An attractive ivy resembling grapevines (hence the common name “grape ivy”), once very popular, today kind of forgotten. Cissus rhombifolia – an ideal plant for less bright rooms, which can hang down, climb up or expand horizontally. It is time to renew interest in it.
The grape ivy is quite an easy plant to grow, which will be able to tolerate a great deal of neglect. It is enough for you to meet its basic needs and it will grow perfectly.
As I have already mentioned many times on this blog – there are no plants that do not need light and which can develop well in a dark place. Cissus rhombifolia is a bit of an exception in this respect that it is able to survive and grow in darker places than most house plants. Of all my potted flowers (and I have grown more than 40 species) it is precisely the grape ivy which has been the most resistant to weak lighting conditions.
Of course, this does not mean that it can grow in complete darkness. When I say “weak lighting conditions” I mean e.g. a max of 3 m distance from an averagely well lit window. Such a place should prove to be sufficient enough for the cissus rhombifolia, although it will grow much better in brighter places.
Water your Cissus rhombifolia “Grape Ivy” only when the soil in the pot dries out, not before. Because, as with most house plants, it is an overabundance of water rather than a shortage of water that is the most dangerous for the grape ivy. Too wet a substratum over a longer period of time can cause the roots to rot and plant to die. It is particularly easy for this to happen in winter when the days are shorter and the plant grows more slowly and uses less water.
Of course, you should not lurch from one extreme to the other – leaving “grape ivy” for too long in dry soil, especially in summer, will cause growth to stop and the leaves to dry out. The rule of thumb is as follows: “the soil is getting dry – water the plant”.
The grape ivy sheds its leaves at the bottom after some time. This is a completely normal phenomenon, provided it is not sudden. The lose of the lower leaves takes place slowly, let’s say, a few leaves every six months. If the branches become noticeably bare, you can cut them at a height of 20-30 cm from the substratum. After some time they will start to grow back.
Dry air is not a big problem to cissus rhombifolia although it prefers humidity, so it is a good idea to sprinkle it with water from time to time. Thanks to that the plant will do better and, in addition, its leaves will be less dusty.
You can fertilize rhoicissus with a liquid fertilizer for green plants every 2-3 weeks in its period of fast growth (spring, summer). You do not, however, have to fertilize it if it grows in rich soil or in a darker place where growth is usually slower.
Pruning and repotting
If you want your cissus to branch out nicely and its form to be dense then pinch off the growing tips every spring.
Cissus rhombifolia does not need frequent repotting, because its roots fill up the pot slowly. I myself take the plant out of its pot every spring to check if it has filled the pot it is growing in. If so, I repot it to a pot which is wider by 2-4 cm (1-1.5in).
Infections / pests
It has never happened that any of my grape ivies have been infested by bugs. However, I have come across an opinion that cissus rhombifolia can become a target of the scale insect, mealybug or spider mite when grown in bad conditions. In a situation like that, take the same steps as in the case of other plants – buy the proper treatment and sprinkle the flower with it. A photo of the infected plant can greatly help the gardening centre shop assistant to pick a suitable product.
Here I will come back to what I wrote a few lines earlier – overwatering the plant can cause the roots to rot and, as a consequence, the plant to die.
The grape ivy can easily be propagated with cuttings of the branch tops. Cut a tip of the shoot with 4-6 leaves and place it in soil.
You will find a lot of general information about the care of potted flowers in the post “The basics of house plant care”.
Cissus rhombifolia is an ivy with small rhombus shaped dark green leaves about 5 cm (2 in) long. It is a plant that climbs nicely, so it is worth fastening it to bamboo canes or a trellis. In the latter case it can serve as a room partition. The grape ivy will also look great if allowed to hang from a basket.
The cultivar ‘Ellen danica’ has characteristic deeply lobed leaves, resembling the leaves of the oak, hence its common name “oakleaf ivy”. David Longman, the author of the book “The care of house plants” writes that this cultivar is a bit more difficult to grow; in particular it is more sensitive to overwatering. Unfortunately, I have had no possibility to test this for myself.