A couple of years ago I had the chance to interview George Ball Jr., owner of the Burpee Seed Company, and during the interview I mentioned to him that I was a big fan of vines. I recounted how I used to love the vine selections offered by the Martha Stewart seed line, which Burpee packaged, because it had some really nice vines. Mr. Ball mentioned that because of the vertical gardening trend Burpee would start to carry a bigger selection of vines. So far I haven’t seen seed companies step up and push vines for vertical gardeners, but if you’re looking for an easy-to-grow vine for your mailbox, fence, living wall--or maybe a privacy screen--there’s no better vine than Thunbergia alata. The ornamental garden vines in this genus are better known by their common name, Black-eyed Susan vine.
Go beyond morning glories and runner beans and grow these six beautiful Black-eyed Susan vine varieties.
Thunbergia alata 'Susie White Black Eye'
All of the black-eyed Susan vines pictured in this post were photographed at the gardens of the Ball Horticultural Company a couple of years ago during a tour. Ball's website lists this white blooming Black-eyed Susan vine variety as 'Susie White Black Eye.' Some seed companies list the white Black-eyed Susan as Thunbergia alata 'Alba' and some seed companies, like Park Seeds, list it as 'White-eyed Susie.'
This is my favorite of all the Black-eyed Susan vines. The characteristic 'black eye' of the flower is surrounded by five white petals. Ball also produced a variety named 'Susie White Clear' that doesn't have the dark center.
Thunbergia alata 'Charles Star'
I can't find a listing for 'Charles Star' on the Ball website, but that's what this Black-eyed Susan vine variety was labeled as in the display garden. I don't know if you can make it out, but the orange color of the flower's petals gets darker as it gets closer to the dark eye of the flower.
Thunbergia alata 'Sunny Lemon Star'
This Black-eyed Susan vine variety is much brighter than 'Charles Star' and the common orange Black-eyed Susan vine variety you'll find at the garden center. 'Sunny Lemon Star' seems to have narrower flower petals, and the yellow is a cheery hue.
Thunbergia alata 'Sunny Susy New Orange'
The blooms of 'Sunny Susy New Orange' look like pumpkins. Another Black-eyed Susan vine variety I can't find on the Ball website, but they list two orange varieties; 'Sunny Orange Wonder' and 'Susie Organe Black Eye.'
Thunbergia alata 'Sunny Susy Red Orange'
'Sunny Susy Red Orange' Black-eyed Susan vine is different than the other Black-eyed Susan vines because the black eye is a really deep red, where in other varieties is closer to a pure black color. The flowers of these vines are a dark peach color that accentuates the veins each petals.
Thunbergia alata 'Arizona Dark Red'
The blooms of the 'Arizona Dark Red' Black-eyed Susan vines are a deep red and orange color. The colors of this vine are evocative of the Arizona landscape.
Thunbergia alata is native to Eastern Africa, and has naturalized in other parts of the world. In warmer climates, Black-eyed Susan vines are herbaceous perennials, but in my area they are annuals and die off when winter arrives.
If you’re looking for a vine for hanging baskets, window box planters, or something to quickly climb up a structure like fence or trellis; give Black-eyed Susan vines a try. They're easy-to-grow, do well in dry gardens, sprout easily from seeds, and bloom early. The trumpet-shaped blooms are great for long-tongued pollinators like humming birds and butterflies.
How to Save Black-eyed Susan Vine Seeds
It’s easy to collect and save Black-eyed Susan vine seeds from your garden with a little planning. Do you grow Black-eyed Susan vines in your garden? I've mentioned before that I've seen Black-eyed Susan vines listed in old houseplants books. Ever grown this plant indoors?