GROWING RHOICISSUS

7 deg C/45 deg F

There are about 12 species in this genus of South African climbers, two of which make useful houseplants for shady places in the home. R. rhomboidea, sometimes wrongly named Cissus rhombifolia, and popularly called grape ivy. has shiny, dark green foliage composed of three diamond-shaped irregular-edged leaflets. In the young stage, the leaves and shoots are covered with brownish hairs. The plant will reach at least 1.5m (5ft) if allowed, and when grown as a houseplant clings to supports by means of tendrils. The form ‘Jubilee’ has larger foliage and is even more vigorous, and is especially suitable for entrance halls and stair-wells. The cultivar ‘Ellen Danica’ has more distinctly serrated leaf margins.

R. capensis, sometimes called Cissus cap-ensis, Cape grape, is of similar habit, but the foliage is singular, somewhat ivy-like but with less well defined lobes, and deep, shiny green. Both species can be kept to a reasonable height by cutting back drastically in spring. Young plants should have the growing lips removed to encourage plenty of basal shoots and discourage excessive height. The plants grow easily in any good potting compost and. although happy in shade, should not be given gloomy positions. In summer, water freely and give overhead sprays with water. In winter, keep only slightly moist. Large plants may need potting-on into 25cm (10in) pots. and will then need bamboo canes or some other substantial support. In porches. the stems can be trained up wires. This genus is closely related to the genus Cissus. but can be distinguished by its simple tendrils. In cissus they are forked. Rhoicissus is also rather more tender than cissus and the recommended minimum winter temperature should be observed.

Pests and diseases are uncommon, but a watch should be kept for aphids and whitefly. Propagate by taking cuttings of lateral shoots in late spring, or use segments of main stems removed during pruning, allowing two leaf nodes.

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