How to Grow Salpiglossis

Salpiglossis painted tongue
Painted tongue, Salpiglossis sinuata

Salpiglossis—commonly called painted—tongue is a cool-summer annual with colorful marbled or streaked flowers. Salpiglossis blooms come in shades of mahogany, red, reddish-orange, yellow, purple, and pink.

Salpiglossis is loose to densely branched with sticky leaves and stems. It grows 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) tall.

Plant Salpiglossis as a border background plant or use it in mixed plantings and containers. It is an excellent cut flower.

There are only two species in the Salpiglossis genus. Salpiglossis is native to the Andes in Chile.

Colorful Salpiglossis sinuata or Painted Tongue
Colorful Salpiglossis sinuata or Painted Tongue

Get to Know Salpiglossis

  • Plant type: Annual
  • Growing zones and range: All zones as cool-summer annual
  • Hardiness: Cool-weather annual
  • Height and width: Upright, open habit grows 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) tall
  • Foliage: Sticky leaves and stems; leaves to 4 inches (10cm) narrowly oblong
  • Flowers: Velvety-textured flowers much like petunias in shade and size; flowers to 2 inches (5cm) wide.
  • Flower colors: Shades of mahogany, red, reddish-orange, yellow, purple, and pink tones, marbled and penciled with contrasting colors.
  • Bloom time: Late spring and early summer
  • Uses: Border background plant; use in mixed plantings and containers; excellent cut flowers.
  • Common name: Painted tongue, velvet flower
  • Botanical name: Salpiglossis sinuata
  • Family name: Solanaceae
  • Origin: Andes

Where to Plant Salpiglossis

  • Plant Salpiglossis in full sun.
  • Grow Salpiglossis in average to humus-rich, well-drained soil.
  • Plants grow best where summer is not excessively hot.
  • Where summers are warm plant Salpiglossis where it will get light afternoon shade.

Salpiglossis Uses

  • Plant Salpiglossis in beds and borders; use it in the middle of borders or as a background plant. It is complemented by Gypsophila and Nigella.
  • Cut flowers can be used in bouquets.
  • Smaller cultivars can be used as bedding or in containers.

When to Plant Salpiglossis

  • Sow seeds indoors in individual pots 8 to 10 weeks before the last spring frost.
  • Hardened off seedlings can be moved to the garden 2 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • Sow seed outdoors just before the average last frost date.
  • Where summer is hot, start plants early so they have time to bloom before warm weather arrives.
Painted tongue flowers, Salpiglossis sinuata
Painted tongue flowers, Salpiglossis sinuata

Planting and Spacing Salpiglossis

  • Sow seeds at 70° to 75°F (21°-24°C).
  • Just press the tiny seeds into the soil surface; seeds need darkness to germinate so cover the seed lightly with soil or place black plastic over seed-starting pots.
  • Germination takes 7 to 14 days.
  • Mulch seedlings when they are several inches tall to keep roots cool.

How to Water and Feed Salpiglossis

  • Keep the soil evenly moist.
  • Add an all-purpose fertilizer to garden soil before setting Salpiglossis in the garden.

Salpiglossis Care

  • Stake tall plants to keep them from flopping.
  • Pinch out tips of growing plants to induce branching.
  • Regular deadheading will keep flowers blooming until frost.

Salpiglossis Pests and Diseases

  • Soil-borne fungal diseases may cause wilt and die back.

Salpiglossis Propagation

  • Sow seed outdoors in late winter or spring indoors.
  • Seeds germinate in 7 to 10 days at 70° to 80°F (21°-27°C).
  • Potted plants for indoors, can be sown in late summer for early spring flowering.

Salpiglossis Varieties to Grow

  • Salpiglossis sinuata, painted tongue: erect, somewhat weak-stemmed annual grows 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) tall; bears five-lobed flowers to 2 inches across from summer to fall; a full range of rich colors. There are several cultivars including a few dwarf cultivars.

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