Adenia (2004)

PhotoBy Pam Schnebelen (November 2004)

Members of the passion flower family (Passiflora), most Adenias are vines from Africa, Madagascar and Asia. The most collectible of these are the “fat plants” – caudiciforms with swollen stems that taper rapidly as they climb up into the trees and shrubs that hide and protect them.

Most adenias have an attractive, smooth green skin with a barklike ring just above the soil level. Most are winter-deciduous, losing their leaves during a dry, warm dormancy. If kept in the house, though, some plants will continue growing all year long.

Adenias enjoy large pots or free root runs. During the heat of summer, they should be watered daily.

Unlike their passion flower cousins, adenia flowers are small – white to pale yellow – but can make profuse displays. The plants are unisexual; you will need a male plant and a female plant to produce seeds. Alas, cuttings of most species do not produce good-looking caudices.

Leaves can take many shapes, from small and ovoid to large and “snow-flaked.” Two species have naturally variegated leaves, Adenia aculeata and A. perrieri. These plants have toxic sap, so be sure to wash well after pruning them.

This was a difficult summer for the adenias in my collection. With August nights dipping into the 40s and a lot of gray, wet days, I did not see the rapid growth that I have come to expect from them.