The Chinese Houses flower is a type of collinsia, which is a family of plants mainly native to northwestern North America. These beautiful, almost orchid-like purple flowers are so easy to grow, and they bloom from spring through early fall. Even better: bees, butterflies, and other pollinators absolutely love them.
Chinese Houses, AKA Collinsia Heterophylla
While there are many varieties of collinsia, by and far the most popular one for home gardeners is collinsia heterophylla (formerly, collinsia bicolor), better known by its common name: Chinese Houses. These gorgeous purple flowers have a blossom shape that is reminiscent of a pagoda, and that imagery is what lent them their name.
Chinese Houses grow flower stalks that reach about 12 to 18 inches tall, and the small flowers, which are purple at the bottom and white and pink at the top, form in whorls all the way up the stalk. They bloom reliably from mid to late spring through early fall, and work well in both garden beds and container gardens.
Growing Chinese Houses Flowers in Your Garden
Chinese Houses are easy to grow, and you can easily start them from seed if you can't find transplants at your local nursery or garden center. They're also reliable self-sowers in most areas (especially if you live in warmer areas, Zone 6 and up).
Growing Chinese Houses From Seed
It's highly recommended that you sow Chinese Houses directly in the garden in either late fall or early spring. Press the seeds into the soil, but don't cover them, since they need light to germinate. They grow best in an area with fertile, well-drained soil in partial shade.
- If you need to start them indoors, start the seeds six to eight weeks before your last spring frost date.
- Fill flats, pots, or other containers with either commercially-available or homemade seed starting mix, pre-moistened to make sure there are no dry pockets in the seed starting medium.
- Press the seeds into the surface of the soil, but don't cover them.
- Water well with a gentle mist, then cover with humidity domes or a clear plastic bag.
- Once the seeds have germinated, remove the plastic cover and place the seedlings under lights or near a bright window.
- Before transplanting your seedlings outdoors (after your last frost date), be sure to harden them off for a few days to acclimate them to conditions in your garden.
Watering and Fertilizing Collinsia
Collinsia needs even moisture, at least an inch of water per week, especially when the plants are getting established. It isn't necessary to fertilize them, though adding compost to the soil at planting time will give them a bit of a nutrient boost and help retain soil moisture as well.
Pruning Chinese Houses
Chinese Houses really don't need any pruning or deadheading. You can remove spent flower stalks at the end of the season, or just leave them in hopes that the plant will reseed and you'll have more Chinese Houses plants the following spring.
Collinsia Pests and Diseases
This is generally a pest and disease-free plant. You might need to watch out for common garden pests like slugs and aphids, but even these are a rare occurrence.
Propagating Chinese Houses
Chinese Houses grow easily from seed, and it's easy to save the seed at the end of the season when the seed pods dry. Or, you can just let them reseed themselves in your garden. They're not invasive, though they might self-sow more prolifically in warmer zones.
What to Plant With Purple Chinese Houses Flowers
Purple Chinese Houses flowers are the type of plant that works well in nearly any setting. Add them to a mixed flower border, surrounded by Shasta daisies, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflower, salvia plants, and Liatris and you will have a garden that bees and butterflies will find irresistible... and it will be stunning as well.