Solanum is diverse family of shrubs and climbers that includes deadly nightshade (belladonna), potatoes and tomatoes. The popular garden climbing species described here are Solanum crispum and Solanum jasminoides.
Family: Solanaceae (nightshade)
Botanical Name: Solanum
Common Names: Chilean potato vine, Chilean nightshade, potato tree.
Foliage: Semi-evergreen, simple ovate pointed, mid green leaves.
Flowers: Profuse potato-like flowers in white or blue. Slightly fragrant. Often followed by fleshy fruits.
Flowering Period: Spring to late autumn.
Soil: Moist but well-drained soil (chalk, clay, sand). Alkaline or neutral pH.
Conditions: Best in full sun. Plant in a west or south facing aspect, in a sheltered location.
Habit: Scrambling, self-clinging.
Type: Woody-stemmed climber.
Origin: Chile and Peru.
Toxicity: All parts of this plant are harmful if eaten.
Hardiness: Not fully hardy in the UK.
Solanum are slightly tender, but if grown against a south or west facing wall or trellis they should survive most winters. Any frost damage can be cut back and should quickly regenerate.
Often grown as an alternative for the more tender Mediterranean Bougainvillea. With suitable support, these graceful climbers can grow to more than 20ft (6m).
Support plants as they grown by tying in new shoots.
Keep the plants tidy and in check once flowering has finished. Remove any dead and damaged wood.
Susceptible to attack by aphids and red spider mite. Can be affected by wilt and grey moulds.
Increase from semi-hardwood cuttings taken in summer.
Note: although a member of the tomato/potato family, the following solanum species are toxic and should not be eaten. Keep out of reach of pets and children. Wear gloves and wash hands after handling.
Solanum crispum is a strong growing climber with blue flowers. Good cultivars include 'Glasnevin', which has a long flowering period and companions well with other climbers. For sale at Gardening Express. The cultivar 'Album' produces fragrant star-shaped white flowers with tiny yellow centres from June to September. For sale at Gardening Express.
Solanum laxum 'Album' is less vigorous form with gently fragrant starry white flower clusters, with yellow centres. For sale at Thompson & Morgan.
Solanum rantonetti is an arching, evergreen shrub with colourful, funnel-shaped flowers. The flowers are normally blue but white forms are available. Hardy down to -5°C so may need winter protection in cooler regions. Ideal for the conservatory or outside on the patio in summer. RHS Award of Garden Merit. For sale at You Garden.