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Cissus—How to Grow Grape Ivy Vines Indoors

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The Cissus genus is a large group of vining plants that grow in various tropical and subtropical places around the world, ranging from very warm jungles in Java to semi-arid climates where they are deciduous vines. Included in this genus is the C. discolor, which is almost incomparable as a vining plant. It is sometimes called the begonia vine because its leave resemble the lovely foliage begonias so highly prized by plant collectors. Most of the popular Cissus species are not especially challenging to grow indoors and, unlike some other climbing plants like philodendrons, they readily climb whatever support they are given. Better yet, most Cissus species are well adapted to low light and will thrive in indoor conditions. With these advantages, it's surprising the plant isn't more popular indoors, but they remain hard to find in many areas.

Growing Conditions::

  • Light: Although there is some variation among species depending on where they're from, these are generally low-light vines that will thrive in a east-facing window. They can also be grown well under lights.
  • Water: During the growing season, provide steady water to keep the soil constantly moist. Back off on watering in the winter and allow the soil to partially dry.
  • Soil: A standard well-drained potting soil mix should work.
  • Fertilizer: Feed during the growing season with a weak liquid fertilizer, reducing both water and fertilizer during the winter months but not enough to completely stop growth.

Propagation:

Cissus readily propagates from leaf-tip cuttings. In the beginning of the growing season, take cuttings with 2-3 leaf nodes below the terminal growth bud. Use a rooting hormone to increase chances of success, and put the cutting in a small pot with seedling starting soil. Keep the cutting moist and warm until new growth emerges.

Repotting::

Repot annually in the spring. If you're propagating, take cuttings at the same time. Because these are vines, plant for upright growth and include a stake or trellis in the pot. It's also a good idea to use the heaviest pot practical to reduce the risk of the plant tipping over.

Varieties::

There are several Cissus species grown indoors, including:
  • C. rhombifolia. This plant is the common grape ivy vine. It features tripartite, long-stemmed leaves and fuzzy brown branches. The new growth is fuzzy, but becomes smooth as it grows. These can be maintained at around 20 inches tall with pruning.
  • C. antarcatica. Known as the kangaroo vine, these have oval, saw-toothed leaves and resemble the C. rhombifolia, except it's coarser in texture.
  • C. discolor. Perhaps the most beautiful of the commonly grown Cissues plants, this vine offers variegated leaves shaped like hearts, somewhat reminiscent of the begonia plant. These are warm-room plants that need to maintained at a high temperature and humidity and may not be suitable for most homes.

Grower's Tips::

With the exception of the C. discolor, most Cissus can be grown indoors successfully. They are especially good as hanging or trailing plants, where you don't have to provide support for the vine. With careful pruning, you can control your plant so it will maintain its size and shape for the space you allow it. If you are growing them as climbing vines, make sure to provide a strong enough support for the plant to grow successfully. Cissus vines are susceptible to scale insets, spider mites, and mealybugs. They will also drop their leaves if they are underwatered or kept too cold or subjected to dry air. If your plant starts dropping leaves, try spraying it a few times a week and increasing the frequency of watering. If you start seeing brown or curled leaves, you might be watering too much.
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