Plant of the Month May 1992

When entering a little pottery shop/art gallery in Tombstone last fall, I noticed a flowering garden along the side of an old wooden porch. One of the plants in bloom was especially bright and cheerful and caught my eye. The shop owner told me the exciting orange flower with a dark center was actually a flowering vine called Thunbergia, or black-eyed Susan. She said it voluntarily appeared each year and she gave me some seed which I sowed next to our ocotillo garden fence.

Thunbergia alata, is a vine with smallish triangular leaves and can grow to a 6' height with a 6' circumference. Sunset New Western Garden Book says it is a perennial which is treated as an annual and the flowers can be orange, yellow, or white with a purple-black throat.

The idea of an interesting vine returning each year without special attention seems attractive. The plant growing successfully in Tombstone has a southern exposure with a somewhat protected location. A lady at the local library said in the midwest black-eyed Susans are not vines. And, sure enough, Thunbergia is the vine type and the genus she was familiar with was probably Rudbeckia hirta. Park Seed carries a Thunbergia alata "Susie" and there are other Thunbergia available in various colors.

If you have had local success with Thunbergia, let's compare notes. This seems like a little known plant in our area which could be a welcome addition to gardens.

Barbara Kishbaugh
May, 1992