Aristolochia elegans: Calico Plant
Climbers include many plants with attractive, but few with such striking ones as those of the calico plant. These are curious to say the least, with their bent tubes expanding to a cup shape, often fringed on the margin. In many species, the flowers are borne on drooping branches. They are pollinated by insects, which are often captured in the bent corolla tube and ‘released’ only after pollination.
The genus is so large that it offers a truly wide selection. According to some authorities it embraces 300 species, according to others 500, mostly native to the tropics. Aristolochia clematitis and A. durior, with huge leaves, often used to cover fences and arbours in the garden, are two well-known examples showing the many uses to which these plants can be put.
Those who have a warm and sunny flat, however, will probably choose one of the tropical species. The A. elegans from Brazil is the most suitable. It has dense foliage and flowers reliably even as a young specimen, be it raised from cuttings or from seed. The flowers are up to 12 cm (4-3/4 in ) long and 10 cm (4 in) across. It stands up very well to springso that it can easily be kept within reasonable bounds. Those who have plenty of space can also grow other species, for example A. grandiflora from the Antilles and Guatemala with flowers 30 x 35 cm (12 x 14 in) and a thread-like appendage up to 60 cm (2 ft) long. The flowers are col-oured lilac with brownish-red markings. This plant, however, is much too large for the ordinary home, even though it does quite well. More suitable as a house plant is the small A. odoratissima from Mexico with flowers only about 7 cm (2-3/ 4 in) long and coloured mostly yellow, with a reddish brown cup.
The last-mentioned species should be grown in full sun, those with huge flowers in a lightly shaded position. The growing medium should be a peat and sand mixture plus loam. John Innes potting compost No. 2 is ideal. Water liberally and feed the plants often, for they need a rich diet. They are readily propagated by means of cuttings or seeds in a warm propagator.