Russian vine – Polygonum baldschuanicum

Polygonum baldschuanicum, or Russian vine, is about the fastest-growing climber in captivity. It can put on 4.9m (16ft) in a season, and cover a small house in a couple of summers.

Most polygonums are herbaceous plants but one, Polygonum baldschuanicum, is a very vigorous climber capable of ascending to the top of a tall tree or completely covering a sizeable outbuilding with its twining stems which erupt into foaming cascades of creamy-white or pinkish-white blossom in late summer and early autumn It will grow in most soils in sun or semi-shade and is very useful for quick cover of an unsightly building, though it loses its effectiveness as a screen in winter as it is deciduous. If it strays too far, as it often does, it can be cut back in winter.

The problem is keeping it in captivity, since it is rampant and invasive, getting into wall cavities and roof spaces unless kept in strict control, and it will climb easily to 12m (40 ft) or more.

It is a deciduous, twining climber, producing masses of long panicles of pale pink or white flowers from June to September. P. aubertii, which has smaller, white flowers is very similar to P. baldschuanicum, and is often sold under that name – in fact, most of the Russian vines growing in this country are P. aubertii. It will tolerate any soil, even chalk, and any site. P. multtflorum is a similar species, but much less vigorous, growing only to 3.6m (12 ft). It is also less hardy, and likes a Russian vine - Polygonum baldschuanicumsheltered sunny site.

General care: Plant in March. Some care of the young plant is needed, including twiggy support to start it climbing, and pinching out the leading shoots to encourage side growth, but once it is established all the Russian vine needs is controlling. P. multi-forum should be planted in a pocket of good soil.

Propagation: Take semi-hardwood cuttings in August and root them in a 50-50 mixture of sand and peat.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble-free, although aphids may attack the young shoots and should be sprayed with malathion.

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