Painted tongue brings kaleidoscopes of color

If you love the magic of kaleidoscopes, you'll be captivated by the exquisitely patterned flowers of painted tongue.

Related to petunias, this South American annual bears velvety, trumpet shaped flowers in jewel tones of yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and bronze. Each flower's network of veins is often highlighted in a contrasting color, providing a lovely stained glass appearance.

Its form is somewhat open, with many wide-branching stems making it perfect for an informal cottage-style garden where it can mingle with other annuals and perennials. Be sure to plant a few extra for cutting: Stems of painted tongue last up to a week in bouquets.

Common name: Painted tongue

Botanical name: Salpiglossis sinuate

Plant type: Annual

Height: 18 to 30 inches

Family: Solanaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Full sun or part shade

• Soil: Fairly rich loam is ideal; in sandy or clay soils, work in plenty of compost

• Moisture: Evenly moist


• Mulch: None, or 1 inch of organic mulch like compost or shredded leaves

• Pruning: Deadhead spent flowers

• Fertilizer: Apply compost or diluted soluble fertilizer


• Seeds

Pests and diseases

• Aphids


• ‘Black Trumpets' bears deep burgundy flowers with dramatic near-black veins.

• The Casino Series is compact and floriferous, blooming in multiple colors.

• ‘Kew Blue' has rich blue-violet flowers with a darker center and veining.

• ‘Royale Mix' blooms in many richly patterned bright colors.

• ‘Stained Glass' sports multiple bright colors and stands up to rain and wind.

Garden notes

• Painted tongue blooms all summer in regions with cool to moderate temperatures; in hot-summer regions, combine it with heat-loving annuals like zinnias that can take over when painted tongue starts flagging.

• While painted tongue likes cooler temperatures, it's not frost-tolerant, so don't plant it outdoors too early.

• Interplant painted tongue with low, mounding annuals like petunias or sweet alyssum that will hide its leggy stem bases.

• Compact forms like the Casino Series are good for container plantings.

All in the family

• Painted tongue is a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), which contains about 3,000 species of herbaceous and woody plants from around the world.

• There are many familiar edible and ornamental members of this family, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, petunias and flowering tobacco (Nicotiana).

Where to buy

• Johnny's Selected Seeds,

• Renee's Garden,

• Thompson & Morgan,