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 to semi-arid climates (where they're considered deciduous vines). Included in this genus is grape ivy, which is almost incomparable as a vining plant. Native to Central and South America, grape ivy is named as such not because it produces grapes, but because its leaves resemble grapevines.
Grape ivy can be planted and cared for year-round indoors. The vine grows slowly, but can survive with the right care for up to 10 years, so it's a good vine to pick if you're into plant care for the long run.
|Botanical Name||Cissus alata|
|Common Name||Grape ivy, oak leaf ivy, Venezuela treebine|
|Mature Size||6–10 ft. tall, 3–6 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade|
|Soil Type||Well-drained, peaty|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Bloom Time||Spring, summer, fall, winter|
|Flower Color||Green (insignificant)|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central America, South America|
Grape Ivy Care
Popular plants from the Cissus species, including grape ivy, are not especially challenging to grow indoors. Unlike some other climbing plants like philodendrons, they'll readily climb whatever support they are given, so make sure to put them near a structure you're ok with them climbing or provide supper for them in your home (like on a bookcase). Better yet, grape ivy is 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.
Grape ivy is a low-light vine that will thrive in an east-facing window. It can also be grown well under lights, though because the vine needs only partial shade, it's often not necessary to do so. If you happen to be location your plant somewhere in your home that gets brighter or more consistent light, make sure to increase your watering accordingly.
Your grape ivy vine will thrive best in a soil mixture that is well-draining and aerated, like a blend of peat moss, bark, and perlite. Likewise, a store-bought soil mixture formulated for African violets will also suffice. Keep in mind, if you opt to make your own mixture with peat moss, it can be very acidic—make sure to amend the blend something like dolomite to bring the pH level closer to neutral.
During the growing season, provide your grape ivy with steady water to keep the soil consistently moist (but not drenched). You can cut back on watering in the winter and allow the soil to dry in-between doses of water. Though they need a lot of water, grape ivy plants are especially susceptible to root rot, so it's important to plant them in the right soil and keep an eye on their reaction to your watering. If you notice the plant dropping leaves, it's likely a sign that it's receiving too much water.
Temperature and Humidity
Grape ivy plants prefer moderate and consistent temperatures ranging from 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything that falls above or below this range can inhibit the growth and overall success of the plant. Additionally, grape ivy vines require only average household humidity, making them perfect for nearly any room in your home.
Feed your grape ivy 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.
Propagating Grape Ivy
Grape ivy readily propagates from leaf-tip cuttings. In the beginning of the growing season, take cuttings with two to three leaf nodes below the terminal growth bud. Use a rooting hormone to increase the chance of success, and put the cutting in a small pot with seed starting soil. Keep the cutting moist and warm until new growth emerges—at this point, the cutting can be repotted into a larger container and cared for as normal.
Potting and Repotting Grape Ivy
Because of its slow growth rate, grape ivy should not need to be replanted too often. That being said, if your vine is outgrowing its pot, repot it in the spring. Make sure to include room for a stake or trellis in the pot to support the vine's upright growth, and opt for the heaviest pot practical to reduce the risk of the plant tipping over.
Cissus vines, including grape ivy, are susceptible to scale insects, spider mites, and mealybugs. If you notice a sign of infestation on your plant, you should treat it immediately with a organic insecticide or horticultural cultural oil like neem oil until all evidence of pests has ceased (this may take a few applications and several weeks).