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 was visiting Ford Myers recently and attended the Edison Ford Winter Estate Garden Festival. I could not help but notice two stunningly beautiful Chestnut vines on your stand at the event. I have never seen this plant anywhere before. I was told they make a great indoor plant. I was also told your company ships to all 50 states. I have been looking for something unusual to grow in my office and this may be just the plant! How do I take care of it indoors?
A: If you want to bring a little bit of the tropics into your office, you have chosen the perfect plant. Tetrastigma voinierianum - Chestnut vine - is a long lived perennial plant that will stay green all year long. It is a native of Laos and a member of the grape (Vitaceae) family. This is a truly striking vine with beautiful lush and large leaves. It is a vigorous climber with 8 inch or longer tendrils for climbing purposes. The underside of the leaves has clear pearl-like bumps, which are actually plant secretions that are used by ant colonies when growing in its wild habitat.
If you give this plant plenty of room to grow and just the right amount of water, humidity, and food, it will do beautifully in an office setting. It loves lots of bright, indirect sunlight, but it also likes fluorescent lighting. Take care never to expose it to direct sunlight. In addition, since you certainly maintain a steady temperature of above 65 F in your office, the plant will grow happily.
The right humidity is very important to keep this plant looking good. If the air in your office is very dry, you may need to invest in a humidifier to help this vine thrive.
Water generously during the growing season and sparingly during autumn and winter. Always allow the water to drain from the bottom of the container and let the soil dry out between watering. Never let this plant sit in standing water; inadequate watering may cause leaf drop.
Repot the vine as needed in the spring. Always use a good quality, well-draining potting soil to improve aeration and drainage. We recommend:
Abundance - Top Tropical professional soilless potting mix. This is a professional quality, nursery grade potting mix with perfect drainage characteristics and an ideal mix for any tropical plants.
Be sure to fertilize your chestnut vine during the growing season and monthly during the winter months. Lastly be aware that in the right conditions, this plant will grow vigorous and can fill an entire room. You will need to prune it back periodically to restrain its size and create a bushier plant.
This is a very underutilized plant in the USA, because it's fairly hard to find. We are so happy you've spotted them at the event. Yours will be on its way to Texas soon!