Last updated on June 3rd, 2013
Vines play an important role in all of my indoor plantings. Without them, the window garden lacks that special touch of elegance, which emerges from a living green frame around the plant picture. Furthermore, vines bring harmony to a diverse collection of plants, much as an edging of boxwood does for the mixed border outdoors. With the exception of English ivy, most vines will tolerate average household conditions. Here are some of my favorite trailers and climbers:
Sooner or later, we all succumb to the dainty charms of English Ivy (Hedera helix). I favor the cream and green variety ‘Gold Baby,’ and use four-inch pots of it to soften the corners of the pebble-tray in my library window. Like other small-leaved ivies, its days are numbered unless it is watered daily, kept out of direct sun, and grown in a cool, humid location. A warm shower at least once each week to ward off red spider is essential.
The most dazzling of all vines is Zebrina pendula, its oval leaves richly attired in green, purple, and silver. This one grows and grows, which explains why florists never offer it in small pots, but in hanging baskets that are generally too large and too heavy for the average house. Mine, started from a single cutting, grows madly in a four inch pot. Yours will too, if you cut undesired growth back several times each year. Cut pieces can be rooted in soil or water for friends, or used in house bouquets. Frequent feeding will keep the plant content in a small pot for many years, and bright light will bring out its brilliant hues.
The common Philodendron scandens is uncommonly beautiful, with dark-green, heart-shaped leaves that unfurl even in a dim, thankless location, like a desktop or mantel. Its leaves become glossier, however, when grown in fairly good light. This is the vine that frames my bathroom window garden in luxuriant green; I also have innumerable pots of it on shelves and brackets throughout the house (above), a testament to its ease of propagation. The only fault with philodendron is its tendancy to become stringy with age, as the space between leaves gets longer and longer. The cure is pinching the stems off at some good-looking point, and putting the cut pieces in water or soil to root. Otherwise, the plant has but two cultural requests: weekly watering, and monthly feeding with an all-purpose formula.
Grape ivy (Cissus rhombifolia) frames my library window. Its foliage has the dark glossiness of English ivy, with downy leaf buds and short reddish tendrils that contribute to its decorative quality. If you can’t find cissus in a small pot, buy it in a big basket, as I did, and divide it into rooted sections. Plant these separately into four inch clay pots. Daily water with a little plant food mixed in keeps this enduring vine in health and beauty.
Last but by no means least in this series of thrifty vines is the waxy-leaved Hoya carnosa ‘Krimson Queen.’ This one came to me as a large basket plant years ago. Having nowhere to hang it, I split the plant in two, and set the pots on the top shelf of my guestroom window. There, in the eastern light, and trained on wire attached to the window frame, it has produced a leafy bower of pink, green and white. Hoya is known to flower, too, although it hasn’t yet for me. Nevertheless, its foliage is a thing of great beauty, and I highly recommend the plant to anyone who has room for a heavy-leaved vine. Let the soil dry out a little between waterings, and feed monthly with a balanced formula.
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