by Onika Amell
About the Author
Onika Amell was born in farmer's family in Cape Town, South Africa, and always had a keen interest in gardening. She has been a globe-trotter for many years, traveling along with her husband, an engineer, and her life is worth a novel. In Cape Town she worked in groups “Soil for Life and Work for Love”, teaching people how to grow their own food, improve their health, and protect the environment. Onika lived in Galilee, Israel, skydiving over 500 jumps and working on the fields planting, harvesting and caring for various crops (Lychee, Avocado, Bananas, etc), helping out in community gardens... In SE Asia, she taught English at business centers... Upon finally settling in SW Florida, she joined the ECHO Global Farms project on teaching farmers/families around the world about effective crop production... Now as a part of Top Tropicals Team, Onika is our plant expert and a columnist. Onika's biggest passions are plants and... of course – cats, who are her children! She has six of them: Itembi, Freddie Mercury, Donald Trump (he is the difficult one), Tigerlilly, Sweetie, and Jaxson.
Q: I simply adore Jade vines. I think they are the Queens of all the vines! I have been very been successful growing the green Strongylodon macrobotrys and purple Jade Mucuna pruriens vines here in Clewiston Florida but I am struggling to make the Red Jade vine (Mucuna benettii) thrive. It keeps dying on me during cold snaps. Any suggestions?
A: We totally agree that Jade vines are indeed the Queen of all the vines. And who does not love enormous clusters of red blooms gently swaying from a pergola or arbor?
Here is our solution for you. Consider growing a Dwarf Red Jade Vine or Camptosema grandiflora. It is closely related to the regular and ultra tropical Red Jade Vine Mucuna benettii but much tougher and hardier. It is considered to be one of the more cold hardy of the Jade Vines. It is also known as Cuitelo or Crista De Galo (Roosters Crest).
This stunning vine is a native of Brazil where it grows at 1500 to 3000 ft elevation and hence the reason it will tolerate some frost and are also pretty drought tolerant. It is known to withstand temperatures down to about 28F for short periods with little or no damage.
This gorgeous, rare and unusual vine is a sheer showstopper. It is easy to grow and it will reward you with long fiery chains of dangling orange-red flowers that bloom from late fall to early spring. Even though it is listed as a dwarf do not be fooled. This vine will get quite large and will need a strong support over time. The flowers are long and heavy and will show best when planted on an arbor or pergola where they are able to hang down and wow you and your visitors. It puts on a wonderful display. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds will all thank you for growing this stunner!
It is a super speedy grower and will start blooming in the second year after it has been planted. It is semi-shade tolerant, but will prefer a lot of sunlight with adequate watering and fertilizer for the best flowering.
Water as needed to keep the plant moist, but be careful not to water log this vine as it is prone to root rot in soggy soil. It is always best to water when the soil feels slightly dry.
Prune your Dwarf Red Jade vine after it has bloomed and always remember to replenish your mulch as needed to keep those roots nice and cool.
It is also possible to grow this beauty in a pot, but be sure find the largest pot you can find and give it an adequate support.