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Nicandra physaloides-Shoo-fly Plant

Nicandra  physaloides-Shoo-fly Plant-Apple of PeruNicandra physaloids is a weedy annual plant that was introduced from South America as an ornamental gardening plant. In Illinois it can be found growing wild in various counties except in the NW area of the state. This plant grows to a height of 2-5 feet tall, the foliage and stems are reported to be poisonous to mammals and untouched by deer. This member of the Nightshade Family grows well in moist soils in full or partial sun.

'Shoo-fly Plant', as it is commonly called, is reported to be a natural insect repellent. One website I found explained that juices from the stems and leaves were added to milk and set out for flies. When flies drank from this concoction they supposedly died shortly after. It is also called 'Apple of Peru' because it is native to that area and produces a small fruit similar to tomatillos the fruit is dry and inedible.

I've not seen this plant growing wild in Chicago and I think my plant came from a packet of wild seed mix I purchased last year. Some seeds must have overwintered and germinated on their own because I didn't sow any of the seeds I collected last year. In my garden the nectar and pollen attract various bees and the flowers are quick to set fruits and then seeds. The flowers are blue to lavender and upright but only last about a day and towards the end they become trumpet shape. I took the third photograph of the flower above to show how the flowers wilt in the heat that we've been experiencing.

While the flowers and the lantern-shaped husks that surround the fruit are interesting and add beauty to a shady part of my garden I will be more careful this year and make sure the seeds don't get a chance to fall to the ground and return next year.


  1. I haven't heard of this plant. Looks pretty, I can see how people would want to bring it to their gardens after their visit to South America.

  2. Interesting write up about the shoo-fly plant. I have some info on the seedpod and seed identification on my Sow Then Grow blog.
    I'd like to link your post to mine if that is okay.

  3. Hey Curtis,

    You know I'd not heard of it myself until last year when I introduced it into my garden without knowing. Nice flower and I'm going to see if the milk trick works.

    Crafty you can link to the post if you think it will be helpful to your readers and you don't have to ask in the future if you come across something that works with your blog.

  4. I saw these at a garden centre last year and almost bought them because I liked the shape of the flower. Maybe it's a good thing that I didn't get them, although I have a feeling that our winters would probably keep the seeds from germinating come springtime!

  5. It has a lovely flower! I have added your blog to my list of "Blogs I like to Visit."

  6. Hey connie,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  7. Kate,

    You're probably right it may not survive a winter in your area. If you do try them let me know how they do.

  8. Kevin C.4:56 PM

    Interesting to read about "Shoo fly" plant. I recently discovered one growing in my garden here in New Zealand. I had never seen one before and have no idea where it came from. Several peopel were unable to recognise it until a friend indentified it from a gardening book. I think I may try to seed some when our summer starts to end here in about a month. I grow a lot of swan plants to encourage the monarch butterflies and I have a lot of trouble with an orange coloured avid that loves to gather in the snaw plant branches. Perhaps the shoo-foy will discourage them.

  9. Here in New Zealand I have about 5 shoo fly plants growing in pots to hopefully stop the reseeding. I'm growing them especially for the insect repellent bonus on our decking area. They seem to be rather spindly, is that normal? I've grown them from seed and so far they seem to be pretty hardy.

    1. Yes, their spindly growth is normal. They're not a very full and bushy kind of plant from my experience. Good luck with your shoo fly plants.

  10. Anonymous4:49 AM

    They are interesting and something a bit different to grow in the garden. Here in Scotland they won't survive the first frost but the seeds can lay dormant in the ground for years, somewhat like poppy seeds. Given a warm spring/early summer they will then pop up out of seemingly nowhere. In warmer climates they could easily be a problem as each seed-head contains hundreds of seeds but the young plants are readily identified by the nettle shaped leaves with many small dark purpleish spots on them. They don't have a substantial taproot so are easily pulled out. I treat mine like tomato plants and start them off in the greenhouse. Once they are in bud and risk of frost is past then they can either be planted outside or kept in large pots as patio plants. They do need a fair bit of watering though. Dead head to avoid seed heads forming or just let them have their way and weed out any unwanted ones. Like tomateos they are also very easy to transplant once germinated. You can also get them to bush up a bit by nipping the tops out at about 18" (0.5m) high



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