The five-leaf chocolate vine is a perennial vine that is native to Asia as well as parts of North America. The chocolate vine gets its moniker both from the rich purplish-brown blooms that cover the vine, as well as the delicate chocolate scent of the flowers. Chocolate-scented flowers are unusual among hardy perennials, so this one attribute may endear this flowering vine to growers.
The vine produces glossy dark green leaves that are oval-shaped and grow in clusters of five. The dangling flowers boast three petals and emerge in the spring (March to May), sometimes followed by fruits that resemble eggplants late in the summer. The fruit chocolate vines produce is edible, but not very palatable—if you choose to harvest it, you may recognize they resemble kiwi, with tiny black seeds embedded in the pulp.
Expect this vine to grow quickly and vigorously, adding as much as 40 feet a growing season. This plant has no serious pest or disease issues, which is one reason for its reputation as an invasive grower.
|Common Names||Chocolate vine, raisin vine, five-leaf akebia|
|Botanical Name||Akebia quinata|
|Plant Type||Perennial flowering vine|
|Mature Size||15–30 ft. long, 1–2 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil Type||Sandy, loamy|
|Soil pH||Neutral to mildly acidic|
|Flower Color||Purple, brown|
|Hardiness Zones||4–8, USA|
|Native Areas||Asia (Korea, China, Japan)|
Chocolate Vine Care
Unless you are growing chocolate vine as a ground cover, it will need a sturdy structure to support it as it climbs. If you wish to harvest the fruits of the vine, plan to plant at least two vines to increase the chances of pollination and fruiting.
Consider the mature size of the chocolate vine when incorporating this plant into your landscape design. This isn’t a specimen that will daintily clamber up your mailbox. Although the vine doesn’t cling, you can train it up a drain spout or across a privacy fence with the help of some heavy-duty twine or plastic bird exclusion netting. Some gardeners also appreciate the rampant growth of this vine when used as a groundcover to disguise eyesores like rock piles, tree stumps, or manhole covers but the delicate flowers tend to get lost in the mass of foliage on the ground.
While chocolate vine is not on the national invasive species list, it is considered invasive in certain states, including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia. Chocolate vine has the potential to choke out small trees when left untended in wild areas and has even displaced native plants in some areas with its dense vegetation. Check with your local authorities to make sure the chocolate vine is allowed in your area. If it's considered invasive, it may be banned.
Chocolate vine is very shade tolerant and will grow well in covered woodland settings. That being said, the best flowering and fruiting will occur when the plant is located in full sun, so if that is your priority, plant the vine somewhere where you can ensure it gets at least six hours of sunlight daily.
While chocolate vine will grow successfully in a variety of different soil compositions, the ideal blend is a mixture of sand and loam with a high percentage of organic matter. Proper drainage is also essential for the vine.
Provide weekly watering until vines are established, then water during periods of drought so that plants get at least one inch of water per week. Chocolate vine is mildly tolerant of drought-like conditions, so you can wait until the top inch or two of the soil is dry before watering.
Temperature and Humidity
Chocolate vine does best in moderate temperatures between 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. In the harsh winter weather, the vine may lose its leaves but will regrow them in the spring. While not the ideal choice for humid environments, the vine does tolerate some humidity in the air.
Chocolate vine is a light feeder and doesn’t require supplemental flower fertilizer. You can provide trace nutrients for vines growing in poor soil by mulching with compost or well-rotted manure. Generally, the vine will grow prolifically without much intervention.
Types of Chocolate Vine
There are several different varieties of chocolate vine available, most of which differ only in their flower and foliage appearance. Some of the most popular varietals include:
- Akebia quinata 'Alba': A varietal with pale green stems and small white flowers. In cooler climates, the leaves will turn bright yellow in the fall.
- Akebia quinata 'Purple Bouquet': This common varietal is desirable primarily because of its compact size, which will grow to be about half the height of other varieties. It boasts the same chocolate-scented deep purple flowers the species is typically associated with.
- Akebia quinata 'Rosea': The mauve-y pink flowers on this varietal are paler than typical, helping them to stand out against the dark foliage.
- Akebia quinata 'Variegata': This unique varietal boasts splashes of white and green on its foliage, which make for an attractive backdrop for pink-purple blossoms.
Because of chocolate vine's vigorous growth habit, frequent pruning is required to keep it in check. Many gardeners prune chocolate vine back to ground level in late winter to keep it in check, but you can also lightly prune the vine throughout the season to help it look tidy after flowering. Depending on the thickness of the vine you can use pruners or shears, cutting back the vine to the desired length and snipping around 1/4-inch above a leaf or leaf node.
Propagating Chocolate Vine
If you're looking to add to the chocolate vine population in your landscape, you can propagate the vine through softwood cuttings if you already have one plant. Here's how:
- Using clean shears or pruners, take a cutting at least 6 inches long in spring. The cutting should be taken from the new spring growth on a vine that has already been established and bloomed for at least a year.
- Plant the cuttings in a small pot filled with pre-moistened fine compost or another lightweight planting medium.
- Place the pot in a humid and warm spot until the cuttings root in about two to three weeks. You can check the progress of the developing roots by giving the cutting a gentle tug—if you feel a slight resistance, that's a good indication that roots are beginning to take hold.
- Once roots are established, replant the cutting in its permanent location. Do your best not to disturb the roots after that fact, as it may cause damage to the plant.
How to Get Chocolate Vine to Bloom
The most important factor when it comes to a successfully blooming chocolate vine is ample sunlight. If the vine is growing in a woodland environment or is shaded the majority of the day by larger trees or structures, you will have a difficult time getting it to bloom.
In addition to lots of sunlight, you'll want to make sure your chocolate vine gets the right nutrients. Phosphorus is also important to a successfully blooming chocolate vine. If you think your soil may lack this nutrient, you can fertilize your plant with a phosphorus-rich fertilizer blend or add some bone meal to your soil and see if that helps.
Can chocolate vine grow indoors?
While chocolate vine can be started indoors (in the case of propagation), it's best grown permanently outdoors, given its sprawling and rapid growth and desire for ample sunlight.
What plants are similar to chocolate vine?
If you love the look of a flowering vine but the chocolate vine is considered invasive in your area, you can consider growing clematis, passionflower, star jasmine, or cup and saucer vine.
Akebia quinata Chocolate Vine). North Carolina State University Extension Gardener.
Chocolate Vine. University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.