Next time you take a jaunt to Mexico or Central America, you’ll likely see a prolific amount of P. volubilis growing up trees, along fences or gracing a gated entrance.
This extraordinary woody vine produces wisteria-like racemes that can grow up to 1 foot long, which are covered in purple star-shaped flowers from early spring through early summer. The showy parts of each flower are the five narrow petal-like calyx lobes which persist long after the darker purple corollas drop. There’s also a white-flowered variety called ‘Albiflora.’ Its tough ovate leaves feel like sandpaper, hence one of its common names — sandpaper vine.
But fear not, it’s not exclusive to our neighbors to the south. It’s cultivated in tropical regions for outdoor ornamental use, and found in temperate regions where it can be overwintered indoors.
In its native habitat, this plant can grow rapidly to 25-40 feet, but in cultivation is more often seen as a much smaller vine that grows 6-12 feet, or trained as an espalier or standard. It grows best in partial to full sun, and it typically needs some sort of trellis for support.
It doesn’t have any major pest or disease problems, although mold is sometimes a problem.
Why grow Petrea volubilis?
- The flower clusters are marvelous.
- It’s not widely available, creating a must-have type marketing campaign.
- This vine in a large container would command a big price tag at retail.
- It attracts hummingbirds and bees.