When gardeners were first introduced to suteras, a decade or so ago, I was singularly unimpressed. Yes, here we had a new, trailing basket plant that was easy to grow but I thought it was as attractive as chickweed (Stellaria media). it formed prostrate mats of small leaves and small white flowers. The plants were a bit thuggish and tended to swamp smaller plants and although it made a dense basket of foliage and flowers I just didn’t really get it.
Of course there was another problem that really irked me, being a pedant. You may not have heard of sutera but that is because when this plant was introduced it was called bacopa, the name of a completely different, (water) plant. I am not sure why this happened but the name bacopa is stuck now, even though these plants are really suteras – not really a worse name even though it sounds a bit medical.
Anyway, plant breeders have been busy working on these plants and not only have they hugely increased the size of the blooms, so much that they almost look like small petunias, but the colour range now includes pink and mauves. The new doubles are a bit of a waste of time because they are not very double and the extra petals don’t add much to the plants.
But suteras are beginning to worm their way into my affections because they are so easy to grow and so forgiving of less than perfect conditions. They are not fazed by rain and they even tolerate cold and I have a neglected pot left over from summer that has this pink sutera flowering away as though it were summer. I am sure that plants would survive winter outside in a mild area if planted on a slope or at the top of a hollow wall and could be used in the same way as aubrieta is in colder climates.
A related South African plant is Jamesbrittenia (sometimes sold as a summer basket plant), a real beauty that looks similar but has a colour range that includes salmon and orange and I am sure the two could be wedded to make suteras even more exciting.