snail vine

How To Grow and Care for Snail Vine (Vigna caracalla)

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Plants that offer a certain uniqueness to the landscape bring an additional aesthetic. The snail vine is one of those plants, with its flowers looking like a snail shell or corkscrew. That is not something most landscapes have.

Read on to know more about this magnificent plant and how to incorporate it into a garden.

Botanical Information

The Vigna caracalla, formerly known as Phaseolus caracalla, is the scientific name for the snail vine, also commonly identified as a corkscrew flower or corkscrew vine.

The said vine is a member of the Fabaceae family, which also goes by the name pea family because of the fruits the species under this family produce.

Moreover, Vigna is a genus that caters to most of the economically utilized crops in different parts of the world, such as mungbean, rice bean, and urn bean. Along with this benefit, they also produce beautiful and unique flowers, making them a suitable addition to a garden full of edible plants.

Spatial Distribution

The snail vine flourishes in areas under USDA Zones 9 through 12. It survives in such places because it is a native of tropical South America and it is used to being in a warm climate.

However, it may be planted in colder climates with the help of structures, such as greenhouses, to mimic the suitable growing environment for them. In some places wherein snow during winter is potent, the snail vine is placed indoors to protect them from frost.

Growth Habits

After knowing where the V. caracalla came from, knowing its growth habits is essential to ensuring its good health. It is a perennial plant but may also be grown as an annual crop depending on the climate. As a fast-growing evergreen vine, it spreads vastly for 10 to 20 feet.

Thanks to its ability to cover a chunk of an area in a short time, it serves multiple functions in a garden. In some cases, its bushy appearance is preferred to be more refined and cleaner. In this case, providing structural support for the vine to cling on to is the best thing to do.

Knowing these habits will help one decide what function this vine will execute in a landscape. Moreover, the appearance of the whole plant will play a huge role in determining the purpose. Below are the main plant parts and their characteristics.

Leaves

The snail vine has its foliage arranged alternately on its slender stems. Also, its green leaves are trifoliate, with three leaflets. Each leaflet is either ovate or lanceolate that extends up to 3 inches long.

Flowers

The flowers of the snail vine are the main attractions. From July to October, they will surely steal the show with its attention-grabbing appearance. Commonly, they are light violet to white with a unique form.

Each flower has a twisted petal that resembles a snail’s shell or corkscrew, which is where it got its common name. Along with this note-worthy characteristic, the flowers have a strong scent.

Fruit and Seeds

Ants are the key pollinators for the snail vine. They help them produce fruits after flowering, wherein 5 to 7-inch long bean pods immediately follow. Inside the pods are brown seeds.

snail vine
Vigna caracalla photo by 阿橋 HQ | Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Grow and Care Tips

Sun Requirement

The snail vine loves to be under the full sun but thrives under partial shade too. However, if robust flowering is preferred, but the plant under 6 hours of continuous sun exposure.

Water Requirement

For the plant to prosper, frequent watering in moderate amounts is imperative. The watering program should be altered depending on the weather, wherein an increase in temperature means an increase in watering and vice versa.

Temperature and Humidity

As a tropical plant, the vine can tolerate warm environments, but the lowest temperature it can handle is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil Requirement

The snail vine grows well when planted in soil with good drainage and rich in organic matter. Aside from these characteristics, it is also critical to provide enough room for the plant to grow. Allot 8 to 12 inches for planting distance from other plants and structures.

Fertilizer Requirement

Slow-release granular fertilizer is applied every 2 to 4 months, depending on the plant’s response. Avoid putting nitrogen-rich fertilizers when flowering because it will increase the foliage production rather than the blooms.

Maintenance Activities

Aside from watering, pruning is also an activity to schedule. Depending on the age of the plant, pruning is adjusted accordingly. Removal of dead and damaged plant parts is done whenever necessary, along with trimming parts that exceed their boundaries and disrupt surrounding fixtures and vegetation.

Propagation

There are two main ways to reproduce snail vines, with the use of seeds, and stem cuttings. They are relatively easy to germinate and grow by seed, but using softwood cuttings will take less time for a new plant to grow.

For both planting materials, having well-drained and moist soil under warm and humid conditions is beneficial. Moreover, the use of plant growth regulators, such as auxins or rooting hormones, will hasten the development of a vast root system.

Function In The Landscape

As a beautiful addition to the landscape, the snail vine is incorporated into trellises, hedges, fences, and privacy screens. Its vast growth helps it cover more area in a short period, which results in a dense screen or shade.

Also, it makes a good climbing plant for vertical landscaping and green walls. Some plant them in pots with some support, such as stakes. Moreover, liriope, viburnum, and hydrangea plants are good companions for the snail vine in a garden.

As mentioned above, the vine is grown indoors when it is too cold. Furthermore, it can be an indoor plant regardless of the climatic conditions outside as long as it is placed near a window or a grow lamp is provided.

Aside from being a beautiful ornamental plant, the vine also serves as a nitrogen-fixing plant. This attribute means that this vine has a symbiotic relationship with a rhizobacterium, which helps convert the nitrogen in the air into a form plants can use.

Potential Harm

Regardless of how beautiful the snail vine may be, there are still potential dangers it may cause if left unruled. Since it is an aggressively growing vine, not pruning and training would let the vine crawl everywhere.

This habit might cause ecological disruption in a landscape by killing other plants. This potential harm is the reason why ecological responsibility comes along with the aesthetics the snail vine offers.


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