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Add a Beautiful Burst of Color With a Black Eyed Susan Vine

The black eyed Susan vine, or Thunbergia alata, is a pretty climbing plant. It grows well in any south, east, or west-facing window. It’s perfect for the veranda or porch and will also thrive on a sheltered balcony.

Thunbergia alata - orange black eyed Susan vine flowers.
Image credit: Jumpstory.

Discovered in South Africa in 1823, this profusely flowering climber was named for Linnaeus’ apprentice, the botanist Peter Thunberg, 1743-1828.

Tips For Growing A Gorgeous Black Eyed Susan Vine

Planting black-eyed Susan vine seeds

Buy seed in April or May.

Use commercial propagating compost or mix ¼ sand and ¾ moss. Sow the seeds thinly in airy soil in a tray and cover them with a thin layer or press them lightly into the soil.

Cover the tray with glass or plastic to retain the moisture. The germinating seeds can’t take drought; no seedling can.

Black eyed Susan flower colors

pure white black eyed Susan vine flowers.
Image credit: YAY Images.

Once Thunbergia opens in late June or early July, it continues all summer and right into the fall.

The funnel-shaped flowers are mostly orange with a black eye at the center but can also be white or clear yellow. Sometimes, the eye is the same color as the rest of the flower.

yellow and orange black eyed Susan flowers growing by my front door.
Image credit: Backyard Garden Lover.

Black-eyed Susan is grown as an annual

Many people consider Thunbergia an annual, but it can overwinter and flower again the following season. For the winter, it needs a bright yet cool spot where it can rest with little water and no food.

The elegant vines, with their heart-shaped leaves, need some support. Running a wire along the window is often sufficient.

A light, attractive trellis is even better. Or, why not let Thunbergia hang free from a basket? It can be a very decorative green cushion filled with yellow or orange black-eyed blooms.

Black eyed Susan pests and problems

Thunbergia can become too compact and full of tendrils, which makes it an easy prey for damaging insects. Thin the plant out if this happens to let in more light and air.

If plants develop mildew, reduce watering, and move them to a drier location.

White-fly like thin-leafed plants such as Black-Eyed Susan. If small flies take to the air when the plant is touched, spray the plant from below, under the leaves, several times to make life uncomfortable for them. If this isn’t enough, resort to chemicals. Just make sure to spray from a distance, or the leaves will be damaged by the spray.

Aphids can also be a problem. Spray with soapy water or use insecticide.

Poor flowering is the result of insufficient light. Move the plant to a brighter spot. Starvation has the same effect. Perhaps the plant has not been fed recently. Feed more frequently in the future. Thunbergia likes regular applications of diluted liquid plant food from spring to fall.

As you can see, the black-eyed Susan vine is an easy plant to grow if given plenty of food and water. It puts on quite a show, too! I love mine and plant it every year by my front door (it’s an annual in my zone).

How to Use Thunbergia in Your Landscape

yellow thunbergia by my door.
Image credit: Backyard Garden Lover.
  1. Vertical Gardening: Thunbergia alata is a vine, so it naturally lends itself to vertical gardening. Plant it along trellises, arbors, fences, or pergolas to create a stunning vertical display of colorful blooms.
  2. Container Planting: If you have limited space or want to add color to your patio, balcony, or deck, consider planting Thunbergia alata in containers. Choose large containers with trellises or stakes for support and place them in sunny spots.
  3. Ground Cover: Although Thunbergia alata is a vine, it can also be grown as a ground cover in warmer climates. Plant it in areas where it can spread freely, such as along slopes or flower beds, to create a lush ground cover with vibrant flowers.
  4. Mixed Borders: Incorporate Thunbergia alata into mixed borders with other flowering plants to add vertical interest and attract pollinators. Its colorful blooms will complement a variety of other flowers and foliage plants.
  5. Accent Plant: Use Thunbergia alata as a focal point or accent plant in your landscape design. Plant it near entrances, pathways, or outdoor seating areas to draw attention with its bright blooms.
  6. Companion Planting: Pair Thunbergia alata with other plants with similar cultural requirements and complement its colors. For example, combine it with petunias, verbena, or lantana for a vibrant display.
Add a beautiful burst of color with a black eyed Susan vine.
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Adriana Copaceanu is a passionate nature lover living in the country on her dream property where she grows vegetables, lavender, and wildflowers that she shares with the wildlife they attract. When she's not in the garden, she loves spending time with her chickens and planning her next nature project. Check out her books below:

How to Grow Lavender for Fun and Profit: Lessons Learned from Planting Three Hundred Lavender Plants

How to Raise Chickens for Eggs: A Guide to Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens for Nutritious, Organic Eggs at Home

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Cheryl

Tuesday 18th of August 2020

can seeds be collected from this plant? If so, where are the seeds?

ILoveGardening

Wednesday 19th of August 2020

Yes, you can. Here's a goof guide about the process: http://mrbrownthumb.blogspot.com/2010/07/how-to-collect-black-eyed-susan-vine.html

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Rachel Murrow

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Hi! I got gifted one of these - in zone 7. Can I plant it in the ground?

ILoveGardening

Wednesday 13th of May 2020

Yes, as soon as the last frost date passes: they can't take freezing temps.