How to Grow Akebia Chocolate Vine


by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Akebia Chocolate Vine

A super vigorous vine with dangling stalks of fragrant flowers appears in early spring. Blooms are often followed by showy, 4″ purple edible fruit . . .yum! She proliferates up arbors, pergolas, fences, and stunning as a ground cover to retain hills. One of the fastest-growing evergreen vines for mountain gardens.

The five-leaf Akebia vine, or chocolate vine, is a perennial vine that is sometimes vigorous to a fault. The chocolate vine gets its moniker from the rich purplish-brown blooms that smother the vine and from the chocolate scent of the flowers.

The vine produces glossy dark green leaves that are oval-shaped and grow in clusters of five, thus 5 leaf Akebia. The vines produce many dangling flowers with three petals in the spring, sometimes followed by fruits that resemble eggplants late in the summer. Fruits are edible but not palatable. If you choose to harvest the fruit, you may recognize that the Akebia is related to the kiwi, and has tiny black seeds embedded in the pulp.

This plant has no serious pest or disease issues, which is one reason for its reputation as a rampant grower.

Botanical Name – Akebia quinata

Common Name – Chocolate vine, raisin vine, five-leafed Akebia

Plant Type – Evergreen flowering vine

Mature size– 15-30 feet long

Sun Exposure – Full sun, but will tolerate shade

Soil Type – Sandy loam

Bloom Time – Spring

Flower Color – Purple

Hardiness Zones – 4 to 8

Native Areas – China, Japan, Korea; has naturalized in many areas of North America.

How to Grow 5 Leaf Akebia

Plant chocolate vine in spring through fall, in average well-drained soil. Unless you are growing as a ground cover, it will need a sturdy support structure as support. If you wish to grow the fruits, plant at least two vines to increase the chances of pollination and fruiting. This vine grows quickly and can smother out shrubs and other vegetation unless you assertively prune back at regular intervals.

Light

Flowers and fruits are best in full sun, but the vine is very shade tolerant and will grow in woodland settings.

Soil

The ideal soil for growing chocolate vine should be sandy loam with a high percentage of organic matter. The soil needs to have proper drainage. It is recommended to blend a back of Watters Premium Mulch into the soil around each vine.

Water

Provide weekly watering until vines are established, then water during periods of drought so that plants get at least 1 inch of water per week.

Temperature and Humidity

The chocolate vine will do best in temperatures between 55 to 85 degrees F. In the harsh winter weather, it may lose its leaves but will regrow in the spring.

Fertilizer

Feed with Watters 7-4-4 All Purpose Food 3 times per year (March, July, and October) for best blooms and dense foliage that screens and cuts the wind.

Propagating Chocolate Vine

You can propagate the vine through softwood cuttings if you only have one plant. Use cuttings that are at least 6 inches long and from new spring growth. Plant the cuttings in Watters Potting Soil. Place them in a humid, warm spot until cuttings root. If you want to harvest the seeds, do so once the pods are ripe. Plant them in a greenhouse right away.

Pruning

The chocolate vine will climb on supports and scramble up 40-foot embankments. Because of its vigorous growth habit, many gardeners prune the chocolate vine back to ground level in late winter to keep it under control. You can also lightly prune the vine to help it look tidy early in spring.

Landscape Uses

Consider the mature size of chocolate vine when incorporating this plant into your landscape. This isn’t a specimen that daintily clambers up your mailbox. Although the vine doesn’t cling, you can train it up a drain spout or across a privacy fence with the help of some heavy-duty twine or wire. This vine would also be an attractive drape to hide an unsightly chain-link fence. Include this vine in the rural garden, as browsing deer, elk and javelina usually avoid the plant.

Some gardeners appreciate the rampant growth of this vine when used as a groundcover to disguise eyesores like rock piles, tree stumps, or manhole covers, but the delicate flowers tend to get lost in the mass of foliage on the ground.

Varieties of Chocolate Vine

  • Shirobana – Vigorous with white flowers
  • Purple BouquetMost common in the trade, it is desirable for its compact size, growing about half the height of other varieties.
  • Rosea: Flowers are paler than the unnamed species, helping them to stand out against the dark foliage.
  • Variegata: Showy splashes of white on foliage make an attractive backdrop for pink blossoms.

Companion Plants with Akebia Vine for a Stunning Backyard

Arizona Gaillardia

The perfect mountain perennial with huge fiery flowers on a compact plant. She loves the heat and super drought hardy. You can count on this bloomer to show off all summer long in raised beds, containers, or directly in the ground. Javelina and rabbit proof, this bloomer is a ‘must-have.’ Arizona plant.

Easy Elegance Roses

Just plant in a sunny spot and enjoy it! We’ve married the beauty of long stem roses with the Easy-care of shrub roses for landscape color like no other plant in the backyard. Choose fragrant reds, radiant pinks, corals, vivacious yellows, and stately whites. Extremely fragrant and only found locally at Watters.

Indian Hawthorn

The wind is no problem for this evergreen bloomer. Rose, Pink to white flowers cover this spring bloomer that often repeat blooms in fall. The dark blue berries adorn this compact bush that takes the wind and soaks up the sun like a native. Perfect for low maintenance gardening with virtually no pruning ever. Every backyard should have at least one.

Purple Robe Locust Tree

Incredible, long clusters of purple flowers in May that look just like Wisteria flowers hanging from this local bloomer. The 8″ inch fragrant clusters cover the tree profusely! Super hardy and drought tolerant with a brisk growth rate of 2 feet in one year. It’s the perfect summer shade tree.

Prescott Sunshine Geranium

Mountain famous for continual blooms spring through autumn with just a bit of care. The perfect cottage garden flower ideally grown in containers, hanging baskets, or raised beds. Sunshine Geraniums make gardening brighter! Feed twice monthly with Watters ‘Flower Power’ for a riotous bloom all season long.

Mountain famous for continual blooms spring through autumn with just a bit of care. The perfect cottage garden flower ideally grown in containers, hanging baskets, or raised beds. Sunshine Geraniums make gardening brighter! Feed twice monthly with Watters ‘Flower Power’ for a riotous bloom all season long.

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