Lycianthes rantonnei (blue potato bush)

jenn(SoCal 9/19)August 16, 2010

I'm planning to plant Lycianthes rantonnei in our side yard to hide the ugly side of a Bird of Paradise growing in the neighbors' yard. I know it is easy care and loves the sun and can get very big.

I'm wondering how much space to allow it to grow full size in southern CA. I had one in the front yard that was too big for the space (before I knew better) and needed almost weekly pruning. I want to let this one go to full size.

Will 8 feet on each side be enough? It will be near the drip line of a well-established (at least 25 years old) tangerine tree, but not touching the tree.

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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

There's one on my street that is untended, and it is about ten feet tall, twelve feet across, but bare all at the bottom. I think someone may hack it back at the bottom occasionally. You may also want to consider Duranta.
Renee

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 1:41PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Thanks, Renee.

Why do you recommend Duranta?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 2:06PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I like the growth habit. The branches cascade downward.
I prefer the chartreuse/green or green/white variegated varieties to the plain dark green ones. They are evergreen, easy to prune and to keep to a nice shape, and they are not too messy. They don't get a woody, dead interior. I believe they can be damaged by frost, though.

I'll try to get some good photos tonight and post them.
Renee

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 9:27PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Thanks, Renee.

The reason I'm leaning toward the Lycianthes (or is it Solanum?) is because, having grown it before, I know how easy-care it is and the long bloom period (almost continuous and year-round) no matter how often it is pruned, its drought-tolerance, the flowers, etc... making it very suitable for this spot.

You didn't mention its drought tolerance. The Lycianthes seems to thrive with just occasional water (in our rich clay soil).

    Bookmark   August 17, 2010 at 11:25PM
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calistoga_al

When I lived at the coast I grew Lycianthes. One was trained to a lollypop tree form the other was was allowed to grow free form. The free form was not dense enough and always looked straggly. The tree form required pruning so often to maintain the shape, it seemed I was always pruning off the flowers. After a few years I tired of them and grew something else. However I never saw a plant easier to grow, or more tolerant of a gardeners neglect. Al

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 8:58AM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

...I never saw a plant easier to grow, or more tolerant of a gardeners neglect.

That's why I want to grow it. I did have one in the front yard, in a spot WAY too small for it (this was when I didn't know any better) and it needed almost constant trimming. I never sheered it ... I always just trimmed the branches that were too long or wayward. I didn't think it looked straggly, but maybe the frequent trimming helped that.

Our neighbor has one which she allows the gardeners to sheer into a dense shrub -- a look I intensely dislike! The sheering makes it smaller than the plant in front of it and always cuts off the blooms. Fortunately, it bounces right back and is covered with new blooms in time for the next sheering. I don't think it gets much water and (except for the sheerings) always looks great.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 10:08AM
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nancyinla

I have both duranta and blue potato bush in my yard, and I like them both. In my (limited) experience, I think the foliage is prettier on the duranta. Renee's right, it kind of waterfalls and I like variegated leaves. BUT, the lycianthes has great flowers year round, and I chop it back periodically to keep it from getting too straggly.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 10:54PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Duranta is a pretty easy shrub, but it's tropical so it might need more water. Mine get 15 min 2x a week from the lawn rainbird overspray.
Here are a few pics of the chartreuse one. It's hard to photograph since it is in a side yard:

    Bookmark   August 18, 2010 at 11:35PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

WOW!! Beautiful! I mean your yard, not just the Duranta. I looks very pretty... does it need to be grown next to the fence? I would like something that is free-standing about 4-5 feet away from the fence so the flowers and leaves don't drop in the neighbor's yard, and to allow passage between it and the fence.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 9:46AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Thanks Jenn. That pretty grassy path is now dirt. Sob.

I think this one is a mutant- it's so big. My other ones are not so huge, and in particular, the green-leaved ones seem to stay smaller.

My dad and my sister-in-law have them planted in a free-standing situation. They are usually not so top-heavy. Mine is like that because it is heavily shaded by the ivy and pyracantha and because I have trimmed it back at the bottom. When left to their own devices, I think they grow into more of a deodar-type shape.

Renee

    Bookmark   August 19, 2010 at 1:42PM
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nancyinla

Renee - that's beautiful!

Jenn - one thing to consider if you want it next to a walkway, duranta, at least the kind I have, has VERY sharp thorns as I learned the hard way (oops) since mine is planted near the hose and sprinkler controls. But the flowers are SO pretty.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2010 at 1:24AM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Nancy, thanks for the tip on the thorns. Because of that, it would not be good for this particular spot.

Renee, thanks for all the info on the Datura. It sure is beautiful!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2010 at 1:43PM
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