How to Grow and Care for Rhodochitons

Close up of the Rhodochiton atrosanguinea flowers

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The rhodochiton (Rhodochiton atrosanguineus) is a herbaceous plant known for its heart-shaped leaves and drooping purple-black, 3 inch tubular flowers. They are often called "purple bell vines" and create showy blooms that enhance your outdoor garden's beauty. These climbing plants can grow to about 10 feet and bloom from summer through fall. Indigenous to Mexico, they are commonly grown as a half-hardy annual plant by gardeners. 

Common Name Rhodochiton, Purple bell vine
Botanical Name Rhodochiton atrosanguineus
Family Plantaginaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 10 ft.
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Moist, well-drained, loamy
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Purple
Hardiness Zones 9-10 (USDA)
Native Area North America

Rhodochiton Plant Care

The rhodochiton is a fast-growing, upward-climbing plant that will require some support as it grows. Its twining stems will be adorned with toothed and tinted leaves, with dark green to burgundy coloring around the edges. When planting outdoors, be sure to wait until after the final frost of the season and space seeds about 10 to 12 inches apart. The seeds typically take about two to six weeks to germinate. However, starting these plants indoors is generally recommended (about five to six weeks before the last frost).

You can tie the vines to a trellislattice, or even a collapsible wooden tepee using string or plant ties to prevent the stems from tangling on the ground. Lifted vines will receive better air circulation, which decreases the likelihood of developing a fungal disease.

Light

Rhodochitons grow best when exposed to full sunlight. However, providing some dappled shade, particularly during hot summer afternoons, can help prevent leaf burn.

Water

When first planting a rhodochiton, be sure to water the seeds at least two or three times weekly until overnight temperatures hover consistently above 32˚F. After that, you should water your rhodochiton regularly to keep the soil moist and allow the roots to establish properly.

Soil

Rhodochitons grow well in average soil conditions but bear the best results when planted in humus-rich, moist soil. The ideal soil is loamy and fertile, as well as fast-draining.

Temperature and Humidity

Rhodochitons thrive in warmer temperatures and are not hardy below 32˚F. Outdoor vines can survive the winter in USDA zone 9, but the plants will die back completely to the ground.

Fertilizer

To support healthy plant growth, you can fertilize your rhodochiton every four weeks using a 10-10-10 water-soluble fertilizer. Start with a rate of half of a teaspoon of fertilizer per one gallon of water.

Types of Rhodochiton

  • Rhodochiton atrosanguineus
  • Rhodochiton hintonii 
  • Rhodochiton nubicola 

Pruning

Rhodochitons don't require extensive pruning, however, you should trim the plant after bloom. Trimming after flowering will help encourage lateral branching and create the appearance of bushier plants while keeping the vines manageable.

How to Grow Rhodochiton From Seed

  1. Choose a filling tray and add potting soil, spreading and pressing the seeds evenly.
  2. Use a misting bottle to moisten the soil.
  3. Place clear plastic wrap over the tray and locate it in a spot that receives at least eight hours of sunlight daily.
  4. After germination, which can take 14 to 45 days, remove the plastic wrap.
  5. Water the seeds nightly until the overnight temperature exceeds 32˚F.
  6. Move each sprout into a 4 inch pot filled with watered potting soil.
  7. Create a trellis in the soil near the back of the pot.
  8. Relocate the pot outdoors in a sunny spot and water regularly to help root establishment.

Potting and Repotting Rhodochiton

When growing in containers, consider using a mixture of two parts sphagnum peat moss, one part loamy soil, and one part perlite for best growth. As the rhodochiton grows, you should move it to a larger pot or container. The pot should be about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, and no more than one plant should be grown per 6 inch pot. If you are growing a rhodochiton in a pot larger than a gallon, you can plant up to three.

Overwintering

Rhotochitons should protected from winter weather, especially during particularly cold periods. You should move your plant indoors or provide additional insulation by covering the plant's base with a three or four-inch layer of mulch.

Common Pests & Diseases

Indoor, container-grown rhodochiton plants can be susceptible to aphids, whiteflies, scale insects, and diseases like botrytis and chalara elegans. You can quickly treat the insects by spraying insecticide or horticultural oil. Rhodochitons are also susceptible to fungal diseases, like root rot.

How to Get Rhodochiton to Bloom

The rhodochiton is known for its heart-shaped leaves and drooping purple-black, three-inch tubular flowers when blooming. The leaves and spindly stems are pale green and coil to support the flowers. When supported properly, blooms can reach up to 10 feet tall. Rhodochitons produce bloom in the summer through the fall. During the bloom, you can deadhead flowers and trim vines to promote growth and moisten the soil, but not overwater. Vine trimming during bloom helps lateral growth and prevents tangling.

Common Problems With Rhodochiton

The rhodochiton is a relatively tolerant plant but can develop issues common to all vine plants. This includes yellow leaves, and mold spots.

Yellow Leaves

If you notice yellow leaves on your rhodochiton, it is likely suffering from overwatering, under-watering, or a lack of nutrients. The yellow leaves may also be a result of sunburn. Consider adjusting your watering regimen to determine whether inadequate water is the cause of the yellowing. If this doesn't solve the problem, consider adding a nutrient-rich fertilizer to your plant's soil. Nutrient deficiencies may include magnesium, nitrogen, or potassium. 

Mold Spots

Grey mold spots are a fungus condition common to many types of plants. The fungus is likely caused by overwatering. When you notice mold spots, act quickly to remove damaged parts of the plant to stop the fungus from spreading. Once you have removed the leaves, re-pot or relocate the rhodochiton to healthier soil.

FAQ
  • What is the best way to display a rhodochiton?

    Due to their cascading and climbing vines, hanging baskets or trellises are popular ways to plant a rhodochiton.

  • What is an alternative to rhodochiton?

    If you are looking to plant a purple or blue bell-shaped flower, but don't want the hanging vines, consider canterbury bells. They are similar in shape and color but don't climb walls.

  • Are rhodochitons safe around pets and kids?

    Rhodochitons are non-toxic and safe to grow around pets and kids.