Tetrastigma

Tetrastigma

The vigorous large-leaved vines of the genus Tetrastigma are repre­sented indoors by only one species, T. voinieranum (formerly known as Cissus voinieranum). This plant is com­monly called either chestnut vine (because its leaves resemble those of horse chestnuts) or lizard plant (be­cause it sometimes drops whole sec­tions of its growth, as a lizard loses its tail when alarmed). Under the right conditions the plant grows extremely fast, and some growers regard it as coarse. Its stems, which can be 1-2 inch thick, are produced in jointed segments a few inches long, each segment growing at a slight angle to the previous one. The leaves, carried on 4- to 12-inch-long stalks, are com­posed of several (usually five) glossy green, widely separated leaflets, each of which is 4-8 inches long, slightly toothed at the edges, and carried on a 2-inch stalk of its own. Stems and leaflet undersides are heavily felted with fine russet-colored hairs.

The spiraled tendrils of this vinecling firmly, holding the heavy stem and leaf sections to any available sup­port. When a section of growth falls off, no permanent harm results; the plant often produces a similar-size stem section from the same joint. A well-cared-for tetrastigma will cover 6 feet of trellis or wall in a single year. For this reason, the plant is really suitable only for very large indoor areas. It does not produce flowers and fruit when it is grown indoors.

PROPER CARE

Light Provide bright light at all times, but keep these plants out of direct sunlight.

Temperature Indoor tetrastigmas grow well in any normal room tem­perature and will tolerate a certain amount of dry air. The temperature should never be permitted to fall below 55°F; and it should be kept as constant as possible, because violent fluctuations in temperature seem to be a major cause of the shedding of sections of growth.

Watering During the active growth period water tetrastigmas moderately, giving enough to make the potting mixture thoroughly moist, but allow­ing the top half-inch of the mixture to dry out between waterings. During the rest period water only when half of the mixture has dried out.

Feeding Apply standard liquid ferti­lizer every two weeks during the active growth period only.

Potting and repotting Use a soil-based potting mixture for tetrastigmas. It is advisable to move these plants into pots two sizes larger every spring. After maximum convenient pot size (probably be­tween 10—12 inches) has been reached, annual topdressing with fresh potting mixture will suffice.

Propagation Propagate whenever convenient by means of a 9-inch-long tip cutting with at least one leaf attached. Dust the cut end with hor­mone rooting powder, plant it in a 3-inch pot containing a well-moistened mixture of peat moss and sand, and cover the whole with a plastic bag or place it in a heated propagating case. Keep the cutting at 6o°-75°F and in bright light filtered through a translucent blind or curtain, but do not water it. The cutting should root in six to eight weeks. Thereafter, uncover the young plant and begin to water it just enough to make the potting mixture barely moist, but allowing the top half of the mixture to dry out between waterings; and it should be fed stan­dard liquid fertilizer once a month for four or five months. When the plant appears to be well established, move it into a 5-inch pot of soil-based potting mixture, after which its cultivation needs are exactly the same as those of a mature tetrastigma.

Special points It is essential to pro­vide substantial support for these large-leaved climbers. Push a stick into the potting mixture close to the base of the plant and tie the stem at regular intervals to this support.

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