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Category Archives: Vines for Texas

Made For The Shade

Have you always wanted to grow a passion vine but have too much shade to grow the showy purple Passiflora incarnata?  Or perhaps you have a butterfly garden and are interested in providing one of the host plants for Gulf Fritillary, Julia and Zebra Longwing butterflies?  Well, if you don’t mind having a Lilliputian passion flower that is only about an inch in diameter, then Passiflora lutea is for you.

Passiflora lutea is also known as yellow passionflower, though the color of the flowers may range from chartreuse to off-white.  It is a native plant in Texas that blooms from May through September. In Dallas it is considered a perennial herbaceous climbing or trailing vine that can reach 15 feet in height.  Here it will loose its wide shallowly-lobed leaves in the winter but it comes back reliably in the spring.   The fall leaf color is a shade of yellow. Though considered somewhat drought tolerant once established, P. lutea prefers moist, rich soil.  Its flowers are followed by small black berries, which some say are edible but not very tasty.


Tiny Yellow Passionflower and Leaf From Carolyn’s Garden

I have P. lutea growing wild in my shady yard near White Rock Lake.  If I don’t keep an eye on it, the vines can grow rampantly in some spots.  However they are very easy to pull off from wherever they are growing.  I also have one pot of purple Passiflora incarnata and have noticed that the Gulf Fritillary butterfles tend to prefer to lay their eggs on P. incarnata rather than P. lutea.  However, one of my neighbors had P. lutea growing in her yard and had many caterpillars feeding on it.

One of the historic uses for the berries has been to make ink.  A recommended recipe is:  ½ cup of P. lutea berries, ½ tsp. salt, and ½ tsp. vinegar.  Crush the berries, and then strain the liquid through a fine sieve.  Then add the salt and vinegar.  Though this ink is not archival, the deep purple-black color is pretty

Yellow passionflower  is not often found in most garden centers. However,  Roseann Ferguson says that the annual plant sale at Texas Discovery Gardens will carry it.  The dates for this year’s fall sale are September 15-16 with the member-only sale taking place on the 15.  Many of their unusual plants sell out quickly, so get there early and consider becoming a member.  Further information about the plants that will be for sale will be posted on Texas Discovery Garden’s website ( closer to the date of the sale.

Carolyn Bush


A Passion for Passion Vine

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

Though it doesn’t bloom until the heat of summer, usually long past Easter, the flowers of Passifloraceae are often said to refer to the symbolism of the Christian crucifixion, from which it gets one of its common names, passion vine.   The beautiful and unusual pink, blue, red or purple blooms are said to represent Christ’s passion. The 10 petal-like parts represents the disciples of Jesus, excluding Peter and Judas; the 5 stamens the wounds Jesus received; the knob-like stigmas the nails; and the fringe or corona the crown of thorns; while the leaves are reminiscent of the Roman spear; and the tendrils are their whips. However like many plants, the passion vine has other common names. The name Maypop, which is used by many Southerners, comes from the loudly popping sound that the hollow, yellow fruits of P. incarnata make when crushed.

     Passiflora is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants.  They are mostly vines, with some being shrubs, and a few species being herbaceous.   In North Texas several species of passion vines grow well here.  The two most common passion vines found in area nurseries are the Texas native Passiflora incarnata (Maypop) and the Hardy Blue Passionflower, P. caerulea.  Maypop can withstand temperatures as low as 18 degrees F, while P. caerulea can tolerate temperatures to around 25 degrees.  Other species of passion vines are becoming more available; however most of these are tropical plants and should be either treated as annuals or brought inside for the winter.

Passion Flower Fruit

Passion Flower Fruit

      Though the leaves of passion vines have been used in herbal medicine as a remedy for sleep disorders, nervousness, and many other ailments by indigenous peoples and the fruit was a staple of their diet, today most gardeners grow the plant for its quick growing, vining qualities, beautiful flowers and as a butterfly host plant.

     In general, passion vines require full sun (though they can tolerate some partial shade), regular watering, and excellent drainage.  According to Scott Perry’s article, Planting Passion, in Texas Gardener magazine, a 10-5-20 fertilizer should be applied several times a year at four-to six-week intervals throughout the growing season.  However, overfeeding can cause root damage; and fertilizers too high in nitrogen can cause excessive foliage development and reduced flower development.

     Passion vines, which can grow up to thirty feet in a season and should be grown on a strong support, are remarkably pest free.  However there is one “pest” that can defoliate a passion vine quite quickly.  However, this same “pest” is the reason why many butterfly enthusiasts grow passion vines in their gardens.  The passion vine is the sole host plant for several Texas butterflies of the family Heliconius.  This family includes the Zebra, the Julia, and the Gulf Fritillary (a very common butterfly found in Dallas.)  The rather fearsome looking (but harmless to people) caterpillars, when feeding on the passion vine, derive some toxic compounds from the leaves. This, in turn, makes the larvae and butterflies somewhat toxic to predators.  Many butterfly gardeners either grow a large enough stand of passion vines so that some defoliation will not matter or relocate the caterpillars to a designated butterfly garden where the passion vine is grown specifically to be a host plant.

One More Picture of the Amazing Passion Flower

One More Picture of the Amazing Passion Flower

     If you are interested in planting a passion vine in your yard and “growing your own butterflies,” a very good place to purchase many varieties of passion vine is at the Texas Discovery Gardens ( plant sale.  This year’s sale will take place on April 18-19th, 2015, with the Members Preview Sale on the 17th.   It’s a great place to buy organically grown butterfly host and nectar plants as well as many unusual varieties of plants not found at most area nurseries.

     See you there!!


Pictures by Starla

Note: The Passion Vine at our Demonstration Garden flourished without fertilizer of any kind.



(EVERGREEN) WISTERIA—Except it’s not.

It’s Ann’s fault.

“Please, please, please write a blog on Evergreen Wisteria???” I’m not a fan of wisteria.  My father (tried) to train it to cover a patio in San Antonio.  You’ve never seen a more God forsaken vine in your life.  The yellow chlorotic leaves limply hung on sad little vines struggling in the limestone caliche.  I was told that it had exquisite purple blooms in the spring.  Never saw one.  My father heard that if you shock wisteria, that it would burst into bloom. Even being sharply rammed with a lawnmower failed to persuade the thing to flower.  But I digress.

Susan has planted the most breath taking vine at the garden called—evergreen wisteria.  It has grown from a little start planted this spring into a stunner filled with purple blooms—and get this—it flowers mid-summer to fall when other more sane plants have thrown in the towel.

Millettia reticulata, Evergreen Wisteria in our Garden

Millettia reticulata, Evergreen Wisteria in our Garden

Usually when we think of wisteria, we dream of southern arbors covered with long purple blooms for two to three weeks in the spring.  The often-used Chinese wisteria Wisteria sinensis has a dark side. (Does that infamous southern vine, kudzu, come to mind?)

Wisteria gallops over companion plants, prompting Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Dale Groom to write, “Because wisteria has been known to literally take over other plantings, plant it on structures that are separate from other landscape locations.”  In other words, if you can’t play nicely, you have to play alone.  All 35 mature vining feet of you.

Wisteria sinensis

Wisteria sinensis

Ah, but if you want the Southern Landscape Look, without the hassle, consider American wisteria Wisteria frutescens. It blooms in the spring, but is better behaved than its Japanese or Chinese relations. Evergreen WisteriaI’ll put my money on evergreen wisteria Millettia reticulata, which isn’t a wisteria at all.  (Refer to my opinion of wisteria in paragraph two.)  Its oval leaves are evergreen, and it blooms when everything else in the garden is gasping in the heat.  At 15 feet tall by 10 feet wide, evergreen wisteria grows less than half the reach of Chinese wisteria.  And the purple/magenta bloom is lovely. The vine is suggested for zones 8 to 10, so gardeners in colder climates would need to bring it into the greenhouse in the winter.


Evergreen pictures by Starla.

You can observe  Evergreen Wisteria growing at the garden and have a Harvest Lunch with us on October 29th. Details here.

To Eat or Not To Eat: That is the Question

They were grown by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in 1812 as an arching vine on both sides of the terraces, while in Africa and Asia its edible fruit pods play an important role in native cooking.  What is this highly ornamental vine?  It is the hyacinth bean, also known as Egyptian or Indian bean.

Hyacinth Bean Vine

The hyacinth bean, Dilochos lablab/Lablab purpurea, is a very fast growing, highly ornamental vine.  Dilochos is from the Greek meaning long or elongated; purpurea means purple; and lablab is the Egyptian or Arabic word for the dull rattle of seeds inside the pod.  It was introduced to European gardens in the 1700’s and sold in America by the early 19th century.  With the hyacinth bean’s showy, long and interrupted spike-like light or dark purple flowers and beautiful one inch wide purple pods, these fast growing annual 6-20 foot twinning vines with their lush dark green foliage tinged with purple are highly recommended for use on arbors and trellises.

Here at the Garden we grow two varieties of hyacinth bean:  the more common purple variety with its black and white seeds and a white variety that has mocha and white seeds.  Each of these grows easily in full sun, in rich soil and with adequate water.  Seeds may be soaked or scarified for quicker germination.

Our Vine in Full Bloom Summer 2012

There is controversy over whether the pods and seeds are edible.  In Africa and the Far East, the flowers, pods and seeds are eaten.  However, the mature pods and dry beans contain a high amount of cyanogenic glycocides, a quite toxic substance.  Mature or dry beans must not be eaten raw.  They must be soaked overnight, then boiled in a lot of water.  Even doing this, some people are susceptible to the toxin and, in general, eating hyacinth beans is not recommended.  Rather, just enjoy the hyacinth bean as an ornamental for its lovely flowers and pods.  You won’t be disappointed.


Pictures by Starla and Ann

Cypress Vine

Cypress Vine Flower

When it comes to flowers, I like to get up close and personal.

I love to stare into them and what could be more rewarding than looking into the five point star of the cypress vine flower?  The bright red bloom also attracts hummingbirds who love to dive into the little white throat of its flower for nectar.

The fern like foliage also draws me to cypress vine or Ipomoea quamoclit.  It is bright green and buoyantly drapes around arbors, poles, columns, pergolas, or anything else you give it to climb. We have grown it in our Demonstration Garden on a trellis in a semi- shaded area.

Cypress Vine Draped At Ann's House With Althea In Background

This annual vine was grown in Virginia gardens in the eighteenth century.  Thomas Jefferson sent seeds to Monticello and it grows in their historic re-creation of Jefferson’s garden today.

Save the seeds of cypress vine when the pods become papery and you can hear the seeds rattle or just let them drop to the ground for a return of this welcome vine.


PS: Leave a comment if you are interested in a gift of cypress vine seeds from Dallas Garden Buzz.  We can mail  for planting next spring as long as our supply of seeds lasts!

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