tropical and subtropical rainforests of South Africa, it is finding increasing use in our gardens. It is often used to green trellis arches, garden fences, screen walls, and occasionally also stone and brick walls.
Thunbergia alata grows as a perennial in the wild, but as an annual plant in our colder climate. Unless it thrives in a large container that you can bring indoors once temperatures drop, it will die off with the first frost.
Thunbergia alata belongs to the family of the acanthus family (Acanthaceae), occasionally also called bear’s claw family, which consists mainly of tropical and exotic plant genera and species. It is thus closely related to the Fittonia, Point Flower and the Glossy Column.
Although black-eyed susan shares half its name with black-eyed rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta), the two plants have little in common. The latter looks more like a tiny sunflower and the two plant species are also related.
Different strains and hybrids produce different flower colors
This front yard is almost completely overgrown by black-eyed Susanne
Caring for Thunbergia alata properly – the best time for sowing
As already mentioned, black-eyed Susanne is mainly grown as an annual in our regions. Therefore, their seeds must be sown every year. On the other hand, if you plant this plant in a flower pot or hanging pot, you only have to do this procedure once. As a houseplant, Thunbergia alata can easily survive the winter and then be brought back outside once the weather warms up. The average lifespan of the Black-eyed Susan is 3-4 years.
Seeds are available at most garden centers and even some large supermarkets. The packages usually come with simple instructions, but we’ll explain them in a bit more detail. The seeds can be sown directly outdoors, but only from a soil temperature of at least 16 degrees. Under these conditions, the small seedlings appear after two to three weeks. Ideally, you should wait until the soil temperature has risen to 21-25 degrees. The seeds will then germinate after 1 to 2 weeks. Always keep your substrate slightly moist, because the young plants do not tolerate drought. Some gardeners also soak the seeds overnight before sowing them.
This climbing ornamental plant thrives beautifully on the balcony or patio
The best location
As an exotic plant from tropical and subtropical rain forests, Thunbergia alata has very specific care requirements to thrive in our suboptimal climate. This plant needs a lot of warmth and a lot of sunlight. She should get at least 6-8 hours of direct sun per day to grow healthily and produce pretty buds.
The perfect place must also be protected from wind and draughts. Place your chosen trellis in the best possible spot in the garden and sow the seeds at their base. Once the first seedlings sprout from the ground, they develop quickly and begin to climb the trellis.
Rose arches look beautiful with this ornamental plant
Pluck off wilted flowers to prolong flowering
The right floor
As mentioned at the beginning, Black-eyed Susan can reach amazing heights and produce very long-lasting flowers within its short growing season, but only if its living conditions are optimal. One of the most important factors is the soil. Because even if the plant gets enough sun and water, it needs nutrients to grow so vigorously.
The soil must be well drained, fertile, moist, rich in compost and humus and with a neutral pH. If you want to grow Thunbergia alata in a flower pot, then choose quality balcony potting soil from the garden center.
Bees, bumblebees, butterflies and the like are strongly attracted to the black “eyes”.
Thunbergia alata therefore undoubtedly belongs in a bee-friendly garden
water and fertilizer inputs
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it rains a lot in the tropical and subtropical rainforests. However, due to the incredible wealth of plants, flooding and waterlogging are relatively rare. In our gardens, Thunbergia alata has about the same requirements as if it were growing in its natural habitat.
Your soil must remain slightly moist at all times, but never be soggy or completely dry. She can’t stand these two extremes at all. You must therefore avoid both waterlogging and dryness in any case.
Especially in the summer months, you should check the soil moisture daily and top up if necessary. Don’t forget that the larger Black-eyed Suzanne grows, the more water and nutrients she needs. If moisture from the soil evaporates too quickly, spread a good layer of mulch around the stems of the plant.
Create a natural and breathtakingly beautiful privacy screen
Combine several varieties and create colorful garden arrangements
When it comes to fertilizer, black-eyed Susanne can certainly benefit from occasional feeding. As a result, this climbing plant stays in bloom longer. Even if your soil is fertile, you can still apply a universal liquid bloom fertilizer every two to three weeks. Follow the product instructions. If you want to do without chemical products, then simply fertilize with compost or worm tea.
We are sure that you can properly care for your Thunbergia alata! Follow our care tips and enjoy lush blooms well into late summer.
After flowering, the Thunbergia alata forms seed pods, which you can sow the following year
Good mood and summer freshness in the garden with black-eyed Susanne