Search My Garden Blog with Google Custom Search


Black-Eyed Susan Vine Thunbergia alata

Black-Eyed Susan vine, Thunbergia alata, is one of my favorite flowering vines to grow in my garden. It is a great vine for containers and hanging baskets or just growing up a fence or trellis. I'm always happy to see the cheerful, somewhat expressive, blooms because they brighten the cloudiest of days.

Black-Eyed Susan vine flower, Thunbergia alata flowers

Black-Eyed Susan vine is easy to start from seed, but I have to admit I bought this ornamental vine at a garden center this year.

Black-Eyed Susan vine flower picture

Here, in Zone 5, Thunbergia alata is an annual vine, but in warmer Zones it is a herbaceous perennial and can readily self-seed. In one growing season Black-Eyed Susan grows to be about 6-8 feet tall for me if I grow it on stakes that are tall enough. Although, Black-Eyed Susans aren't as bad as morning glories, you may want to consider not letting it go to seed in warmer climates. In Zone 5 it self-seeded one year but there weren't enough blooms to produce seeds for a second year.

This year I'm growing my Black-Eyed Susan vine in full sun and I'm really pleased with how drought tolerant it is in a container. This flowering vine has stood up to the oppressive heat on the back porch container garden. Even in a terracotta pot it has yet to wilt or even be bothered by hot weather. I really shouldn't be surprised because Black-eyed Susan vines are native to Eastern Africa and just look at these leaves.

Black-Eyed Susan vine leaves

Black-Eyed Susan vine leaf, hairy leaf on plant, why do plants have hairy leaves

The leaves of this vine are opposte, either heart or arrow-shaped, somewhat coarse and hairy. These are the leaves of a plant that is designed to take some heat and sun, even the stems are fuzzy! The color of Thunbergia alata flowers and the leaves remind me a lot of cucurbits.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine Seeds.

Since Black-Eyed Susan vine can be grown from seed you can also collect seeds from your plant and save them for next year. This is what the seed pods look like. Kinda pervy, right? My Black-Eyed Susan vine is even more happy to see me than I am to see it bloom.

Black-Eyed Susan vine seed pod, Thunbergia alata seed pod

I'm a little creeped out by the seed pod because I had to hand-pollinate the blooms to get the seed pods since the flowers were not being visited by pollinators, and thus were just withering on the vines. I'm having kind of a slow year in terms of attracting pollinators, especially on the container garden I started on the porch. I chose to grow Black-Eyed Susan vine back there to attract pollinators to the new garden, but I haven't had much success. I also grew it because the trumpet-shaped flowers are perfect for humming birds and I thought maybe I'd see one of those mythical humming birds of Chicago. I say 'mythical' because people in the area swear they come here, but I've never seen one. Not.a single. one.

How to Grow Black-eyed Susan Vines.

Growing Black-Eyed Susan vine is really easy. It grows well in full-sun to part shade. Watering needs are moderate, but that doesn't mean you should allow it to dry out to the point where the leaves wilt. Fertilize on the same schedule and strength as the rest of your ornamental garden. When I've purchased already growing Black-Eyed Susan vines in the past they seem to flower just fine without additional fertilizer beyond the time-release fertilizer applied to the potting mix by the growers. In my garden Black-Eyed Susan vine will grow and flower all summer long well into the first frost of the season.

Where to Grow Black-eyed Susan Vine.

A good vine to grow if you want to create a quick privacy screen that provides color. Grow it in containers, window boxes or in-the-ground growing up a fence or trellis. I think they look best grown up a support like a bamboo stake or a fence where it will readily wind itself up. It is an aggressive climber, by that I mean, that it will ramble over itself if it doesn't have any way to go up. The indivudual stems will twine themselves around each other masking these beautiful yellow blooms. You can also take advantage of the Black-Eyed Susan vines need to roam by growing it as a ground cover.

While Thunbergia alata is the most common Black-Eyed Susan vine you'll find at your local garden center check your favorite seed seller for varieties in other colors. 'White-Eyed Susie,' is a white bloom with the familiar dark center that would look great in a Halloween themed garden-if you're into that kind of thing. I don't really care what variety of Black-Eyed Susan vine you grow as long as you grow one. Every gardener should have a Black-Eyed Susan vine growing in the garden.


  1. I love the Black Eyed Susan vines! I planted a couple (yes from the store *shrugs sheepishly*) and threw them in a half barrel pot full of perennials on my driveway. I put a tripod of bamboo poles for them to climb up, and I'm loving the effect! Thanks for the tips on the seeds. I never would have thought to collect them!

  2. I've winter-sowed black-eyed Susan vine more than once and never had luck with it (one year it didn't sprout at all; another, a freak frost killed the seedlings). Love it, though, and will try again--it would look nice on the damn chainlink fence. You kill me, though, you really do. I was having more or less the same thoughts about the seed pod and then you went ahead and said it. I like that about you. :)

  3. P.S. I have about 314 (approx.) plants that supposedly attract hummers and yet I never saw a single one. I put out a hummer feeder with sugar water and PRESTO! (nothing up me sleeve) they showed up.

  4. @Laura,

    Don't feel sheepish about buying plants. We gotta do what we gotta do. Looks like you grow them the same way I do, expect you seem to grow them in larger pots.


    They need to call Black-Eyed Susan vine, Black-Eyed Sammy vine or something. I had to unsheath the developing seed pod to take a picture! Also, once you notice a plant that is excited to see you, there is no unseeing it. Even if you go out into your garden to do something else-- you'll spot it out of the corner of your eye and BAM!!!

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post. It is very informative.

  6. Nice! I have a few packets of these seeds and didn't get around to doing anything with them this year. Maybe I'll try a late sowing or save for 2011?

  7. I can honestly say I've never read anything like this about Black Eyed Susan Vine before :-) Hilarious.

  8. Okay, you've convinced me to try it! Although, I'm not so sure I want to try hand pollinating it. I'm already having to play Ms. Bee with the zucchini. Yeah, Ms. Monica is right. Get yourself a hummer feeder, sit back, and watch the show.

  9. I really want to grow black eyed susan vines but question my luck with them. I think** have a perfect spot for them and because of your post think I'll give it a shot. Would you suggest starting by seed or buying plants? Thanks for the wonderful post and pictures :)

  10. One of my favourite annual vines. This year, I have one called Raspberry Smoothy, which has pink flowers. They're sort of more lax in the petals than the older varieties, but I am quite liking the plant and plan to bring it indoors for the winter.

  11. @Lily,
    Glad you liked it.

    You could try to sow some now and bring it intodoors. One thing I didn't mention that I wanted to was; I was saw it in a houseplant book from the '50s where it was recommended to be grown indoors. I haven't tried that but it apparently was an indoor plant for a while.



    I'll have to get one of them. I've always wanted one but never got one because I've never seen a hummingbird here before. Maybe it is one of those if you build it... type of things.

    @Sow My Garden Grows,

    They're easy to start from seed, really easy, in my experience. But go ahead and get yourself a plant already so you have success from the begining if you're questioning your luck. I don't know what the prices are like in your area, but start with a small plant. The larger planters I've seen here have been really expensive.


    That sounds like a nice variety. I'll have to see if I can find seeds for that one or check one of our specialty nurseries in the City.

  12. They're really pretty! I first saw them a few years ago at the nursery where I've worked off and on. There's a business in the next town north of me that plants them every year. They sprawl all over the bed and look fabulous. Maybe I'll look for some seeds and give them a try, although I'm a little dubious they'd bloom much here with so much shade.

  13. Yep, these are perennials here, and once they get growing, they seed themselves everywhere. I grow the orange ones with butterfly pea vines (Clitorea terneata) because the color contrast is stunning. They should also grow as annuals for you. I have seeds if you want.

  14. Ooops! Can't spell. Clitoria ternatea.

  15. @gardengirl,
    Maybe get some that are already blooming, that way you can enjoy them for a while instead of starting them from seed.

    That combo sounds amazing. I just may take you up on that offer.

  16. It's also one of my favorite flowering vines, and it blooms very early from seed. I've had one that I bought as a little plant, it's have been some years that i've not seen any seed, until one day I saw many little plants germinating around it. After that I collected some seeds.
    Now, I've some descendents of this old one, but here is no easy to collect seeds, just a few, maybe the insects did not discovered it yet (the older one was in another house).
    And another thing I noticed: they like to stay where they germinate, they don't like to be moved.

  17. Hi Cris,

    Thanks for the tips! One thing I discovered this week is that the seed pods ripen fast. The seed pod pictured above had already release the seeds, much to my displeasure.

  18. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I am VERY new to gardening. I have just purchased a small black eyed susan vine (which seems to be growing right before my eyes!) which I plan to place in a container and train onto my deck railing. Since this plant will grow to be 6' to 8', how large should the container be? As with any child, I don't want to stiffle it's growth and want it to reach it's full potential! (I think I am in Zone 5; I live in southwestern lower Michigan).

  19. Anonymous9:30 AM

    I have a two of these in pots in my back terrace. They were growing like mad up the spikes until it got really hot out and although we watered them, they are withering at the tops of the spikes and the leaves look very pale. What can I do to help these guys? i have tried some blooming plant organic fertilizer. Should I cut them down to the healthy part of the plant and let them grow up again?

  20. Anon in Michigan, They don't need a very large pot. I think I've grown mine in a 10 inch pot and I haven't noticed any stunting in my Black Eyed Susan Vine. Although, if you are planting more than one plant per container you'll want a larger pot.

    Anon, Are the tips withering completely or are they just wilting during the hottest part of the day? When leaves of plants look pale to yellow that might be because they don't have enough nitrogen in their fertilizer.

  21. Anonymous4:36 PM

    My black eyed susan is beautiful on my trellis but now that winter is comin i am unsure of what to do with it. Do I cut it down or just let it die?

    1. You can leave your black-eyed Susan vine alone and clean up the foliage next year. But if you prefer to put your garden to bed late in the fall, just pull out the foliage when you're cleaning up your garden.

  22. Anonymous5:27 PM

    I just bought one at the garden center, and it is overgrown for the container it is in. Twisted around each other, and forming more of a "mound" than a vine. I have another container with a taller trellis. Can I cut it back without doing much damage?

    1. You can cut it, but you are putting your plant behind the growing season by doing so. Just plant the potted plant and it will start to grow up the trellis.

  23. I've planted black eyed susan vines for several years using seeds I saved from prior years. Even tho they're in a place that doesn't get as much sun as they should get, they've always bloomed beautifully, but this year, while they're vining all over the place, no blooms. Could it be the heat? I've used bloom inducing fertilizer this year with no luck (the fertilizer is a few years old -- does it lose its potency over the years?) Anybody have any ideas why no blooms this year?

    1. Your fertilizer sounds like it is getting old. Also, it could be that the soil you are planting in may be depleted. So, in addition to fertilizing you may want to amend your soil.

  24. Pretty! During my childhood, we grew this vine. I remember that it is a low maintenance vine; yielding a lot of flowers. Thanks for posting.

  25. Hi there...Some of my BES vine's leaves are turning almost autumn this normal? The plant looks very healthy, the leaves are just changing colors. I live in Buffalo, NY and the temp has been in the high 70's to mid-80's and we've had lots of rain. Would you mind emailing me back at and let me know if this is normal. This plant is so beautiful and I don't want to lose it.

    1. Without seeing pictures of the vine I couldn't tell you what I think is wrong with the vine. So many things can make the leaves of plants change color. Lack of nutrients in the soil, too much fertilizer, drought, excessive watering could all be problems.

  26. I always start my vine seed in peat pellet that I've placed in a 9x13" cake pan 1/2 way filled with water and allowed to soak up until full & heavy.Drain off excess.I place my seeds in them 1/3 to 1/2 down in them using a pencil..eraser end.Add little water daily (a cup or so) if it sits more than an hour drain it it disappears quickly add a little more until it is obvious they wont drink any more and drain off...Dont let them ever sit in water.Give them 6-8 hours of full sun daily.(I prefer to give shade more in the hot part of the day here in W.Tx...and when roots show well through peat pellets I just dig my pellet & all in it and gently place some soil on and WATER IN gently..dont press down on tender roots..This method is amazing to start all types of plants from seed or cuttings as there is minimal root disturbance as in tranplanting...Oh...and cypress mulch is a blessing to sunbaked roots and to save moisture..2-3" on top of soil...Roses especially..40+ years plant industry..."Plant Whisperer" Keep up the great job,love your sense of humor!

    1. Hi Kimberly,

      Thanks for sharing your tips on how you grow black-eyed Susan vine.

  27. Anonymous9:10 AM

    Hallo Mr. Brown

    Thank you for sharing tips about Black eyed Susan. Do you have an idea about when to do the hand pollination

  28. Anonymous4:12 PM

    You can also do starts of this plant, from cuttings. Over winter this way, instead of moving the whole thing indoors. This way, you can also do a few starts as houseplants. Just cut some starts, put in water. Once they get roots, plant in dirt.

  29. Anonymous9:55 PM

    Wow! Thank you for helping me to id a flower that I once purchased, then saved the seeds, grew it again - but had no idea what it was called. After looking at several identification sites, I finally found it.



Feel free to leave a comment. You can always use the search box for my blog or the search "Google For Gardeners" if you're looking for gardening information. If you're looking for seed saving information check out "Seed Snatcher"search engine.

Do not have a blog yourself? Comment using the "anonymous" feature. If you have a Twitter or FB account feel free to use the "Name URL" feature so other people can find you.

Thanks for visiting.