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Mystery plants: Mexican petunia, tithonia and more

by Janet Carson | September 9, 2021 at 10:22 a.m.

Since there was no newsletter last week, here are two weeks of mystery plants:

Mexican Petunia --Ruellia simplex is a perennial plant that takes care of itself and blooms all summer long. Unfortunately, it can become a bit aggressive spreading by underground rhizomes and seed. The tall flowering form is much more aggressive than the newer dwarf varieties.

Full sun to partial shade.

Sweet autumn clematis – Clematis terniflora (or sometimes called Clematis maximowicziana)

is a perennial deciduous vine native to Japan. While it blooms in late summer to fall with fragrant white flowers, it is extremely aggressive. You can find it flowering quite freely all over roadsides statewide. A better less-invasive option is the native vine Clematis virginiana, commonly called Virgin’s bower. The plants look similar and common names can be interchangeable. The leaf margin is the best identifying feature. On the Japanese species, the leaf margin is smooth or complete.

On the native species the leaf margin is toothed or serrated.

They will grow in full sun to partial shade.

Toad lilies or Tricyrtis is a great shade-loving perennial.

There are several different species, but the two most common ones are—Tricyrtis hirta and T. formosana. T. hirta

is preferred over T. formosana, the latter having the tendency to spread somewhat aggressively.

Both have lovely speckled blooms which look like miniature orchids, which the bees adore. I have had blooms as early as June, but typically they bloom non-stop from late August through October.

Milkweed vine -Cynanchum laeve

is a native perennial vining member of the milkweed family not in the Aesclepias genus. It forms a strong taproot, like many of the milkweeds and can become weedy in a home landscape. It has clusters of small, fragrant white flowers in the summer, followed by these typical milkweed canoe-like seed pods

which are full of seeds attached to sillky white hairs. While it is a host plant for the monarch butterfly, it is not the favorite species for them.

Small flower morning glory, Clustervine, or Tie vine -Jacquemontia tamnifolia

is a member of the morning glory family with small blue or purple flowers grown in clusters on the stems. This native annual vine can become a pest in the garden. Blooms best in full sun, with flowers that open at night and close after the sun rises.

Mexican sunflower – Tithonia rotundifolia

is an annual plant in the daisy family that can grow 4-6 feet tall in one season.

It has large, coarse foliage but from mid-summer through frost it produces non-stop bright orange flowers.

Each bloom is on its own stalk and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Because of its size, they are usually relegated to the back of the flower border. Several new compact varieties are now available that only grow 2-3 feet tall. Full sun is preferred. Once established it is quite drought tolerant.


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