Yesterday’s Macro Monday was a tricky one perhaps, but it should have been easier for the older among us. When I was young and the range of houseplants was very different to that we have today (and much better in some ways) every display of plants in garden centres included Rhoicissus rhomboidea, usually represented by the cv ‘Ellen Danica’ which, reputedly, has more deeply incised leaves.
This vigorous climber was popular because it was tough. It tolerated some neglect, including some drying out, grew in poor light, put up with temperatures down to 10c and seemingly thrived on dust, especially in unheated downstairs toilets.
If it outgrew its allotted space it was easy to chop it back and it would resprout and be as good as ever a few months later. All this led to it being rather maligned and, when I used to buy the houseplants for the garden centre, although I always had them in stock, along with variegated ivies and Cissus antarctica (which was even tougher and even less exciting), I never gave them much thought apart from when someone wanted a really tough houseplant (which they then ignored and bought a cyclamen that would be dead in a week).
How odd then, that when I saw this plant the other day I was struck with remorse at not having seen it for so long. It was like a sadly neglected friend. And there is nothing wrong with it if you want an attractive plant for a cool room or conservatory that will happily bounce along and look good all year. It is an evergreen from south Africa that is closely related to grapes (Vitis) and will produce small, edible fruits in suitable circumstances. It has leaves comprised of three leaflets and the central is symmetrical but the two at the side are rhomboid ( as if you needed telling). The leaves are gently glossy and rich green when mature but the young leaves are covered in rusty hairs and the plant climbs by means of tendrils.
Give this good light and plenty of water and feeding and it is very easy to grow. Be careful with the water in winter if it is cool or the roots can rot – it is better to keep it a bit dry if the temperatures drop to 10c.