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Friday, July 28, 2006

Browallia speciosa (Bush Violet)

Bush violet is a bushy plant that is covered with violet, blue, or white star-shaped flowers in summer. It grows to 24 inches tall and across, and works well as part of a mixed planting in hanging baskets and window boxes. Unlike other Browallias, the Bush Violet is a perennial that will stay green through winter in areas with mild winters.

The flower colouring of B. speciosa ranges from blue to violet-blue, but there are white varieties available. It should be reasonably easy to raise new plants from seed on the windowsill for the person who is moderately competent with indoor plants.

Sow seed in spring in peat to wh
ich a little sharp sand has been added, and after sowing just cover the seed with a fine layer of sand. Place a sheet of glass over the container holding the seed, and over the glass place a sheet of newspaper until the seed has germinated. When large enought to handle, the seedlings can be pricked off into a very peaty mixture with resonable space for seedlings to develop. Subsequently, transfer the tiny plants to small pots filled with loam-based mixture and allow to grow on.

From then on keep them moist, fed, and in good light. Discard the plants after they have flowered.

Special growing tips
Browallia is not suited to cool zones. Outdoors, it grows best in a partially shaded site where it will get the half-day of sun it needs, protected from strong winds. While not fussy about soil type, good drainage is essential; grow only in hanging baskets, containers, or raised beds if drainage is doubtful. Keep the soil evenly moist.

Fertilize with compost or all-purpose fertilizer when the plants start to bud; overfeeding will limit flower production. For bushy, well-branched plants, pinch off the stem tips of young Browallia once or twice. If the plants look tired by midsummer, cut them back by half to encourage new flower production. Grow Browallia from seed sown indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the l
ast frost and left uncovered. Cuttings can be taken at any time.

Pests/problems to look out for: Whiteflies and aphids. Tomato spotted wilt virus and fungal spots may occur.

Winter care: Browallia makes an excellent flowering winter houseplant; dig and pot up six to eight weeks before the first fall frost, cut back the plants severely, and place on a sunny windowsill. Mist the leaves occasionally.

To encourage bloom: Keep plants cool and fed during the summer months.


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