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A Chilean relative of the petunia, painted tongue demands attention with its spectacular trumpet-shape flowers in shades of magenta, deep violet, and gold. This easy-to-grow annual adds pockets of color to both gardens and container plantings. Thriving in moderate temperatures, painted tongue unfurls its flowers in spring and fall and ceases blooming during the heat of summer. But if provided ample water and some afternoon shade, painted tongue will debut bright blossoms in autumn when many plants are bedraggled from a long growing season.
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Planting Painted Tongue
Pair painted tongue with annuals that boast bold, colorful flowers for high-energy plant combinations: snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus), pansy (Viola x wittrockiana), and African daisy (Osteospermum). When building a container garden, consider painted tongue's summer siesta and pair it with annuals that provide plenty of high-heat interest. New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens hawkeri), mandevilla, and geranium (Pelargonium spp.) bloom through summer and bridge the gap between painted tongue's spring and fall flowering seasons.
Painted Tongue Care
Painted tongue grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. In areas with hot summer temperatures, choose a planting place that receives afternoon shade. This relief from the hot sun will help painted tongue survive through summer and bloom again in fall.
Painted tongue is usually started from transplants purchased in early spring. Seeds can be started indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date. Acclimate young seedlings by placing them in a protected location outside when plants are several inches tall. Bring them inside at night if there is a chance of frost.
Apply a 1- to 2-inch-thick layer of mulch around the base of plants shortly after planting to keep roots cool and prevent soil moisture loss. Remove spent flowers as time allows to encourage additional blooms. Stake tall plants with a bamboo stake and twine if needed.
Heirloom varieties that were lost from commerce for decades have been recently reintroduced to gardeners. Many are available by seed. For a successful planting, be sure to start seeds indoors 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date.