How to Grow Tetrastigma (Chestnut Vine) Indoors

Close up of chestnut vine

Lauren Gutierrez / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Tetrastigma voinierianum, or chestnut vine, is a sorely underutilized perennial in North American collections, most likely because it's fairly hard to find. Native to Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Laos, Indonesia, and other tropical regions, this is a rambunctious and vigorous vine that rapidly climbs anything available. The mature plant produces huge (sometimes a foot across) deeply compound leaves. In their native environment, or where they are grown outdoors, they are often used as a ground cover, a situation for which they are perfectly suited. Indoors, they are best used as cascading plants, where their plentiful leaves can be shown off to full effect.

The plant's attractiveness is enhanced by red stems, and new growth is covered in brown hairs. The leaves are also known to produce small drops of moisture on the underside; this plant sap fed ants in tetrastigma's native setting. Indoor flowering is unlikely but if blooms do occur, they will be small and barely noticeable.

Botanical Name Tetrastigma voinierianum
Common Name Chestnut Vine, Lizard Plant 
Plant Type Vine 
Mature Size 13 to 26 ft. high, 1.5 to 3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Loamy 
Soil pH Neutral to acidic
Bloom Time Spring,summer 
Flower Color  Green, white 
Hardiness Zones  8 to 13 (USDA)
Native Area  Southeast Asia 

Tetrastigma (Chestnut Vine) Care

These plants have some of the same excellent qualities as the popular pothos vine. They are beautiful trailers with large, striking leaves, and they are tolerant of widely variable growing conditions. Perhaps they've been overlooked simply because they are strangers to most growers, or because no serious grower has moved into their cultivation. Nevertheless, they are excellent trailing plants for a ledge container and will thrive even in less-than-perfect light.

These vines are much more forgiving and tough than their tropical appearance would suggest. They can tolerate a wide range of indoor conditions and even survive cooler temperatures. Since they are vigorous growers, they may need to be pruned to fit the indoor space.

Light

Tetrastigma mostly prefers dappled light but some will do tolerably well in shade. Indoors, it's best to provide morning sun at least.​

Soil

Any good, fast-draining potting soil will do.​

Water

Tetrastigma can handle tropical conditions, with ample and frequent water, or near-drought conditions. It's best to water generously in the growing season (which is the spring and summer) and infrequently in the fall and winter. Do not let the plants sit in water, however, or root rot can occur.​

Temperature and Humidity

This plant grows best in a warm room with high humidity. Tetrastigma likes temperatures ranging from 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If your plant begins to develop brown leaf margins, try to raise the humidity. The humidity in most homes is usually not as high as the outdoor humidity that leads it to grow as high as 26 feet. This is usually a good thing, since you don't want the plant overtaking a room.

Fertilizer

Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.

Tetrastigma (Chestnut Vine) Varieties

Of the approximately 90 species of tetrastigma, Tetrastigma voinieranum is the only one widely cultivated. This plant is also sometimes called the Vitis voiniernum or Cissus voinieranum. This is the plant with large, lobed leaves, yellow flowers, and dark berries. It is highly unlikely you'll find anything other than this species in cultivation.

Propagating Tetrastigma (Chestnut Vine)

Tetrastigma species will rarely flower or produce seeds in cultivation. When they do flower, the plants produce small yellow flowers (at least for the most commonly grown variety) that eventually yield blackberries. These can be used for propagation. A much easier method, however, is to use a stem tip cutting at the beginning of the growing season. Like many vines, tetrastigma is relatively easy to propagate from cuttings, providing you give them enough warmth and humidity to start new growth.

Potting and Repotting Tetrastigma (Chestnut Vine)

Tetrastigma is easy to repot when young: simply move plants to a new container with fresh potting soil. These are rapid growers, however, and well-maintained plants can easily grow five feet or more in a single growing season, which complicates repotting. For larger plants, consider taking cuttings every spring to keep your collection going, then pruning back the mother plant, waiting a few weeks for the shock to wear off, then repotting the trimmed plant into a slightly larger container.

Common Pests and Diseases

Tetrastigma is vulnerable to pests including aphids, mealy bugs, scale, and whitefly. Red spider mites can be particularly bothersome as they are difficult to spot under leaves and a large infestation can be deadly for the plant. Signs of red spider mites infestation include brown or yellow spotting on leaves, webbing, and weakness of growth. If possible, identify the infestation as early as possible and treat it with the safest option.