Solanum valerianum ‘Navidad, Jalisco’

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I just don’t know what to think about this vine. First of all, let me be clear that I love the opulence of this solanum’s pendulous, grape-cluster-like performance. With its ropy swags of purply bloom, it is truly like living drapery against the east wall of lemon cypresses. But this vine obviously doesn’t subscribe to the maxim “good things in moderation.”

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A 2015 introduction from Annie’s Annuals via Suncrest Nurseries, this vine is something of a mystery. There wasn’t much information available at the time of purchase, which of course only increased its allure. Annie’s is still one of the best nurseries for imparting the feeling that you’re not just buying a plant but embarking on a thrilling expedition in plant exploration.

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I’m guessing the vine was planted between 2-3 years ago and slowly built up size, throwing occasional flower clusters. Then this year, bam. The base of the vine is now deeply shaded by the cypresses, which doesn’t seem to inhibit vigor or flower production at all. I run the drip hose at the base of the cypresses and vine about once a week to keep them from fighting for that resource. The fight for light and air circulation up the length of the cypresses, however, will require ongoing investigation.

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And conventional wisdom has gardens as safe havens of dozy repose! Not at all. They’re incredibly vital and exciting places, full of experimentation, battles for resources, thrilling successes and heartbreaking failures. Just like life outside the garden, as a matter of fact (but much more beautiful).

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The cypresses are the perfect scaffold for this vine which lacks tendrils, but if the vine is allowed to smother the cypresses, it will have lost its scaffold, and we will have lost the vine, the cypresses, and our privacy. So you see the dilemma. The stakes are high. Vigilance is needed. Which is why I always keep pruners out where I can see them.

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If you think you have a spot for some vigorous living drapery, and possess a strong sense of botanical adventure, I noted over the weekend that International Garden Center is carrying a few in gallons, in the last rows way in the back of the nursery. And Annie’s is currently offering this vine in 4-inch pots.

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25 Responses to Solanum valerianum ‘Navidad, Jalisco’

  1. Tim says:

    That really is a gorgeous vine. I get a bit misty when I think about beautiful or supercool plants that became thugs; not invasive, just more trouble than they’re worth or a threat to their neighbors.
    And, really, who ever thought of a garden as a place of repose obviously didn’t *garden*. I can perhaps sit for five minutes (max) before I have to hop up to see something, pull something, stake something or whack something. And I have a small garden.
    That’s part of the fun!

  2. Kris P says:

    I have 2 of these plants, both purchased in 4-inch pots from Annie’s. One has been in the ground about 6 months and the other has been in a large pot for 6 months. Neither one has grown significantly, much less produced an abundance of blooms. I’m hoping that they simply need more time to get going. I’d love to have some of those luscious blooms.

  3. Lorinda says:

    I had a friend ask me how much it cost to keep a pretty garden. I told her that the price was eternal vigilance.

  4. Denise says:

    @Tim, when I’ve lived through the experience of a plant becoming more than I bargained for, I feel nothing but relief once it’s been decided it must go. When I think back on the gigantic proportions the smoke tree ‘Grace’ achieved and the constant cutting back, piles of “smoke” engulfing the garden all summer — omg am I glad its gone. Amazing leaves tho!
    @Kris, I’m sure you’ve got a spot somewhere to its liking. I am shocked at how much shade it takes on its base, so that might be a clue to get it going.
    @Lorinda, so true, but then eternal vigilance is a good quality to cultivate in general 😉

  5. Rachel Dunn says:

    The cube containers in the first and last shots are so neat. What are they made of (are they heavy)? I bought one of those vines from Annie’s too. I hope mine will bloom someday.

  6. David Feix says:

    I think I’ve had my plant now for at least 10 years in the garden, growing up and through a 30 foot tall Schefflera, and it has typically been in full bloom from May until November. In fact, Annie first saw this in my garden and took the first cuttings for her nursery from this plant. I think this is actually Solanum valerianum from Central America, but my suggestion of such was never taken up by the folks at Suncrest…

  7. Denise says:

    Rachel, I think those containers are a concrete/synthetic mixture. When filled with soil and a plant/agave, they feel in my hand as similar to the weight of a clay pot. Hope that helps!

  8. Denise says:

    David, I noted that the valerianum has been added since I bought it, when it was still an unknown species. And that makes it even more special, to know they’re cuttings from your garden.

  9. Rachel Dunn says:

    Thanks 🙂

  10. Lauryn says:

    I’ve got this vine growing on the side of my garage on a trellis. It’s gorgeous and hasn’t stopped blooming. I’m wondering if I should give it an annual trimming back. It’s getting a bit top heavy.

  11. Denise says:

    Lauryn, I’ve been worried about its weight on the cypresses, so I cut it back hard in fall. So I’d say prune it to avoid problems, like getting too top heavy, or direct it off of the garage, etc.

  12. Skip says:

    Hi Folks, Solanum valerianum is part of the Solanaceae or nightshade family (tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine), and it looks quite similar to its relative, deadly nightshade… which Annie’s didn’t really mention. Grew to about 12′ and bloomed beautifully until cold temps hit Portland late fall. It’s a goner, but there are seeds on the dead vines. Came here to see if anyone knows the conditions under which the seeds sprout. If at all like deadly nightshade, should not be a problem to cultivate!

  13. Denise says:

    Hi Skip — I haven’t had any seeds sprout yet, so can’t help you there. Most of the solanums are easy from cuttings. I should try taking a couple cuttings this spring.

  14. Linda says:

    I planted one of these (From Annie’s) either end of 2018 or early 2019 – forgot to note which. But all of 2019 it did very little. Grew maybe to 18 inches tall. Had a couple of small clusters of flowers, mostly off one thin stem. I wasn’t sure it was going to make it. Then this year (2020), all of a sudden it has taken off. Started getting multiple stems from the bottom in March. Now, mid-May, it’s getting taller. Probably up to 4.5 feet or so. So far it has one small flower cluster this year, but I’m guessing we’ll see more. We just put a trellis behind it, and when I went to tie it up I realized the stems are now significantly sturdier. Clearly it just needed time to get established.

  15. Carolyn Phillips says:

    I just bought my 4-inch Annie’s plant from my local nursery here in So. Cal about a half-mile from the beach, for a 2nd-story “shade garden” balcony. I’m so excited because it instantly tossed itself over the railings and the other plants around it, and has a lot of buds and new, opening blooms. The balcony pot garden only gets about an hour of sun a day when it’s not foggy outside. except for the vines which are over the railing near the warm, sunny wall.
    This vine is so pretty, colorful and interesting! I hope it likes it here.

  16. Linda says:

    It’s mid-October now, and our solanum valerianum got much taller & broader throughout the summer – covered the trellis we put in (about 3′ wide by 6′ tall). I have been regularly tying in the stems, with a bit of judicious clipping when it seems they want to go in an undesired direction. Lots of continued blossoms.

    One thing – it’s now losing quite a few leaves. We had some real scorching heat stretches (90s, which is hot for Berkeley CA), so I’ve been trying to keep it watered. Wondering if I’ve watered it too much, or if the heat stress was too much, or some combination thereof.

  17. Madeline Marrow says:

    I planted one in a large pot about 2 years ago. I live in Richmond, less than 10 minutes from Annie’s. First year it didn’t do much but the second year it grew a lot and produced a lot of flowers. Now it’s 1/1/21 and I’m trying to decide if I should cut it back. It’s very gangly and the leaves are kind of purple. Plus it’s all over a tree, a flowering Hawthorne and a trellis next to it for a Wisteria. I think I’ll prune all 3 and see what happens.

  18. Denise says:

    I’d opt for pruning too — it can grow quite lanky otherwise. To “see what happens” is a default setting for my garden! Best of luck.

  19. Vivian says:

    I planted one of these from Annie’s back in June of this year and it really took to the spot growing about 18 inches and producing three clusters of blooms. But now it’s dormant which I understand given it’s January, but the leaves have turned a deep purple color. It hasn’t dried out but unsure what to make of the color change of the leaves. Hoping it’ll come back happily as the weather warms.

  20. Denise says:

    Vivian, mine was planted in what seemed a most inhospitable spot, shaded by large cypresses which also stole moisture from the vine. It managed to clamber up the cypresses to the point of possibly harming them! I found it to be a survivor — give yours a chance to prove it! Best of luck.

  21. Catt says:

    Will this take sun??? I have a spot in my back yard for it but it gets some afternoon sun during the Summer….thanks.

  22. Denise says:

    Catt, this vine was growing at the base of cypresses, so very shady, and then clambered up them. Not sure if these were optimal conditions or just good coping skills ;). I would think afternoon sun would be fine with the base kept coolish and watered while it gets established — it’s a vigorous vine when it takes off!

  23. Catt says:

    Thanks for the reply!! I planted it a few hours ago so I’ll keep an eye on it until it is well established. I did read that it likes full sun…cheers, Catt

  24. Madeline Marrow says:

    Mine grew back after I pruned it in 2021. It doesn’t get that much sun because it’s under a Hawthorne tree and a wisteria. But it makes a lot of flowers and they are so pretty. Maybe if it got more sun it would make even more.

  25. Denise says:

    glad it grew back! Mine clambered up 12′ high at least.

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