Solano - Solanum

Solano - Solanum

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The many solanums

The genus solanum has thousands of species, widespread in nature in Italy, Europe, Asia, Africa America; many species of the genus solanum produce edible fruits, among which we remember the tomato, the eggplant, the pepper. Solanum widespread in Italy in its natural state are small shrubs, which produce dark, poisonous berries; however, there are species and varieties of solanum grown exclusively for flowers. All the species produce small flowers, star-shaped or roundish, of yellow, white, pink or lilac color. In most cases the flowers follow small roundish fruits, which, in the case of the solanum decorative, they are not edible.
Solanos are ornamental plants belonging to the Solanaceae family, very vast and one of the most present in cultivation. In fact it includes other ornamental essences such as datura, nierembergia and petunia. Very famous members are also tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and nicotiana (tobacco), cultivated mostly in horticultural terms.
The genus Solanum includes about 1400 species, some of which are widely used as ornamental plants in the garden or in the apartment. Most are decidedly not very rustic, while others can withstand temperatures even around -10 ° C. They can therefore easily be treated as perennials in the center-south of our peninsula and still manage to survive well, if sheltered, throughout the north.
Below we will see the most common species:

The old glories

Between solanum most common decorations in garden cultivation we remember the solanum capsicastrum, whose name derives from the fact that it produces small, spherical, orange-colored berries, similar to small peppers. The flowers bloom in spring and summer, and are white; the fruits, not edible, remain on the plant until the following year, making it very decorative even during the winter.
These plants, commonly called Marinelle, were grown in the gardens of our grandparents; they are starting to return to the garden thanks to the breeders, who have produced varieties with spotted fruits, or double flowers.
This small shrub is placed in the garden, where it generally develops freely, without exceeding 35-40 cm in height; however, there are dwarf varieties, which remain below 30 cm in height. Of can also be cultivated in pots, and generally do not fear the cold, even if particularly intense frosts can ruin most of the outermost branches. They develop without problems in the sun or in partial shade

The new recruits

Among the many plants that in recent years we can easily find in the nursery, some are solanos; in particular they are very widespread Solanum jasminoides, is Solanum rantonnetii.
In the first case it is a climbing shrub, which produces bunches of white, star-shaped flowers in summer; Solanum rantonnetii, on the other hand, is a small compact shrub that produces purple flowers.
These plants are easy to grow; they produce a dense vegetation, with small oval, shiny, leathery, evergreen leaves; the flowers bloom for a long period, from late spring to the first cold.
They prefer a rich and soft soil, and if watered regularly, when the soil is dry, the flowering will be more lush and abundant; A good fertilization with slow release fertilizer, to be provided at the end of winter, will guarantee the right level of mineral salts in the soil until the end of flowering.
These plants can be grown in the garden, even if they fear the most intense and prolonged frosts; for those who have the misfortune of living in places with very cold winters, it is advisable to grow potted solanums, so that they can be moved to a sheltered place during the winter
Generally, even in the coldest areas, we can grow solanums on a sheltered and sunny terrace, where temperatures will hardly become particularly harsh.
Even in areas with mild winters, it can occasionally happen that the cold ruins the vegetation of the solanum; to bring the plant back to its splendor, at the end of winter, we remove all the damaged parts, to favor the development of new branches.

Solanum jasminoides

It is a sarmentose creeper, but without thorns. It is originally from Brazil, Argentina and Ecuador. At maturity it can reach 7 meters in height and as many in width. Its flowers, gathered in bunches and produced throughout the vegetative period, have the shape of a star, generally of a light mauve color. If not cleaned they evolve into berries of about 5 mm in diameter, black in color, toxic.
The leaves, persistent or semi-persistent, depending on the climate, are simple, lanceolate and up to 6 cm long, of a beautiful dark green. The stems are twisting and therefore they climb very easily where a support is available.
It is a much loved plant because it is able, in a very short time, to reach its final dimension. The growth is so vigorous that it can even become invasive. However, it is an excellent subject to cover walls or to climb up arches or pergolas. In our country it is very popular on the Ligurian Riviera and in all of Lazio.

Rusticity Solanum jasminoides

It is perhaps the purest rustic ever. Supports the cold very well up to -10 ° C. If it reaches -12 ° C instead the aerial parts die, but the hypogeum apparatus resists, then rejecting in spring.
On the contrary, recovery can be seriously compromised if it reaches -18 ° C. In any case, especially if you live in the Center-North, it is advisable to create a thick mulching layer on the foot before the arrival of winter.
Making it grow near a south-facing wall is also a great way to protect it further.

Cultivation Solanum jasminoides

Solanum jasminoides requires, in order to give the maximum, a soil rich in nutrients, but well drained. However, it grows discreetly even in the poor ones. It is always advisable to put it in a warm area well sheltered from the winds, which could damage the rather fragile stems (especially when young).
To be able to climb the ideal is to set up a support, especially on the walls. In that case you can stretch a wire or pull a net over it. Initially the stems will be tied, but then they will clog themselves independently.
Planting is preferably done in spring in the northern regions. In areas with mild winters one can instead proceed also in autumn, so as to have at the arrival of the warm season an already franked specimen.

Height Up to 7 meters
Maintenance low
irrigations Frequently
Growth fast
Propagation Seed, cutting
Rusticitа Up to -12 ° C
Exposure Sun
Ground rich

Crop care

Irrigation should be frequent after planting. Later they can be delayed, but we always intervene in the event of prolonged drought. In any case, he loves a rather dry substrate.
Pruning can take place at any time of the year. Action is taken to remove crooked, messy or compromised branches. If there have been strong winter frosts it is best, at the end of March, to cut all the stems to 30 cm from the ground, so that the plant is stimulated to reject.
If the specimen becomes too invasive we can contain it at any time.


It easily multiplies through herbaceous cuttings, possibly between April and June. The segments must be about 8 cm long and placed in a soil with added sand, very draining. Always keep wet, in partial shade. The rooting is quite fast.
Aureovariegatum: white flowers and yellow-stained leaves
Album pure white flower
Album Variegatum white flowers and variegated leaves in white

Solanum rantonnettii

Solanum rantonnettii is native to Argentina. It is a beautiful shrub with a very graceful bearing and wonderful bell-shaped flowers in shades of blue-violet and yellow center. Its cultivation is very simple, in a suitable environment. It requires only a lot of light and heat to give abundant and continuous blooms.

Solanum rantonnettii characteristics

It is a shrub species with semi-persistent leaves. It can reach 4 meters in height, for a width of about 2. The aerial parts resist up to 0 ° C, but the plant completely perishes when it reaches -5 ° C. It is therefore advisable to cultivate it in the ground only in the South and on the islands. In the Center-North, vice versa, it must surely be sheltered in a cold greenhouse during the winter.
The foliage is of a beautiful lively green, alternate and lanceolate. The flowers are blue-violet with a yellow center, with a diameter of about 3 cm, collected in groups of up to 5. They can then evolve into oval and hanging berries, green, then yellow and finally red, toxic.
It can be used both in shrub form and as a small climber. Very nice combinations are those with the Bougainville or with the plumbago.

Height Up to 4 meters
Maintenance Medium-low
irrigations Quite frequent
Growth fast
Propagation Cutting, sowing
Rusticitа Medium-low (up to 0 ° C)
Exposure Sun
Ground Even poor

Grow solanum rantonnettii

He wants a warm, sunny and sheltered from the winds.
Irrigation and fertilization
Irrigations must always be rather abundant. In the open ground interventions will be frequent especially in the first two years after planting. To stimulate flowering it is advisable to distribute, at least every ten days, a liquid fertilizer for flowering plants with a high potassium content. The products formulated for tomatoes are excellent.
Protection from the cold
In the South, where it may be possible to cultivate it in the open, it is always good to mulch abundantly. In this way the radical apparatus will be better able to overcome the winter and to reject later. In the rest of the country it is good, towards the end of October, to move the plant into a bright cold greenhouse, cutting the branches almost at the base.
You can proceed with a cut at the base in spring so that the entire specimen is renewed.
It propagates by cuttings, as for the jasminoides.
Overseas large flowers and more intense coloring.
Sunrise white flowers
Variegata leaves with golden streaks

Solanum crispum

Another very interesting species of solanum is the solanum crispum, a plant native to Chile, very similar to the species just seen. The solanum crispum it grows up to 5 meters in height with a climbing habit. This plant grows without problems even on poor soil as long as there is plenty of heat and sun. The greatest danger to the health of this plant is water stagnation and low temperatures. Under -2 ° C in fact this plant starts to suffer a lot.

Solanum capicastrum

It is a shrub native to Brazil. It is mostly used as a pot plant or, possibly, as an annual garden plant. It is also found for sale rather commonly, along with the solanum pseudocapsicum (very similar), at Christmas time. The berries it produces are scarlet. It forms a small shrub, with dark green leaves, up to 5 cm long and 2 wide, lanceolate. The flowers are small and white. In the islands it can also be cultivated outdoors, but absolutely not frost-free.
However, it is not easy to cultivate even in an apartment, since it requires a rather humid environment, on pain of loss of fruit.

Cultivation solanum capicastrum

Exposure and temperatures
In all periods of the year it prefers bright exposures, but not in full sun.
In Italy almost everywhere it is only possible to cultivate in a container, since it does not tolerate temperatures below 5 ° C.
In an apartment we always keep it in a room that is not extremely heated (around 15 ° C). In this way the fruits will last longer.
Irrigation and fertilization
Irrigations must be frequent, especially when temperatures are high. However, it is always necessary to wait for the soil to dry up almost completely before proceeding again to avoid root rot. Both in summer and in winter it is important to vaporize the leaves with demineralized water in order to always keep the humidity high. It may also be useful to place a saucer full of expanded clay and water nearby. This, by evaporating, will make the environment more suitable for our solanum.
From March to August it is advisable to distribute a fertilizer for flowering plants with the irrigations, once every 30 days.
Pruning young plants, in spring, should be cimated. Those with more than three years of life should be reduced by at least half.

Solano - Solanum: Propagation

The cutting is practiced from the end of August to the middle of September. Partially lignified apical segments are taken and placed in a rather rich soil, kept humid and warm.
sowing is carried out by extracting seeds from ripe fruits. Then, in March, they are placed in a light and warm soil, always kept slightly humid. Germination is quite fast and the seedlings can be potted when they reach 15 cm in height.
Other varieties
Other varieties of solanum, less common, are: s. seaforthianum and the wendlandii.
Watch the video
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Height From 30 cm to 1 m
Maintenance average
irrigations Quite frequent
Growth normal
Propagation Talea
Rusticitа Low (dies at 5 ° C)
Exposure Bright, no direct sun
Ground Soil for flowering plants
Flowering July to November
Fruiting From September to December
Propagation Seed, cutting