HOW TO GROW CISSUS

There are two species of cissus sold as houseplants. They are quite different in appearance and requirement. The very easy and popular species is C. ahtarctica, an Australian climber commonly called kangaroo vine. Its foliage is oval and pointed, with toothed margins. It grows vigorously, requiring a minimum winter temperature of 7 deg C (45 deg F). It is very useful for decorating the sides of picture-windows, patio doors and stair-wells. where a plant providing pleasant greenery to a fair height is required. It can grow to over 2m (7ft) if potted in 20cm (8in) pots, but kept shorter and compact by pruning and cutting back as necessary. For large specimens, the plant is usually best trained up canes. Water the plant freely in summer, but only sufficiently to keep the roots slightly moist in winter. Possible pests include aphids. whitefly. and red spider mite. The other species of importance as a houseplant is C. discolor, the begonia vine. However, it demands a minimum temperature of 16 deg C (61 deg F) If it is to retain its outstandingly beautiful foliage in winter. The leaves are remarkably like those of the foliage begonias, and have

shades of green with silvery markings and a variety of colours such as red. purple, pink, cream and white. depending on the age of the leaf and intensity of light. It is classed as a climber, although nearly always it is better grown as a trailer in a hanging-basket.

Given enough warmth, coupled with humidity, it will trail down for a considerable distance.

It is native to the Hast Indies, and if conditions are too cool it will lose its foliage in winter. If then kept dry. it may recover with the return of warmer, spring conditions. In summer, it can be watered freely.

Both the cissus species described here will shed their leaves if the air becomes too dry. but in the case of C. discolor it is usually quite difficult to avoid losing foliage during the winter. Even in centrally-heated homes, with humidifi-cation. there may well be deterioration. However, it is such a beautiful subject that it is well worth growing. A position in good light, but out of direct sunshine, develops the best leaf colours. The chief problem is inability to maintain adequate warmth and humidity. when deterioration and leaf shedding are inevitable.

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