The pipe vine is a woody, deciduous vine native to eastern North America. A vigorous grower, it can reach heights of up to 20 or 30 feet tall once mature. Pipe vines are best planted in early spring and, while the plants typically bloom in early summer, the foliage of the vine is its best feature. They're vibrant green, heart-shaped and large—if you've ever noticed a resemblance between the leaves of this plant and those of wild ginger, there's a good reason for that: They're both in the birthwort family.
Classified as a flowering vine, the pipe vine is, nevertheless, more useful as a foliage plant. Its leaves fill in densely, giving it a number of potential uses, such as casting shade to keep an area cooler during the summer, screening out prying eyes from areas where you want privacy, or hiding eyesores in your landscaping.
|Botanical Name||Aristolochia macrophylla|
|Common Name||Dutchman's pipe vine, pipe vine|
|Mature Size||15–30 ft. tall, 15–20 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Neutral to acidic|
|Flower Color||Yellow, green, purple|
|Hardiness Zones||4–8 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America|
Pipe Vine Care
When it comes to low-care plants that make a big impact, pipe vine gets a winning score. The easy-to-grow plant requires but a few care mainstays (such as enough sunlight and well-draining soil) but is otherwise easy to grow and pays off with vibrant green foliage and full vines that grow rapidly.
Considering the size and vigor of this vine, it's important to plant it where it will have plenty of room to grow. This isn't the kind of plant that you shoehorn into a tight spot or install next to smaller plants, which may struggle to compete with it. It's also a good idea to plant the vine somewhere were it can be trained to grow up from the start, like a trellis, fence, or other structure.
Pipe vines don't have any major pest or disease issues. Avoid watering the foliage directly to eschew fungal issues, and be aware that the plant serves as larval food for the pipe vine swallowtail butterfly's caterpillar. You can expect to notice some signs of feeding, but it will never damage the vine to the point of death.
Plant your pipe vine in full sun to achieve the best growth and flowering potential. However, it can also handle partial-to-full shade (especially if panted in a warmer climate), though it will likely bloom significantly less, and its foliage may appear to be less vibrant. Overall, you should aim to grant your plant at least six to eight hours of full to partial sunlight daily.
Pipe vines prefer soil with good drainage above all, though they will perform its best if their soil is also rich and moist. The pH level of the soil isn't important to pipe vines, and they can thrive in both neutral and acidic mixtures.
For the most successful vine, keep the ground evenly moist during the plant's growing season. When watering, aim your hose at the base of the plant—watering the dense foliage too directly can lead to fungal issues.
Temperature and Humidity
Pipe vine prefers moderate temperatures year-round and is not frost hardy. If you do suspect that temperatures will be dropping, it's wise to add a layer of mulch around the roots of the plant to help insulate them against cold weather.
You should fertilize your pipe vine yearly each spring, and can work compost into the soil whenever you feel like the vine needs a bit of a boost.
Pipe Vine Varieties
There are a variety of other types of pipe vines, including A. tomentosa, which is also an American native (but indigenous across a more southerly range) and a similar-looking plant. You can tell it from A. macrophylla by inspecting its flowers, foliage, and newest stems, all of which have tiny hairs. Yet another varietal, the Brazilian pipe or "giant pelican flower" (Aristolochia gigantea), is hardy to USDA zones 10 through 12 and produces massive, foul-smelling flours that are harmful to North American butterflies.
If you wish to maintain a tidy display, you may have to prune a mature pipe vine with some regularity. Pruning is best done in late winter or early spring. Be vigorous—the vine responds well to pruning, so don't be afraid to trim it.
As long as you cut off no more than one-fourth of the plant at any one time, you should be all right. Another general pruning rule with trees, shrubs, and perennial vines is to prune off no more than one-third of a plant's growth in the course of the entire year. To prune pipe vine, look for the weakest branches and any branches that seem to be getting out of hand, and prune those off.