Cissus Antarctica: Kangaroo Vine
This species has been grown for room decoration since the mid-19th century. Though not a suitable plant for modern, centrally-heated homes, it has given so much pleasure that it would be inconsiderate not to include it in this website. It is an extremely undemanding plant tolerating temperatures just above freezing point as well as deep shade and dust. In a warm flat it quickly grows too big, thus losing its lovely characteristic shape. The best place for it, therefore, is a conservatory or a cool hallway.
The other 350 species of the genus, however, provide a wide choice for growing in any conditions. Those who are fond of succulents will appreciate, for example, the beauty of the climbing C. quadran-gularis, found over an area extending from Madagascar through Africa to India; C. cactiformis, practically indistinguishable from a cactus from Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania, and C. juttae from south-west Africa. In the case of all three, cultivation is the same as for stapelias.
Best suited for today’s centrally-heated homes and interior décor is C. discolor from Java, India and Burma. It is a magnificent climber with large, ovate, pointed leaves, coloured bright violet red on the underside and green with silvery marbling above. The stalks are also purple.
In winter, however, free-growing specimens generally do not have enough light nor enough atmospheric moisture and so they often drop their leaves; it is thus best grown in a large plant-case, to which it lends a special magic. Also better grown in a glass plant-case is C. amazonica with small, narrow leaves, similar in colour to C. discolor. Recommended for large rooms, for example trained up a trunk, are C. gongylodes, C. njegerre and C. adenophora.
All these heat- and light-loving cissuses require a fairly moist atmosphere which can be achieved by frequent syringing of the foliage and liberal watering throughout the year. The compost should be peaty with sand and some leaf mould. One of the soilless, peat-based composts would be ideal. Propagation is easy, by means of cuttings inserted in a warm propagator.