Aristolochia - Calico Flower, Dutchman's Pipe, Dutchmen's Pipe, Pelican Flower, Virginia Snakeroot
DESCRIPTION: This group consists of hardy and tender, evergreen and deciduous shrubs, climbing plants, and herbaceous plants, which are mainly from warmer climates. The hardy kinds grow wild in California and other areas in the south. Those that are from Brazil, Guatemala, West Africa and other tropical countries can be cultivated in a greenhouse. Some have huge flowers and some are grown for their ornamental foliage. Some of these plants give off a rather foul odor as a way to attract the insects needed for pollination. They have fairly heart-shaped leaves and interesting, unusually shaped flowers. The three varieties following are tender kinds. A. grandiflora Sturtevantii (Pelican Flower) produces purplish-white flowers that grow 18 inches in diameter and have a 3-foot long tail. A. elegans (Calico Flower) produces yellow and purple flowers that are 3 inches wide. A. argyroneura is a pretty tropical plant grown for its decorative, heart-shaped, green leaves that are veined with white. A. macrophylla (Dutchmen's Pipe) is a hardy, climbing plant that reaches a height of up to 28 feet. It has heart- to kidney-shaped leaves that grow up to a foot long. They grow flat and overlap like shingles, making a dense screen. The tubular-shaped flowers are bent in the lower half like a calabash pipe. They grow in pairs, are 1 to 1½ inches long, and yellowish-green with a flaring, brownish-purple mouth.
POTTING: The hardy kinds will thrive in regular soil and can be planted in early fall or spring. A. macrophylla (Dutchman's Pipe) can be planted at the base of a pergola or arch, or near a large tree so that its shoots can climb among the branches for support. A. Clematitis can be planted in a shady border. The tender kinds grow best in a bed of prepared soil or in tubs in a greenhouse having a minimum winter temperature of 55-60 degrees. They must have excellent drainage. The best soil mixture consists of one part turfy loam, one part leaf mold and one part well-decayed manure. Sand should also be mixed in. Planting should be done in February or March. Wires should be attached to the roof to support the twining stems. They need a lot of water during the summer when they are growing, but little is required from October to March when they are resting. Pruning should be done in March and that consists of thinning out the shoots to prevent overcrowding and cutting off stragglers.
PROPAGATION: Cuttings can be set in sandy soil in a cold frame in August. The branches may be cut back if the plant is too large in March.
VARIETIES: Hardy kinds - A. macrophylla (Dutchman's-Pipe); A .tomentosa; A. Clematitis; A. Serpentaria (the Virginia Snakeroot).
Tender kinds - A. grandiflora Sturtevantii (the Pelican Flower); A. elegans (the Calico Flower); A. californica; A. argyroneura.
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