Native to South America (Brazil), climbing solanum ( Solanum jasminoides ), also called false jasmine nightshade , is a vigorous liana not to be confused with true officinal jasmine (Jasminum) or winter jasmine . This plant from the tomato family (Solanaceae) quickly takes on a nice volume if the growing conditions (location, weather) appeal to it. From June until the first frosts, we appreciate its starry blooming overflowing with generosity.
A myriad of white stars!
Although moderately hardy (-5 ° C), this climbing solanum shows very rapid growth. It does not take its sarmentose stems more than 2 to 3 years to stretch up to 6 meters in length! This involves providing from planting a trellis support, a rigid fence or any other structure strong enough to support the branches as they extend.
Bright green, luminous, the foliage of false jasmine nightshade is persistent in mild climates, semi-evergreen elsewhere.
The numerous flowers in white or bluish stars of this climbing solanum appear in clusters. They present a family resemblance hardly hidden with the flowers of the tomato or those of Solanum rantonnetii, the latter being a flowering shrub very close. The flowers of the false jasmine nightshade bloom continuously for several months in a row, from June until the first frosts. Like wild nightshades , after flowering they give way to small purple berries in autumn. Be careful with young children, these berries are not edible!
Where to plant it?
Like all Solanaceae, the climbing Solanum also needs warmth to flourish and thrive. In cool regions, the ideal is therefore to plant it at the foot of a south-facing wall , sheltered from cold winds. Elsewhere, exposure to the West is preferable. The plant thus receives less sun there than in the South, only in the afternoon, but the support continues to play its protective role by absorbing and returning heat at night, restoring a favorable microclimate.
On the soil side, this Solanum jasminoides appreciates rich, but well-drained soils. Mulching is useful in summer to keep a little freshness.
To cope with the exuberance of its shoots, plan a large reception support: wall, pergola, fence or arbor on a patio, bin on a balcony or terrace.
How to grow it in a pot?
The cultivation of false jasmine nightshade is possible in a large pot (30 to 40 cm in diameter) or, better, in a container. Under these conditions, the plant is even less hardy than in the ground. It is imperative to install it at the foot of a south-facing wall. You can use a very draining substrate: 1/3 garden soil, 1/3 potting soil and 1/3 sand.
From the middle of autumn, place the Solanum in a shelter to avoid a period of severe frost that it would not support in these growing conditions.
During the summer, keep the feet cool by pouring a sprinkling can of water once or twice a week. Don’t worry if you forget or have to be away, false jasmine nightshade , like tomatoes, is very tolerant of transient drought.
Support the strong growth of this twining plant with regular fertilizer applications. Prefer a slow-release fertilizer that promotes flowering, therefore rich in potash, such as tomato fertilizer. If its form is liquid, water the Solanum copiously upstream to avoid burning the roots.
Guide the twigs regularly on the trellis support, without tying them. The interventions must be frequent, the plant grows quickly!
How to prune false jasmine nightshade?
The flowering of this Solanum occurs on the shoots of the year. This peculiarity therefore requires pruning early enough, between the end of February and mid-March, before the resumption of vegetation. Its objective is twofold: both to reduce and to balance the antlers.
Start by removing the dead wood inside the tangled twigs. Then shorten the secondary shoots by keeping only 3 to 4 buds from their base to achieve an acceptable volume.
During growth, do not deprive yourself of pruning the troublesome shoots to discipline the climbing Solanum and maintain a compact and balanced silhouette. Prioritize pinching the branches that are the most elongated.
In mild regions, this Solanum jasminoides is sometimes very invasive. So do not hesitate to prune it very severely to avoid being overtaken by a tangle of unsightly shoots!
Which varieties to choose?
It is often the “ Album ” variety that we meet, the most popular among gardeners for its myriad of pure white stars. Associate it with other colorful twining plants, annuals or cultivated as such (perennial ipomée, Suzanne-aux-pieds-noirs , Brazilian jasmine…) and even perennials (Perennial trachelospermum false-jasmine, bignone with colored trumpets…).
Beware of the confusion!
Solanum crispum , with elegant blue, almost purple flowers, is also a climber close relative, but more hardy than false jasmine nightshade .