How to Grow and Care for Dutchman's Pipe Vines

Dutchman's pipe vines with large heart-shaped leaves on metal trellis

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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. However, be aware that the plant from the bark and leaves to the sap and flowers/fruit is highly toxic to humans if ingested.

Common Name Dutchman's pipe vine, pipe vine
Botanical Name Aristolochia macrophylla
Family Aristolochiaceae, Birthwort
Plant Type Vine
Mature Size 15–30 ft. tall, 15–20 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Moist, well-drained
Soil pH Neutral, acidic
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Yellow, green, purple
Hardiness Zones 4–8 (USDA)
Native Area North America
Toxicity Toxic to people
Dutchman's pipe vines with large heart-shaped leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Dutchman's pipe vines with bright green and large leaves closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Dutchman's pipe vine leaf with small purple and yellow flower closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Dutchman's pipe vines with large dark red and heart-shaped leaves hanging

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

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 where 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.

Light

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 planted 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.

Soil

Pipe vines prefer soil with good drainage above all, though they will perform 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.

Water

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.

Fertilizer

You should fertilize your pipe vine yearly each spring and work compost into the soil whenever you feel like the vine needs a bit of a boost.

Types of Dutchman Pipe Vine

There are a variety of other types of pipe vinesincluding 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 flowers that are harmful to North American butterflies.

Pruning

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.

Propagating Dutchmans Pipe Vine

The pipe vine plant can easily be propagated by seed or cuttings. The easiest and quickest way is by growing from cuttings. Here's how:

  1. Using gardening shears and wearing garden gloves, take a cutting during the springtime, as this is when the plant is growing best and putting out new shoots. The cutting should have at least three to four leaves on it.
  2. Put the cutting in water—a glass works well.
  3. When a nice clump of roots appears, plant the cutting in the proper location in well-drained soil, and water.

How to Grow Dutchmans Pipe Vine From Seed

This vine can be grown from seeds. Let the seed pods dry on the vine and turn brown before taking them off. Sow the seeds and let them dry on seed trays to be ready for planting in the spring. You can also sow them and throw the seeds in hot water to soak for up to two days. If any float, discard them as they are not viable seeds. Then place the seeds in prepared pots with seed starting soil allocating two seeds per pot and water. Keep the soil moist, and the seedlings should start appearing in approximately a month.

Overwintering

This climbing vine will shed its leaves in the winter in the cooler zones. You can protect the root base from frost by putting mulch around it. The leaves of the plant will grow back out in the springtime.

FAQ
  • Why is it called Dutchman's pipe vine?

    This vine produces some unique flowers that look like small pipes, which for the most part, stay hidden behind the heart-shaped leaves.

  • How fast does Dutchman's pipe vine grow?

    This is a very fast-growing vine that can grow up to six feet a year. Regulate its growth with annual pruning.

  • Is Dutchman's pipe vine deer resistant?

    While this vine is attractive to butterflies, it is deer resistant, and pest resistant.

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Article Sources
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  1. Aristolochia macrophylla. North Carolina Extension Gardener.