Kangaroo apple: Solanum laciniatum

When choosing a plant for the garden, an important consideration is how hardy is it? There are so many reasons why plants die. I am constantly asked why plants have died and sometimes I just want to say – ‘it’s dead – get over it and plant something else’. Of course it is often very helpful to know why a plant has died and sometimes it can be saved if it is just in its death throes.

Hardiness is a factor in why plants die. Often a plant will look as though it has pulled through a winter and you look forward to new growth in sprig but then it gives up the ghost just when you expect it to grow. I think this is down to root damage more than growth buds being damaged.

As you know if you have read previous posts I am currently having deep thoughts about water lilies and it occurred to me the other day that the hardy ones are not hardy at all. The rhizomes and every part of the plant except the leaves, is well below the surface of the water so never get frosted. I wonder if they would survive exposure to frost – hard to tell since they would then not be in water either so a tough place for a water lily.

But I am prattling. Last year I grew Solanum laciniatum, commonly called the Kangaroo apple. I am not sure why lots of solanums are called ‘apples’ since they are not especially apple like. This species is native to the south of Australia including Tasmania and is one of the more obviously attractive and showy species. It has dark purple leaves, deep green leaves and large (up to 5cm) , rotate, purple flowers with a typically solanum yellow ‘beak’ of stamens. It is easily grown from seed and can be treated as an annual, reaching 2m high in a year. In the wild, when it will live up to 10 years, it can reach twice that size. The leaves are lance shaped or lobed with three segments when the plants are young – the lobed leaves apparently resembling the footprint of a kanagroo. The leaves become less lobed as the plants age.

I have always been worried about overwintering this plant, though it has never kept me awake, because it is so easy to replace from seed, freely produced in the orange fruits (not edible). But last winter the plants in the garden survived almost unscathed. In an average winter, whatever that is, the plants might get frosted to ground level and benefit from a loose mulch at the base, the plant then acting as herbaceous. But this winter the top growth was not severely damaged and the plants are 3m tall, in their second year. The plant above is by a west-facing wall, beside a Musa basjoo, but other plants have done just as well, as have plants I gave to friends last year.

So is the plant worth growing? Well I hate to use such jargon but it does have a jungly look about it and the foliage is crying out to be put with cannas, bananas, crocosmias and dark dahlias. The flowers are not quite showy enough to put it in the first rank of garden plants but they are pretty. I think most gardeners would enjoy growing it once but maybe that would be enough.

Geoff’s rating


Garden rating




4 Comments on “Kangaroo apple: Solanum laciniatum”

  1. derrickjknight
    July 30, 2019 at 10:00 am #

    This is a new one to us

  2. tonytomeo
    August 3, 2019 at 8:55 am #

    There are other solanums there known as apples? The only one that I can think of here is ‘love apple’, which we know as tomato. It is amazing how so many plants that are related to such favorite vegetables are so toxic.

    • thebikinggardener
      August 6, 2019 at 6:59 am #

      Solanum sodomaeum is called the apple of Sodom. I will think of others but it is a bit early in the morning! And yes it is – solanaceae is a fascinating family.

      • tonytomeo
        August 8, 2019 at 3:46 am #

        Yes, it is a fascinating family. Angel’s trumpet and morning glory are sold with warnings because people get poisoned from using them as hallucinogens. (This is Santa Cruz County.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener

Our garden, gardens visited, occasional thoughts and book reviews


un altro blog sul giardinaggio...


four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!


Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I'm Leah, a freelance Photographer born and raised in Macon, GA, USA. I spent 8 years in the wild west and this is my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming. Welcome to Uprooted Magnolia.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

We are working to save garden plants for people to use and enjoy today and tomorrow


An English persons experience of living and gardening in Ireland

%d bloggers like this: