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November 2010
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Aristolochia – Aristolochiaceae – a slender, vigorous climber

Aristolochia is a large plant that belongs to the family Aristolochiaceae. This plant is also known as calico flower, birthworts, pipe vines and Dutchman’s pipes. Over 500 species of this plant genus are known. These species have three-lobed calyx. It is a slender, vigorous climber and can grow up to a height of 20 feet. It is an evergreen herbaceous perennial with deciduous woody vines with no stipules. The stem is smooth and erect with little twining. The leaves are alternate and chordate and membranous. It has originated in Brazil.
The leaf axils bear the flowers. The flowers are globose and inflated at the base. From the base, it elongates like a long greenish perianth tube into a bright-colored, broad tongue or bowl shaped lobe. There are 6-40 stamens in one whorl and the calyx has 1-3 whorls. The ovary is 4-6 lobular. The plants have strong aroma and has special pollination mechanism. The flowers attract insects, butterflies because of its strong scent. The perianth tube then traps the insect or flies with its hairs in the tube. The fly that is covered with pollen, is then released. Among the insects are Lepidoptera, butterflies, leaf miners etc.
The fruit is dehiscent capsule with many endospermic seeds. This plant is used as an ornamental plant and decorates a strong trellis or a greenhouse. Ensure a good support or a string to a wall or window to ensure a proper growth of this climber.

Growing conditions of Aristolochia

• The plant needs well-drained soil.
• Keep the soil moist.
• Mix the soil with one part of garden soil with one part of coarse sand and one part of moist humus and light amount of lime.
• Keep the cutting or the seed in the soil. Maintain it under high humidity.
• Always ensure that the soil doesn’t become dry between watering.
• The temperatures needed for growing 50-75°F, 10-24°C.
• Keep the pot in shade or indirect sunlight.
• Since this is a climber, once the plant grows, give it a support.
• Transplant the plant.
• Before splanting, always ensure that no mealy bugs are present on the plant.
• Support the vine with a string.
• Feed it with water soluble fertilizer to ensure good growth.

Caring for Aristolochia

• The plant needs well-drained soil.
• Keep the soil moist.
• Always ensure that the soil doesn’t become dry between watering.
• Every two weeks feed with a water soluble fertilizer, in growing season.
• This plant is prone to mealy bugs, so inspect before planting them.
• Always ensure the support is there and it is strong enough.
• Pinch back the plant to control the growth of the plant.

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