Nicandra physalodes (shoo-fly plant)

The shoo-fly plant (Nicandra physalodes) can be grown from seed as a decorative addition to the garden. However, it can pop unexpectedly, particularly around bird feeders because it can be found in commercial bird-seed mixtures.

Nicandra physalodes (shoo-fly plant). Credit: RHS/Advisory.

Quick facts

Common name Shoo-fly plant, apple of Peru, apple of Sodom, Peruvian bluebell
Latin name Nicandra physalodes
Areas affected Borders and waste areas
Timing Usually germinates in late spring or early summer

What it is the shoo-fly plant?

The shoo-fly plant is an annual that is sometimes grown from seed to add interest to borders. However, as occassional seedlings may appear in the garden (such as from bird-sown seed or seed fallen from a bird feeder), it is sometimes thought of as a weed.

  • It is a member of the Solanaceae or potato family
  • The plants and fruits are not considered to be edible, although there are no reports that they are harmful
  • A native to South America
  • Can be found on bare, waste and cultivated ground

Appearance

The shoo-fly plant is fairly distinctive;

  • The shoo-fly plant has bell-shaped flowers that are most commonly pale blue and white, but there are also forms with violet flowers and with white flowers
  • The flowers are short-lived, opening for only a few hours each day
  • Flowers appear from June to October
  • Cherry-like, green-brown berries are encased within green or black-mottled calyces. Branches of the mature Chinese lantern-style fruits can be dried and used for winter decoration
  • Height to 1.2m (4ft), spread to 1m (3¼ft)

Control

It is usually easy to control shoofly plant, where it becomes a weed.

Non-chemical controls

If it becomes invasive prevention of seeding is the best remedy. Young plants are easily controlled by hoeing or hand weeding.

Chemical controls

None usually necessary as occurrence is sporadic.

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