Botanical Name: Cissus rhombifolia
Grape Ivy is a vigorous, evergreen vine with handsome, glossy compound leaves, each bearing 3 leaflets. Young leaves are fuzzy, giving them a silvery sheen. It's extremely adaptable to indoor conditions and makes an easy house plant.
Pot this vine in a hanging basket to show off its beautiful trailing foliage. Large plants can be trained up a trellis or moss pole. Its sturdy vines will scramble up any support, climbing and clinging with its curling tendrils.
Growing tips are tender and can be pinched off with your fingernails. Regular pinching will keep your grape ivy plant compact and bushy. Don't toss out those stem tips either. You can propagate them for more plants.
Control the plant's size by pruning every spring. Use sharp pruners and always cut at a 45° angle after a leaf node (the place where a leaf attaches to the stem). If a lower stem becomes bare, don't be afraid to cut it back at the soil level; this vigorous houseplant will quickly grow new stems.
Repot in spring every couple years or when roots fill the pot. Use one with drainage holes to prevent soggy soil and root rot. Want to use a planter without holes? Just slip a plain nursery pot into a cachepot (a decorative plant pot without drainage). I put small rocks in the bottom of cachepots to keep the nursery pot above the drainage water.
Don't bury the stems, which leads to stem rot. Keep the plant at the same level it was growing before.
Give it a rest in winter. Grape ivy doesn't go dormant in the winter, but growth slows down with fewer hours of daylight.
One of the common problems with houseplant care is overwatering. Allow soil to dry out a bit between waterings in winter and stop fertilizing until spring.
Indoor humidity can plummet during the winter months without our noticing it. It's a good idea to use a humidity monitor, rather than guess. (See "Humidity" tips below.) Spider mites are attracted to dry conditions; you can help prevent them by using a humidity tray or a cool-mist room humidifier.
Aphids are small green or black insects that are attracted to new growth on this soft-stemmed plant. Rinse them off by spraying with water. Grape ivy is sensitive to pesticides and some types of insecticidal soap or oil; it's a good idea to test any insect spray on one leaf first.
Red spider mites are so tiny, you'll likely only notice the fine webbing between stems. Isolate your plant and cut off any infested leaves and stems. Use a soft cloth to gently clean the undersides of remaining leaves. If your plant is badly infested, get rid of it -- you don't want those destructive critters to destroy your other house plants.
Grape ivy is in the Vitaceae family along with Vitis vinifera -- the much-cultivated vines grown for grapes, wine, and preserves.
Brown leaf tips are likely caused by dry air. Give this tropical native the humidity it craves, especially during the winter months. See "Humidity" tips below.
Dropped leaves may be a symptom of potting mix that's too wet or too dry. Follow the "Water" tips below.
White dusty powder on leaves is powdery mildew. Although this tropical native likes humidity, it also needs plenty of air circulation around it to prevent this fungus. Also, don't overwater.
Is Cissus rhombifolia poisonous? No. It's non-toxic to cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA.
Will it bloom? Unlikely. Plants grown indoors will not usually produce flowers or fruit as they will in their native habitat.
You'll find Cissus rhombifolia for sale in spring and summer in garden centers and some online nursery sites. C.r. 'Ellen Danica' is a popular variety, also called Oak Leaf Ivy for its deeply lobed leaves. 'Mandaiana Compacta' is dwarf and compact, making it easy to train on a small trellis.
Kangaroo Vine (C. antarctica) is an Australian native with single pointed, toothed leaves.
Origin: South America
Height: Size varies with variety. Some plants will climb up to 6 ft (1.8 m) or more with support. You can keep it to 2 ft (60 cm) with pruning.
Light: Bright indirect sunlight. Protect your plant from direct sun, which can cause brown scorch marks on the leaves. Although Grape Ivy is tolerant of lower light levels, it will flourish when it gets bright light.
Water: Water thoroughly during the growing season, allowing the top 1 inch (2.5 cm) of soil to dry between waterings. Water less often in winter, when growth is slower. Shriveled leaves that fall off are a sign the soil is either too wet or too dry.
Humidity: Grape ivies like relative humidity near 40-60%. Brown leaf tips are sometimes caused by dry air. Using a humidity tray can help, but give your ivy plant good air circulation to prevent powdery mildew.
Temperature: Warm in spring and summer (65-80°F/18-27°C). Slightly cooler in fall and winter (55-70°F/13-21°C).
Soil: Peat moss-based potting mix, such as African violet potting mix.
Fertilizer: Feed monthly in spring and summer with a balanced (such as 10-10-10 NPK) water-soluble fertilizer diluted by half.
Propagation: Take 3-4 in (7.5-10 cm) stem tip cuttings in late spring. Strip off the lower leaves and dip cut ends in rooting hormone powder. Then insert cuttings in a 1:1 mixture of moist peat and perlite. Enclose the pot in a plastic bag to maintain humidity. Roots should grow in 6-8 weeks.