Rare and Unusual Solanums
Updated for 2019
PLEASE READ THE ORDERING INFORMATION CAREFULLY prior to placing your order.
Feel free to e-mail with any questions.
Please note: Plants ordered now will be available for shipping the week of May 10th
CUSTOM GROWING: Don't see that "must have" variety in our regular offerings? We're happy to do custom sowings of unlisted varieties, often at no extra charge! But you must order early enough to allow the plants to reach shipping size. More Information
The Solanum family contains some amazing diversity. The well-known members of the family include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatilloes, tobacco and potatoes. But there are many lesser-known fruits and plants of interest in this plant family, and we offer a few here.
Rare Solanum plants are $3.00 each (exceptions are noted), plus shipping. All plants are shipped Priority Mail.
Plants are well established in 2½" square pots that are 3½" deep to provide our customers with larger, healthier plants. Because of the diverse plant habits of some of these offerings, smaller plants may be all that are available. We state this when we send your e-mail shipping confirmation.
Cultural requirements are less well understood for some of these plants, but in general they would be expected to grow under tomato or pepper growing conditions. Many of these intriguing plants should only be grown as novelties. Moreover, seed is quite rare for some of these varieties. Where they are grown successfully, seed should definitely be saved and distributed to other gardeners. It is to this end that we offer these unusual plants.
(Withania somnifera) Legendary Ayurvedic herb originating in India. "Somnifera" means literally "sleep bearer" and ashwagandha has been renowned for centuries as a sleep aid, and as an all-around tonic on the order of ginseng, as well as to treat post-partum ailments and a host of others. Plants may reach to nearly 5 feet in height in their native land, where they flower almost year-round. Stems and branches are covered in a fine down, and bear leaves to 4 inches in length. Small green to yellow flowers appear in clusters, then give way to quarter-inch round red fruits, borne in an inflated calyx reminiscent of a miniature tomatillo. It is the roots that carry the reputed medicinal effect. Expect to harvest roots the following spring after overwintering in very mild conditions.
Cherokee Ceremonial Tobacco $3.00
(Nicotiana rustica) Another North American native tobacco strain, which originated in North Carolina. Traditional uses include smudging to purify a room or space, and, of course, ritual smoking. Appearance is virtually indistinguishable form other N rustica types, making Cherokee comparable to Santo Domingo tobacco described below.
Datura, Ballerina Mixed Colors $4.00
The usual huge, blousy datura flowers, always of captivating fragrance. This mix comes in a range of white, cream, and pink-to-purple. A lavish ornamental.
Delaware Sacred Tobacco $4.00
(Nicotiana rustica) Tobacco was sacred among most of the native peoples of North America, and each nation had its unique strain. The Delaware-Lenape tribe revered and grew this strain, using it ceremonially according to their customs. This variety is shorter than some strains of N. rustica, making it a bit more presentable in the garden, but otherwise appears very similar, having the usual small, green bell-shaped flowers.
Goji Berry (Chinese Wolfberry) $4.00
(Lycium barbarum) Perennial shrubs to 9 feet tall, but usually much shorter, and bearing fruit from their second year on. Plants have naturalized in England, having been grown there since the Eighteenth Century, and known there as Duke of Argyll's tea tree. Goji plants appear tolerant of a wide range of soils, so long as these are well drained, prefer full sun for best production, and are somewhat drought-tolerant once established. The plant is said to tolerate temperatures down to -15 degrees F., which should mean they are hardy outdoors to Zone 5. Small lavender flowers appear in June through September, yielding sweet, juicy, small scarlet berries, which look not unlike small wild peppers, a month or two later. The wrinkly dried berries are often marketed as "Tibetan goji berry," which appears to be a misnomer since there is no history of commercial cultivation in the Land of Snows. Most commercial cultivation has been in China, where the fruits are esteemed for reputed health benefits, and now their use is becoming popular in the West as well. The berries and their juice have been touted for their vitamin C and anti-oxidant content, anti-cancer and many other qualities, most of which have not been evaluated by the FDA.
Litchi Tomato $3.00
(Solanum sysimbriifolium) 90 days Also known as Morelle de Balbis. An intriguing eggplant relative. One-inch fruits are a cheerful clear scarlet in color and are enclosed in a prickly husk until fully ripe. At that time the husks obligingly split open and the sweet fruit comes away from the stem surprisingly easily. Thorny plants are ornamental in a gritty sort of way, reaching 4-5 feet in our conditions. White flowers are fairly showy.
(Solanum quitoense) Produces delicious, yellow, 2-inch fruits, used in South America for tropical-tasting juice. It's a slow grower; the plants we send will be small, and we doubt that they will yield this summer. Outside of the deep South, it's probably best regarded as an attractive greenhouse or conservatory plant
Nicotiana Aztec Sweet Scent $3.50
(Nicotiana alata) Robust tobacco type plants grow a rosette of velvety leaves to 18" in diameter, and throw 3 foot long flower spike that blooms over a very long season. The enchanting white flowers are exquisite and permeate the garden with an intoxicating fragrance, especially at dusk. Full sun, average soil and moisture.
Nicotiana langsdorfii $3.50
Half-hardy ornamental tobacco reaching three to four feet in height. Open, airy infloescences of nodding, tubular chartreuse flowers attractive to hummingbirds and to gardeners, with their sapphire blue stamens inviting close inspection. Blooms from mid-summer until autumn, may self-sow in favored locations. Prefers full sun, tolerates some shade, especially in hot-summer areas.
Pepino Melon $3.50 Sorry, not available for 2019
(Solanum muricatum) Fruit resembling a melon in appearance and taste, although the size and shape are about the same as those of a very large egg. The plant originated in South America, and is grown commercially in that region, as well as in New Zealand. It was used even in ancient times and is portrayed in ancient Andean pottery. A tender perennial, it should do well outdoors in the US in Zones 8-9, possibly northward with protection, or as a container plant wintered indoors anywhere. Fascinating plants eventually reach 6 feet tall, resembling gigantic pepper plants, and begin to yield fruit about 3-4 months after we ship them, when well grown.
(Salpiglossis sinuata) Known of old as Painted Tongue. Richly-hued, delicate trumpets with geometric splotching and veining, sometimes borne singly or in pairs. A common variety in Victorian gardens, where its gemlike beauty was more appreciated, but Painted Tongue has fallen by the wayside, eclipsed by ever more garish rivals, such as the petunia. Plant in cooler conditions, or allow some shade in the hot afternoons. We send pots with 2-3 plants; set into the garden where they can make a small, ephemeral clump, or in a medium sized pot, where their fragile beauty can be appreciated close-up.
Santo Domingo Tobacco $3.00
(Niccotiana rustica) Native tobacco originating in and around Santo Domingo Pueblo, in northern New Mexico. Rather typical rustica type, distinguished more by where it's from than any other characteristic. This variety displays the usual rosette of velvety spatulate-lanceolate leaves, surmounted by apple-green ruffled bell-like blooms, charming though not showy on their 18' to 24" stems. We always like to grow a few tobacco plants as they look so cheery in their understated way.