How to Plant and Grow Wishbone Flower

This colorful annual will put on a show all season long.

This tropical plant, native to southeast Asia, is excellent for brightening up a shade garden. Wishbone flower is a perennial that is usually grown as an annual. It gets its name from stamens that form wishbone shapes. It is also called clown flower because the patterns and bright hues of the blooms often resemble clown makeup. Most often found in shades of blue, the blossoms also come in pink, purple, white, and yellow. The glossy green foliage acts as a verdant backdrop for the plant's showy blooms. This long-blooming, compact flower puts on a nonstop display of color from spring until frost.

Wishbone Flower Overview

Genus Name Torenia fournieri
Common Name Wishbone Flower
Plant Type Annual
Light Part Sun, Shade
Height 6 to 16 inches
Width 6 to 24 inches
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant

Where to Plant Wishbone Flower

Wishbone flower comes in both trailing and upright varieties. Upright plants form small bushy mounds that do well in the landscape whereas low-growing, trailing varieties cascade beautifully from containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes. Choose a variety that best fits your needs.

While wishbone flower grows in the shade, it blooms better when it gets sun for part of the day, preferably in the morning. Plant it in a location where the soil is slightly acidic to neutral and consistently moist (or be ready to water it regularly).

How and When to Plant Wishbone Flower

Plant wishbone flowers in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Dig a hole that is at least the size of the nursery pot or flat and has the same depth. Water the plants well in their pots and let them drain before placing them in the hole and backfilling it with the original soil. 

Space upright varieties 8 to 9 inches apart and trailing varieties 15 inches apart.

Wishbone Flower Care Tips


Often grown as a shade plant, wishbone flower is tolerant of brighter sun exposures. As long as it is kept evenly moist and watered regularly, it can handle full sun. The ideal growing conditions for this annual are in the early morning sun and shade during the afternoon hours. With full shade, the plant tends to bloom less and appear less dense than its sunnier counterparts.

Soil and Water

The soil should be rich and well-drained with a good amount of organic matter and a pH that is slightly acidic to neutral (5.6 to 7.0). 

Wishbone flower prefers to be consistently moist, so don't let it dry out between waterings. Soggy soil and overwatering, on the other hand, can lead to root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

Wishbone flower can only survive the winter in zone 10 and 11, that’s why it is commonly grown as an annual. The plant is neither frost-hardy nor does it like extremely hot weather and humidity (some varieties are more tolerant of heat than others). The ideal daytime temperature range is between 70 to 75 degrees F.


Because this annual is such a long and prolific bloomer, it needs regular additions of nutrients to maintain a beautiful display. For in-ground plantings, add a granular slow-release balanced fertilizer about once a month. For wishbone flower in a container, fertilize it with a water-soluble (liquid) fertilizer every week or two depending on the frequency of watering.


For a bushier growth habit, pinch off the growing tops of the flowers when they reach about 2 inches in length. Pinching also encourages better branching in trailing varieties. Deadheading is usually not required but it can help keep the plants looking neat, especially the upright varieties. 

Potting and Repotting Wishbone Flower

Select a pot with large drainage holes and fill it with a combination of potting mix and compost or potting soil high in organic matter. A larger pot with several wishbone plants together, or a mixed planter where wishbone flower is the filler, works much better than small pots with individual plants. A 10-inch pot fits two to three wishbone flowers.

Pots made of solid materials, such as plastic or metal, dry out less rapidly than porous materials such as terra-cotta, which have the advantage of wicking away moisture so there is less risk of root rot in the case of overwatering.

Potted wishbone flowers need more frequent watering and fertilization than inground plants.

Because the life cycle of wishbone flower is only one season, it does not require repotting.

Pests and Problems

Wishbone flower is fairly resistant to serious pests and diseases. In hot, humid weather, it may get infested by whiteflies.

How to Propagate Wishbone Flower

Wishbone flowers can be started from seed. In cool climates, start them six to eight weeks before the last average frost date to get a head start on the growing season. Start the seeds in biodegradable pots that you can plant with the seedlings because wishbone flower does not transplant well. Fill the pots with sterile potting mix and water it thoroughly until damp, then place the seeds on the surface and gently press them down. Do not cover the seeds; they need light to germinate. Keep them moist at around 70 degrees F. The seeds will germinate in two to three weeks. Harden off the seedlings before transplanting them outdoors.

Types of Wishbone Flower

'Catalina Gilded Grape' Wishbone Flower

'Catalina Gilded Grape' wishbone flower
Justin Hancock

Torenia 'Catalina Gilded Grape' is a mounding hybrid featuring bright yellow flowers with purple throats. It grows 16 inches tall and trails 24 inches.

'Catalina White Linen' Wishbone Flower

'Catalina White Linen' wishbone flower
Justin Hancock

Torenia 'Catalina White Linen' shows off lovely pure-white flowers on a compact, mounding/trailing plant. This hybrid grows 16 inches tall and 24 inches across.

'Clown Mix' Wishbone Flower

'Clown Mix' wishbone flower
Cynthia Haynes

The Clown Series of Torenia fournieri offers a mixture of colors, including blue with purple edges, on compact, 1-foot-tall plants. It is especially suitable for areas with extremely hot summers.

'Kauai Rose' Wishbone Flower

'Kauai Rose' wishbone flower
Justin Hancock

Torenia fournieri 'Kauai Rose' is a uniform, upright, extremely heat- and
humidity-tolerant plant with bright pink blooms. The varieties in the Kauai series are more compact and better-branched than the Clown series.

Purple Moon Torenia

'Moon Purple' wishbone flower
Justin Hancock

Torenia 'Purple Moon' is a hybrid with a mounding or trailing habit and lovely lavender-purple flowers over shiny green foliage. It grows 6 inches tall and 16 inches wide.

Yellow Moon Torenia

'Moon Yellow' Wishbone Flower
Justin Hancock

Torenia 'Yellow Moon' has a mounding/trailing habit and soft yellow flowers with a purple throat. It grows 10 inches tall and 16 inches wide.

Summer Wave 'Large Amethyst' Torenia

Summer Wave 'Large Amethyst' wishbone flower
Justin Hancock

Torenia Summer Wave 'Large Amethyst' is a vigorous trailing hybrid featuring large blooms of lovely amethyst purple.

Summer Wave 'Large Blue' Torenia

Torenia 'Summer Wave Blue' and 'Summer Wave Large Violet'
Peter Krumhardt

Torenia Summer Wave 'Large Blue' is a hybrid with excellent heat- and humidity tolerance. The plant has a trailing habit and large deep blue flowers.

Wishbone Flower Companion Plants

Sweet Alyssum

sweet alyssum white flowers
Peter Krumhardt

Sweet alyssum, with its dainty, fragrant flowers, is often used in containers and hanging baskets to spill over the edges, creating a soft, frothy look. It's also a great edging plant because of its tidy, compact habit. Regardless of how you use it, sweet alyssum does best in spring's and fall's cool conditions (or use it for winter color in very warm climates). In cool-summer conditions, such as the northern third of the United States, sweet alyssum will bloom steadily through the summer. It halts bloom in summer in warmer areas.


begonia big rose with bronze leaf
Justin Hancock

Talk about foolproof: Annual begonia is about as easy as it gets. It does well in a variety of conditions, but to keep it at its best, give it light shade, rich, well-drained soil, and ample water. It also loves plenty of fertilizer, so be generous. Plant annual begonias in spring after all danger of frost has passed. No need to deadhead this flower unless you want to, it's "self-cleaning."


Impatiens Swirl Coral
Peter Krumhardt

What would we do without impatiens? It's the old reliable for shade gardens when you want eye-popping color all season long. The plants bloom in just about every color except true blue and are well suited to growing in containers or in the ground. If you have a bright spot indoors, you may be able to grow impatiens all year as an indoor plant.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you save the seeds of wishbone flower?

    You can, but when you propagate wishbone flower from those seeds, it is unlikely you will get plants with the same traits because most wishbone flowers are cultivars and hybrids. Starting with fresh seeds purchased from a seed company will give you more predictable results. 

  • Why do the leaves of my wishbone flower turn reddish-green?

    The discoloration of the foliage is usually a sign that it’s too cold for the plant. If you transplanted it too early, daytime temperature might be fine but nighttime temperatures may drop below the tolerance of the plant. Cover the plant at night until the weather gets warmer.

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