The chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) is a woody perennial species with compound leaves and attractive, reddish brown or maroon flowers. The flowers are cup shaped with three fleshy and waxy petals and give way to fleshy purple pods up to 4 inches long. Chocolate vines can grow up to 30 feet long and grow as a climber or ground cover plant. While new growth is frost-tender, mature plants can survive temperatures down to --15.6 degrees C.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Plant your chocolate vine in a partially shaded site in the garden after the last spring frost. The plant will grow in full sun but prefers some protection from the midday sun.This plant prefers rich, loamy soils with good drainage but will grow well in most soil types. Chocolate vines are sensitive to root disturbance, so do not break up the root ball when planting out a potted plant. Provide canes if you want your plant to climb.
Prune your plant when it reaches the dimensions you require by removing the growing tips. Plants can be trained to grow along wires or pergolas. Untrained plants can be rampant and overwhelm slower growing neighbours. Large plants can be cut back to ground level before the winter and will sprout again the next spring.
Water your chocolate vine when the surface of the soil is dry. The species is drought-resistant, but grows best with regular watering. Fertilise once a month during the growing season with an all-purpose fertiliser.
Plant seeds as soon as the pods are ripe and over winter in a frost-free green house or cold frame. Seeds can take up to six weeks to germinate. Chocolate vines can also be propagated by taking shoot cuttings 6 inches long from new spring growth. Plant cuttings in fine compost and keep in warm, humid conditions until they root. Stems growing on the ground often spontaneously grow roots and can be cut off and replanted as a separate plants.
Tips and warnings
- Grow more than one chocolate vine if you want your plants to fruit because the plants are self-sterile. The soft seedpods are edible and sweet, but do not have much flavour.
- The chocolate vine is native to Asia, but has become an invasive species in the eastern United States.
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