Sunday Supplement Ads Not Always What They Appear - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

Sunday Supplement Ads Not Always What They Appear

They’re back! It’s that time of year when the advertisements in the Sunday supplements promise unbelievable yields, fantastic blooms all summer and trees that grow as tall as a house in one growing season!

This weekend saw the return of the old tree tomato ad, the one that resurfaces every couple of years or so. As usual, the seller promises yields up to 60 pounds per plant, and stems that grow to 8 feet tall that supposedly do not need staking or caging. The variety name is listed as “Giant Tree,” but if it is the same as what previously has been marketed as a “tree tomato,” then it is botanically known as Cyphomandra betacea, a very different species from garden tomatoes. This tree tomato is a tropical, semi-woody shrub that reaches up to 10 feet, but the fruit is more tart and jelly-like than our garden tomato.

If you read the ad closely, the seller is sending out a seed that is planted in a pot, at about $3.50 each (plus shipping). That is one expensive plant-to-be!

A related advertisement promotes a flowering shade tree called Royal Paulownia that is said to grow as tall as a roof in just one year. The ad claims that this tree will provide shade and flowers in just one growing season.

This fast-growing tree, known botanically as Paulownia tomentosa, can grow up to 10 feet in a single year, but like many fast-growers, it tends to have brittle stems that break easily in storms. And while Paulownia does have large, fragrant purple flowers, we rarely see this tree bloom in our part of the country. The flower buds are produced on last year’s growth and are usually killed in winter. In fact, even the stems of this plant are often killed back to the ground in harsh winters, so the tree rarely reaches its mature height of 30-40 feet here in the Midwest. But even where it thrives, this species does not even closely resemble the glowing purple scene depicted in the ad.

It’s always wise to read all the fine print in these ads. And keep in mind the old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”


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