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Long-blooming, flexible, easygoing ... the solanum clan.

Long-blooming, flexible, easygoing . . . the solanum clan

For profuse bloom over a long season withlittle effort, try one of the Solanum varieties shown here. All three bloom from the first balmy days of spring through the last days of Indian summer. In frost-free climates, they can produce a sprinkling of flowers through winter.

Because their flowers are small (3/4 inchwide), plant them where you will see them up close--near an entry, in front of a window, or around a patio.

In cold-winter climates, plant in containersor a spot protected from hard frosts. Temperatures below freezing may cause leaves to drop, but with warm weather's return, plants soon leaf out and bloom again.

Choose from a variety of shapes

Most carefree are the shrubs--two slightlydifferent forms of S. rantonnetii. In the garden, these purple-flowered forms look almost identical; just choose the color you prefer. Reddish purple "Royal Robe' is better for bouquets, lasting two to four days; blue-purple "Grandiflorum' wilts soon after cutting.

To keep grooming minimal, let both taketheir natural shape as a dense shrub 6 to 8 feet tall and about the same across. For a more compact shape, prune them hard any time during warm weather.

You can also buy or train plants intosmall, single-trunk trees, called standards, like the one shown above. To train your own, tie the main stem up a stake and gradually trim off lower limbs until there's a head of leafy branches at the height you want. On your own or a purchased standard, rub new growth off the trunk when you see it, and clip back the top every four to six weeks during warm weather to maintain the size you want.

The vining form--white-flowered S. jasminoides--needs more frequent grooming, but can give you bloom overhead or in a tight space, such as a side yard. For support, attach wires to eyescrews set in a fence or wall, or provide a trellis. Tuck tendrils in place every few weeks during spring and summer growth. To limit size or encourage denser growth, prune hard right after heavy spring bloom or pinch back leggy shoots regularly.

You can buy these solanums in bloomnow at nurseries in 1- and 5-gallon cans. Plant in full sun or partial shade when weather turns warm.

For best bloom on plants in the ground,water regularly and feed seldom. Container plants will need more frequent watering and some feeding. Pests and discases are rarely a problem.

Photo: Clusters of white stars with yellow centersbrighten potato vine spring through fall

Photo: Two shades of purple: "Royal Robe' (lower left)is reddish purple; "Grandiflorum' (top), with dark stripes and a yellow center, is blue-purple

Photo: Trained as a small tree, Solanum needs frequent but easygrooming. He's snipping off wandering tendrils from white-flowered S. jasminoides; he also rubbed sprouts off the trunk
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1987
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