Wishbone Flower Plant – Tips On How To Grow A Wishbone Flower

Wishbone Flower Plant – Tips On How To Grow A Wishbone Flower

By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

When looking for a long lasting and attention-grabbing addition to the part sun flowerbed, consider the wishbone flower plant. Torenia fournieri, the wishbone flower, is a short ground-hugging beauty with profuse and delicate blooms. Don’t be fooled though; while the flowers appear delicate, they are tough and able to withstand the hottest of summer heat when properly located in the landscape. Learning how to grow a wishbone flower is easy enough for even the beginning gardener.

What is the Wishbone Flower?

If you’ve never grown this plant, you may wonder, “What is the wishbone flower?” A bushy annual, the Torenia wishbone flower is a great choice for borders, with wishbone-shaped stamens and flowers in multiple, bi-color shades. Blooms begin in late spring to early summer and continue until frost. Reaching 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm.) in height, pinching back new growth on top encourages the small, shrub-like appearance of the plant.

The wishbone flower is ideal for containers and may be grown as a houseplant. It is hardy in USDA zones 2-11, allowing many to use this small attractive flower somewhere in the landscape.

How to Grow a Wishbone Flower

To successfully grow a wishbone flower plant, start seeds indoors a few weeks before outdoor soil will warm, or purchase small bedding plants at your local garden center. Or, sow seeds directly into the flower bed a week or so after the last frost date in your area. Seeds of the Torenia wishbone flower need light to germinate; cover lightly or simply press them gently into moist soil.

Location of the wishbone flower is important to its long lasting success. While the wishbone plant is adaptable, it prefers a rich, consistently moist and well-draining soil in an area with morning sun and afternoon shade. Hotter summer seasons necessitate more afternoon shade for the wishbone flower. In fact, even in the hottest areas, the wishbone flower plant will bloom profusely in a mostly shaded area.

Learn About the Care of Wishbone Plants

Care of wishbone plants includes watering, fertilizing and deadheading.

Keep the soil moist, but never soggy, as the Torenia wishbone flower is susceptible to root rot.

Care of wishbone plants should include a regular fertilization schedule twice a month with a plant food high in phosphorus, the middle number in the fertilizer ratio (NPK).

Deadhead spent blooms for the most prolific production of the Torenia wishbone flower.

The right location and care of the wishbone flower plant will result in bountiful and beautiful blooms throughout the summer.

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Wishbone flower, torenia

About the Wishbone Flower, Torenia

Adorable, petite, gloxinia-like flowers growing best in part-shade. They come in assorted bicolor blooms in pink, purple, white, yellow, and shades of blue. They make perfect annual edging and “filler/spiller” plants in shady to part sun mixed container gardens with Begonias, Impatiens and Coleus.

Care Notes

Grow in part shade areas, well-drained to evenly moist, amended soil for best performance. Feed with a slow release fertilizer, Osmocote® or Plant-tone®. Follow label instructions. Repeat blooming, but deadhead as needed to keep a neat habit. Mulch 2″ to suppress weeds, retain moisture and protect against extremes of soil temperature.

Planting For Success

We want your new plants to look as amazing at home as they do in our garden centers! And we know the level of care taken when planting can make all the difference. Follow Angelo's six easy steps for best results and performance.


Torenia, also known as wishbone flower, is a compact annual plant that brings vivid colors to shady areas of the garden. Kauai performs well in very hot and humid environments, making it the perfect addition to any late spring and summer landscape in Louisiana. Kauai Torenia, which gets its name from the island in Hawaii, offers a bold color that brings that tropical paradise look to your garden. The Kauai torenia is best used as a warm-season bedding plant or a border plant in gardens and landscapes in areas that get more shade. For a fresh boost to the landscape, try planting Kauai torenia in hanging baskets and planters. Kauai torenia was inducted as a Louisiana Super Plant in the spring of 2014 and continues to be one of our favorites.

Prune Torenia

Pinch back the growing tips of young plants between finger and thumb when they are a few inches high. Each pinched tip produces new, branched growth below it, resulting in a bushier plant. Water the plants well to help them recover from the pinching. Seed heads are small and don't deter reblooming.

  • Look for powdery mildew on the Torenia's leaves.
  • Water the plants well to help them recover from the pinching.

Sterilize pruning shears between cuts when pruning diseased branches. Dip the blades in a rubbing alcohol solution. This will cut down on the spread of disease to the rest of the Torenia.

Torenia Propagation

Torenia is propagated from seed. It requires rich, well-drained soil and a warm climate. Since the seeds are slow-growing and quite small, it is best to start them indoors 10-12 weeks before the last frost date in your area. Cover the seeds lightly with compost-enrich soil and water well. Avoid dislodging the seeds when watering. Germination takes about 10-15 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoor planting can be made when the seedlings are large enough to handle and if all the danger of frost has passed. Transplant them at 6-8 inch spacing in between. Again, water well to collapse any air pockets and to let the moist soil touch the roots.

How to propagate Torenia

Propagating torenia is easy from cuttings. Use a good quality potting soil in a four inch pot. Do not use potting soil that has moisture crystals in it as it remains too wet.

Take stem cuttings that have two or three set of leaves. Carefully nip off the lower leaves, leaving just the top pair intact.

Stick the stem into the pot right up to the base of the leaves, then water thoroughly and allow it to drain for an hour. Place the pot inside a clear Rubbermaid storage box upside down and snap down the lid. Put it in bright shade.

Within two weeks, the plants will establish roots and grow. Take the pot out the box and sufficiently water and feed for a while before setting out.

The cuttings will grow so fast that you will possibly took more cuttings from the one you took last fall.

How to Prune Torenia

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When you're looking for an alternative to common pansies for your partial- to full-shade garden beds, give torenia a try. Torenia (Torenia fournieri) -- also known as wishbone or clown flower for its curved, joined stamens and spots on flower "faces" -- bloom in purple, pink and yellow from summer through fall. Grown as an annual in most areas of the country, they are perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 and 10 and annuals in cooler climes. The plants do best in cool summers low-humidity and grow 6 to 12 inches tall and wide. The plant is fairly maintenance-free, but pruning at several points during its growth cycle keeps torenia looking its best.

Pinch back the growing tips of young plants between finger and thumb when they are a few inches high. Each pinched tip produces new, branched growth below it, resulting in a bushier plant.

Water the plants well to help them recover from the pinching.

Allow the plants to go dormant in the late fall without deadheading them or cutting them back. Wishbone flowers are considered self-cleaning, meaning the faded flowers drop or blow away without making the plant look messy. Seed heads are small and don't deter reblooming.

Cut back old bedraggled foliage in early spring before new growth begins, using gardening shears. The foliage feeds the roots into winter and protects the crown of the plant from frost damage.

Patricia Hamilton Reed has written professionally since 1987. Reed was editor of the "Grand Ledge Independent" weekly newspaper and a Capitol Hill reporter for the national newsletter "Corporate & Foundation Grants Alert." She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University, is an avid gardener and volunteers at her local botanical garden.

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