Here's everything you need to know about the coral vine plant, what it looks like, their growing conditions, and how they are used. We've also included some tips on how to propagate these vigorous perennial climbers that are a gorgeous addition to your own garden.
Plants tend to have a multitude of nicknames for the different places that they live in, and antigonon leptopus no exception to that rule. Depending on where you live and who you ask, you may hear it under the name of coralita, Mexican creeper, Mexican coral vine, bee bush, San Miguelito vine, chain of love, queen’s wreath vine, Tallahassee vine, Honolulu creeper, or desert bleeding heart.
This is a species of flowering plant that is native to Mexico. This perennial is part of the buckwheat family (polygonaceae), and it is also closely related to the bleeding hearts plant. You can tell by their similarity of growth pattern and unique bright pink flowers.
If vining plants with pink and white flowers don’t do it for ya, head on over to our List of Amazing Flowering Plants where you will surely find the right fit for your indoor or outdoor green space.
What do Coral Vines Look Like?
Coral vine flowers are borne in showy panicles or clusters that emerge from the main leaf axils. White flowers or pink flowers (sometimes dark rose) emerge from long flower stalks and bloom from early spring or late spring well into late summer or early fall.
Coral vine flowers release large amounts of tiny seeds that are dispersed by wind, water, and through the excrement of various animal species like pigs, raccoons, and birds.
One of the more charming aspects of the coral vine plant is its leaves. Each leaf is cordate in shape (heart shaped) or sometimes more triangularly shaped.
Leaves are a deep green color with crinkled edges and each heart shaped leaf is coated in reticulated veins. This gives the leaf a wrinkled appearance. Leaves are usually about 3 inches in length.
Coral vines are a very fast growing climbing vine that takes hold of a surface using tendrils. This vigorous climber can grow to be over 7 metres in height, and can achieve 2-3 metres of growth in a single season.
These plants have stems that grow rather close together as well, creating dense shade when they are grown on a trellis or arbor.
Under the soil, coral vines are growing from underground tubers which are large bulbous rootstocks. These underground tubers are filled with starch and other nutrients that the plant needs, enabling it to survive very harsh conditions.
Is Coral Vine an Invasive Species?
As previously mentioned in the previous section, coral vines are able to reproduce both through their tubers and by seed production.
A root tuber make for a very resilient plant, as the main source of nutrients and water is not easily affected by climate or environmental changes. This resilience is a large part of why this is considered an invasive plant.
Coral vine seed also spreads very easily by wind, water, and through dispersal of animal fecal matter. Coral vine patches are able to pop up far and wide, and their growth pattern can smother other plant species.
Coral vines are considered as a category 2 invasive exotic species by Florida’s Pest Plant Council. In places where they are not native to, like the extreme southern United States and certain Caribbean Islands, the local ecosystem has not yet been able to adapt to its presence.
How do you Grow a Coral Vine Plant?
Now that we know what we know about coral vines being an invasive species, it is important to check the safety risks of incorporating this plant onto your property. If all is well, following these simple steps will get you some beautifully shaped leaves and enchanting flowers growing on vines in no time!
This vigorous perennial climber can be propagated by seed, or by dividing a mature plant. These are vigorous growers, and seedlings to do not need to started indoors in order for them to succeed.
Sprinkle coral vine seed in an area of your garden where they have something vertical to latch onto. This way the likelihood of them strangling other plants is less likely, and their growth pattern will be more attractive.
This area should receive full sunlight or partial shade, and seedlings should be watered regularly during this stage of life. Once they are well established they are very drought tolerant and requires very occasional watering.
Where do Coral Vines Grow Naturally?
Coral vines are a native plant to Mexico, though they have expanded their growing range throughout the world. They now ground in southern United States, all over central and south America, northern Australia, Samoa, Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, the Galapogos, Guam, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.
These plants grow in USDA zone 9 through 11. They are able to survive in zones more chilly than 8, though they simply die off in the winter and regrow in the spring. They can be found growing along fences and in yards, and in the wild they commonly grow in marshy zones, disturbed soils, and in pinewoods.
What are the Growing Conditions of Coral Vines?
Coral vines can tolerate a great range of soil types with the main requirement being that is is well drained. Soil can be acidic, neutral, or alkaline. They can exist in rich soil or poor soil, so long as it is well drained.
This fast growing vine performs best in full sunlight to partial shade conditions. The rule of thumb is that it should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.
When coral vine plants are young, they prefer to receive moderate amounts of water. Once a plant is well established it is very drought tolerant, and can usually survive off of the natural precipitation of the area.
Coral vines grow in USDA hardiness zones 9 through 11, making them rather intolerant to cold temperatures. This is indicated by their natural tropical growing regions.
Though coral vines do not need fertilizer in order to thrive or flower, they do respond well to it regardless. Provide a general purpose fertilizer once a week during their growing season if the plant is performing poorly, or if you’re looking to extend its blooming season.
Pruning your coral vine plant is very important. Since they are such vigorous growers, going without pruning for a while can result in a very unruly plant that can accidentally strangle and smother other plants!
Pruning should be done in either the late winter or early spring. Prune more than you think is necessary. Otherwise, it can also be pruned throughout the year to keep it manicured.
If you’re looking to be as low maintenance as possible, simply shear it down to the ground in the spring time. It can handle serious pruning, and it will sprout back in no time at all. This should keep it manageable for the whole year.
The main thing to remember about coral vines is that they don’t like cold. Other than that, they are nearly impossible to get rid of or damage – hence why they are considered an invasive species!
How is a Coral Vine Plant Used?
Coral vines have beautiful foliage and delicate flowers, making them a precious ornamental option. They are used most popularly grown along a trellis, arbor or stone wall as their growth habit easily covers them with vines. Vine stems coated with white and pink flower pockets bring enchantment to any green space. Not to mention, these flowering plants are great attractors for pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees!
The earliest records of culinary utilization of the coral vine comes from the aborigines of Baja, California. Both in tradition and in modernity, coral vine seed has been used for consumption.
The way that these seeds are prepared is slightly reminiscent of cooking popcorn over a campfire. They are placed over a flat basket made from strips of twigs which is then place over hot coals. This toasts the seeds which then burst open to reveal white meat.
These popped seeds can either be eaten as is, or they are then ground into a flour-like substance. This can be made into cakes!
The leaves are flowers of coral vines are said to have both antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties that help relieve symptoms of cold and flu. The foliage is commonly made into tea or tincture.