The jade  vine is native to the Philippines but grows well in Australia.
The jade vine is native to the Philippines but grows well in Australia. joloei

Jade vine gives garden tropical touch

LATE summer is generally the best time to get hold of the really exciting tropical plants in a garden centre, and this year we have two wonderful, rare, climbing plants to enjoy.

Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) is rare in cultivation here in Australia, but a couple of excellent nurseries are propagating it. So, if you have an independent garden centre nearby, you might be lucky enough to find one. It grows naturally in the rainforests of the Philippines, but it has become endangered there with the destruction of its natural habitat. This is a spectacular flowering vine which produces huge bunches of turquoise or jade-coloured flowers that hang up to 1m long. Some descriptions say that these bunches can be up to 3 metres, and contain hundreds of flowers.

The colour is unlike any other flower I have seen. Because of the way the flowers hang, it is best grown on a pergola or similar tall structure so you can appreciate the blooms.

In the forests, the jade vine climbs up trees towards the sun and spreads out across the canopy, with the roots remaining in the cooler understorey. It is pollinated by bats, and rarely sets seed in cultivation. It was grown for many years in Kew Gardens without setting seed, but, in 1995, scientists successfully hand-pollinated flowers and seeds did develop.

Plant one in a warm, sunny position with a strong support and be prepared to be astounded when it blooms.

Another beautiful and unusual climbing plant to look for now is the cardinal creeper (Ipomea horsfalliae). It is native to South America and the Caribbean, and grows well here.

This one has glossy, dark green foliage, and clusters of gorgeous ruby red/crimson flowers from summer to winter.

The buds are lovely, too, reminding me of dark, almost black, berries before they open. Although difficult to propagate, this is a vine that is easy to grow in a sunny position. It develops a tuberous root system, so is best in the ground.

If you want to keep it in a pot, I would recommend something quite large.

Cardinal creeper will grow in full sun or semi-shade, and looks superb when trained over a fence or up a post. The flowers don't form long, pendulous bunches like those of the jade vine, but they are a stunning colour.

These two plants are worth seeking out if you are looking for something out-of-the-ordinary for your garden.

Got a gardening question? Email maree@edenatbyron.com.au


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