The title of "World's Most Beautiful Flower" is hotly contested. Ask an orchidist, and surely he or she will have a strong opinion, as will a rose enthusiast or a tulip fanatic. But some people believe the jade vine (Strongylodon) is a contender for the title. And if not the most beautiful flower, at least one of the world's most interesting.
The vine's flowers are a pendant, hanging in large clusters of claw-shaped flowers in a remarkable turquoise color. Jade flowers are aggressive growers that, in their natural environment, easily swallow trees and supporting structures. With this kind of aggressive growth, they are better suited for greenhouses or conservatories. But if you can give a jade vine the room and growing conditions it needs, you will be rewarded with a magnificent specimen plant.
Growing Conditions for the Jade Vine (Strongylodon)
Here are the conditions your Jade Vine needs to be healthy and flower:
- Light: Jade vine needs as much sun as possible to thrive. It prefers full sun or the filtered light of a bright greenhouse. It does not have a rest period in winter.
- Water: Jade vine is a water hog. It will grow best with ample and copious water. Lack of water will cause leaf browning and slow and stunted growth. Water all year.
- Soil: A rich, peat-based potting soil with excellent drainage is beneficial.
- Fertilizer: Feed with a weak liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.
Jade vine can be propagated by seed or vine cuttings. It is a very prolific grower and can be rooted from stem tip cuttings. For best results, take the cuttings early in the season, when the weather is warmest, and use a rooting hormone. Place the cutting in seedling starting soil and put it in a warm location with plenty of humidity and moisture. New growth should emerge within a few weeks. It can also readily be sprouted from seeds, which can be harvested from seedpods.
As with most vines, repotting a jade vine indoors can be a challenge. Ideally, the plant will be grown in the largest container possible, to minimize the need to repot (this is the approach many indoor growers take). Once the vine is established, instead of repotting, change the surface soil once a year or so by scrapping out the old soil and replacing the top few inches of soil. Smaller plants, before they become climbers, can be repotted annually.
Varieties of Jade Vine
There are about 20 species of Strongylodon, all of them native to Southeast Asia and throughout the South Pacific. In their native environment, many species of Strongylodon are endangered due to habitat destruction, so there is a dedicated effort among the world's botanical gardens to preserve these magnificent plants. The most common species found in cultivation in the temperate world is S. macrobotrys, which is planted in southern Florida and Hawaii. This plant is native to the Philippines and features flower clusters that can be up to 3 feet long.
The trick with jade vines is usually more: more heat, more light, more water, and more fertilizer. Because jade vines grow rapidly and have pendant flowers, be sure to provide them with sturdy support. Ideally, the flowers are best viewed from underneath, but the plants can also be grown up a vertical structure and the flower clusters will hang down among the leaves as bright splashes of color.
Jade vines are not particularly susceptible to pests but can be affected by mealybugs, aphids, and mites. Signs of infestation include tiny webs on plants, clumps of white "powdery" residue, or visible insects on the plant. Treat infestations as soon as possible to prevent them from spreading to the rest of your collection.