Stephanotis is a fabulous fragrant vine. Both blooms and leafage are magnificent. Where the climate permits, it’s the perfect flower vine to train up a lattice or trellis! Here arethe steps to make this happen.
This is one of the most fragrant summer bloomers. Training your Madagascar jasmine along an arbor near a passage will let all your visitors feel giddy with the beautiful scent!
Height – 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters), as long as the weather is suitable (over 55°F or 13°C)
- It’s not very good at latching itself to anything large. You must weave it in and out of the structure at the beginning.
Let’s get started on how to train a Stephanotis vine along a wall or arbor.
- How to grow a Stephanotis plant
- Pruning Stephanotis (both in pots and along a structure)
- More on Madagascar jasmine
Spacing and guides on the wall
If you’re aiming to cover an entire wall with this wonderful vine, it’s perfectly possible. Your best option is to create a grid with 1-foot (30 cm) vertical intervals. It’s also helpful to include horizontal lines as well, but it isn’t mandatory.
For arbors and arches, it’s better to reduce the space between lines to ½ foot (15 cm). This makes it easier to weave the plant in and out of the structure.
Materials for the lattice
- Ideal would be specially-designed sets of stainless steel stranded wires that connect to strong lugs fastened to the wall.
- See the picture at right (above on mobiles) to see what these look like.
It’s also good to make a self-supporting lattice, but you must consider the following:
- Stephanotis will have trouble twining around the structure if the trusses are thicker than an inch across.
- Prepare a sturdy structure with a rot-resistant wood (black locust is a great local option), and nail or screw thinner trusses to the structure.
- Examples of materials you can use are 1 inch slats of wood (2-3 cm), stainless steel wire (twisted strands), or thick nylon strings (2-3 mm or roughly 100 mils).
- Copper wires, though excellent to repel slugs, aren’t ideal for trellis and lattice. Indeed, the protective blue-green coating that forms to protect it against rust is constantly brushed away as wind rustles the plant. In only a few years’ time, such a wire would wear out.
- Copper tubes, on the other hand, are ideal when properly welded or fastened together.
Think strong: when fully grown and loaded with leaves, your Stephanotis can easily reach a hundred pounds (50 kg) or more in weight. Fasteners should be adequately installed in holes drilled into the wall.
Attach the plant to the lattice
After having set up your lattice, you can prepare the soil for the root ball.
- Best is soil that retains water, but still drains well. Clay is fine, as long as water doesn’t collect at the foot of the plant.
- The more soil, the larger and healthier the plant. For a plant to grow 10 feet high (2-3 meters), it’ll need at least 4-6 cubic feet of good soil (half a cubic meter), with drainage gravel layered at the bottom.
- Prepare a half-half mix of potting mix and garden soil: this will suit your stephanotis fine and usually provides both enough drainage and water retention.
Plant your stephanotis
- Dig a hole at least twice as large as the root clump at the foot of the lattice. Add the layer of drainage, and then pile a small mound of soil mix and garden soil mixed together. You can add a couple handfuls of ripe compost into the mix.
- Place the root clump on the center of the mound. The stem should stand 4-6 inches away from the trellis (10-15 cm).
- The collar should be slightly higher than the soil level surrounding the hole (2 inches or 5 cm is fine).
- Tease roots out from the root ball if they’re already running around in circles. Spread these out along the bottom of the hole.
- Backfill and spread mulch around the base of the plant.
Tethering the plant
Stephanotis is a twining vine. It twists around twigs and stems like a snake. It doesn’t produce tendrils (such as the ones squash or passion fruit might have), nor does it have the sticky rooting hairs that ivy has.
At the beginning, you have to attach it to the lattice. As the vine grows, weave it around and around the slats, wires or strings. It’ll naturally follow thinner strings, but if the slats are too wide you’ll have to adjust growth yourself.
Best is to tie the plant loosely with a biodegradable string such as hemp or raffia. By the time it falls off, the plant will have already moved on. That way there’s no risk of choking the plant.
Care and maintenance
After the first two years, it’s best to start giving the plant fertilizer on a twice-yearly basis (end of winter and end of spring). Any balanced fertilizer will do, but prefer flower plant fertilizer if you can.
As for the shape and the pruning, follow the guidelines in this article on pruning stephanotis.
Ultimately, the goal is to form a few thick, strong structural branches that are permanent. And every year or every two years, cut back any secondary branches back to the trunk. New growth will form constantly and flower from end of spring until the end of summer.
Earth wall stephanotis by Aldo Lombardi, Nature & Garden contributor
Stainless steel grid by Mitchell Hearns Bishop under © CC BY 2.0
Manor covered in stephanotis by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work
Twining vine by K. Moore, NC State Extension Gardener under © CC BY 2.0
Fence in full bloom by Richard Keeler under © CC BY 2.0