A Gardening Journal

The Best Season Ever: Bat-Wing Passion Vine

Passion vines are rightly renowned for their flowers, which are typically as large & colorful as they are complex & numerous. Their impact easily matches the display of any climbing rose and—far better than those once-&-done-in-June shrubs—continues as long as the hot weather does. It's a sophisticated thrill in reverse, then, to grow bat-wing passion vine, because its little green flowers can be difficult to locate even when full-on.

 

But, oh, the foliage!

 

Passiflora coriacea leaf fingers 082917 640

 

Up to a foot wide but only inches long, each bizarre leaf of Passiflora coriacea doesn't really remind me of its namesake batwing. The vague likeness is as much due to our ignorantly fearful response to bats in general—thank you Dracula—than to any actual resemblance.

 

But I'm all there that these leaves are truly creepy. What if Odd Job had had a change of heart and become a green assassin? Could he have thrown one of these instead of his hat? Bat-wing foliage seems too willfully strange to function merely for photosynthesis. Surely, depraved cognoscenti know a dangerous and possibly erotic use for it. I plan to grow the vine annually.

 

This was my innaugural season with ths species. Late in May, I planted three youngsters in a ten-gallon black nursery pot. I pounded a ten-foot section of rebar down through the pot's center hole into the ground, so this rampant grower would enjoy ascending something that was both high and stable, no matter what storms the summer would bring. This vine's eccentric visuals certainly telegraphed: Something Is Up.

 

Passiflora coriacea overall 101717 640

 

By late October, truckloads of tender plants have been returned to the greenhouse, leaving the bat-wing pole more and more isolated. Notice the stem eagerly springing from the top of the pole. That's nine feet high. Given enough soil and a long enough growing season, bat-wing seems capable of growing fifteen feet or more.

 

Passiflora coriacea top stem still elongating 101717 640 

 

In 2018, I'll graduate this species from a mere single-poled nursery pot to one of my much larger galvanized raised beds for high-climbing tender vines. Two of them host permanent rebar tripods that are fourteen feet high; a third way out in the vista past the reflecting pool has a tripod that is twenty. Whatever and how much bat-wing can do for me, I'll be ready.

 

Now, to the flowers. Clearly, they are anatomically correct, which, for a passion vine, is saying a lot.

 

Passiflora coriacea flower 091617 640

 

But not only are they sparse, they're only of finger-tip diameter, and are dressed in pale green. 

 

Passiflora coriacea fingertips flower cropped 091617 640

 

Over some weeks, I needed to check out the vines regularly, and in furrowed-brow concentration, to come upon even one that wasn't still in bud or, just as maddeningly, already done. Fine: now that I have these pictures, I don't ever again need to give a fig whether or not my bat-wing is in bloom.

 

Because my greenhouse has room, this week I'll cut the vines off at two feet, check that no tendrils are still coiling around the rebar pole, and then lift it free of the pot. Then, I'll move the colony into shelter. This source lists a hardiness of Zones 9 - 11, which means that Passiflora coriacea can tolerate cool temperatures and even mild frosts. Even so, six months in any greenhouse that is heated only to fifty degree Fahrenheit (meaning that the temperature may well drop to fifty each night for weeks and weeks, even though solar gain through the day could raised the temperature to the seventies and even eighties) might be too much of a challenge.

 

If my specimen lasts until spring and also has resprouted vigorously, I'll replant it outside for the summer. If not, I'll purchase plants again from the always-astounding Landcraft Environments. BTW, don't miss their coverage in Gardens Illustrated's October 2017 issue.

 

Either way, in 2018 expect a full post on this singular species. 

 

 

Here's how to grow Passiflora incarnata, one of the rare passion vines that are hardy in Zone 6. Its three-inch lavender & white flowers are classic.

 

Here's how to grow the hardiest passion vine, Passiflora lutea. Its foliage is unusual, & its hardiness—to coastal Maine!—is unique in the genus. I wouldn't be without it, & recommend it to clients frequently.

 

Here's another of the rambunctious tender-in-New-England vines I've taken to growing up a fourteen-foot tripod each summer: the white-flowered form of cup-&-saucer vine, Cobaea scandens.

 

 
 
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