Akebia Chocolate Vine is a semi green climbing plant from Eastern Asia, growing normally on the edges of forests. Chocolate Vines are reasonably hardy having natural homes in Korea, Japan and China.
Typically it has five-segmented palmate leaves hence Akebia quinata - and drooping clusters of chocolate coloured flowers which start to appear in spring. Each cluster or raceme of drooping flowers bear both male and female flowers in the same cluster, the female flowers are generally at the base of the racemes with the males on top! Sadly, one lone plant will not produce fruit, the flowers need to be cross-pollinated with another individual of the same species to set fruit. A good idea to plant two plants together, not just for producing fruit but for a deeper and fuller effect as well.
The flowers tend to be heavily scented with a spicy aroma, but the deep purple-brown flowers are not too showy, because of the deep colour and more attractive foliage.
The flowers are followed in ideal climate by drooping dark purple edible fruits of a plump bean-like appearance up to 4in (8-10cm) long. They do not taste of chocolate; it is the flower colour which is responsible for the common name of Chocolate Vine.
Akebia Quinata – The Chocolate Vine
Akebia Chocolate Vine is a semi green climbing plant from South East Asia, mainly in Korea, Japan and China, where it grows naturally on the edges of forests. Chocolate Vines are very hardy, they have five-segmented palmate leaves and drooping clusters of chocolate coloured flowers which start to appear in early spring. Each cluster of drooping flowers bear both male and female flowers in the same cluster. The flowers are heavily scented with a spicy aroma, but the deep purple-brown flowers are not too abundancy.
The flowers are followed in mid summer by drooping dark purple edible fruits of a plump bean-like appearance, they grow up to 4in (8-10cm) long. It is their flowering colour which is responsible for the common name of Chocolate Vine not that the edible fruits taste of chocolate. The fruit taste is sweet and resembles a mixture of banana, passionfruit and litchi. For climate reasons the UK and north America it is quite rare to get fruit, your best chances are if you plant it facing south. Ideally plant 2 or more of the same Chocolate Vine side by side, for its best chances to produce fruit and to give it a fuller and deeper effect.
The leaves of the Chocolate Vine are a mid green coloured when matured, the young foliage will after a brief spell become tinted bronze and become very attractive. The Akebia vine holds its leaves throughout mild winters, the foliage takes on a similar bronze appearance. It may appear to be dying but it is the norm.
After purchasing a vine from the garden centre or online stockist, keep it in its pot until it is time to plant it out. The ideal time to Plant Out the chocolate vine is in the spring, just before the growing season starts. Alternatively, in the autumn when the roots are shrinking. The soil is important, the vine loves, well-drained sandy loam soil.
The Vine thrives in full sun, and as it is a climber, it needs support. Think carefully where you are going to plant it.
Once you have decided on your position, prepare a fresh batch of Loam Soil, dig out 3 to 4 inches deeper than your potted vine, or more if you have poor soil quality. Loosely fill in the surplus with the new loam. Remove the vine from it pot, gently shake off the surplus soil, position the vine between 2 and 4 inches away from the support, fill in around the vine. Gentle but firm (if thats possible), push down with your foot, just enough to hold it in place without compacting down the roots. Top up loosely with the loam and water.
You can group 2 vines together, if required, for effect and it increases it chances of pollination.
If you are planting from seed, see our Propagation section below.
In spite of its tender appearance, it is reliably hardy for any aspect – but preferably not dense shade – dapples shade to full sun is ideal. Can be planted in a South; East; West or Northern position.
Akebia quinata Chocolate Vine eventually grows up to 8m in length, spread and height. It is a fast growing climbing plant; best planted in an open but sheltered area.
The method of climbing adapted by the Chocolate Vine plant is that of twining stems so will need supports by way of canes or sturdy trellis. Akebia is an ideal trellis or pergola feature climber.
Most soils are suitable for planting Akebia quinata – but preferably moist organic soils, as normally supplied naturally in its habitat.
The soil is important, these vigorous climbers like deep, fertile soil, well-drained sandy loam soil is its ideal growing conditions.
If you do not have loam soil, it is best to mix a batch up and replace a as much as possible.
The Akebia Quinata is an extremely fast grower and climber, if you allow it, the Akebia can quickly get out of control. The Akebia can smother and kill other small plants and trees, it can climb large trees, the weight can make branches to snap and even cause trees to fall.
It is extremely important to prune the Akebia
The ideal time to prune the Akebia is in the late spring. The Akebia starts to flower in the early spring and they start to die off towards the summer, this is when you prune.
New growth comes from the hard wood vines in the form of soft green shoots, these are like long grass. Eventually they mature and become hard wood vines and they will produce their own new shoots. You can trim it back by following the long shoots back to the vine and cutting them off at the vine with a pair of secateurs. The vine will produce more throughout the year, you can strip it right back without hurting the vine. You can do this every 2 months throughout the year.
You can hard prune it only in the spring, cut it back to one foot from the ground. Once you hard prune it, feed and water it at the base and it will grow back from there, new green shoots will appear. I would recommend you hard prune it once every 4 seasons. It is very hardy and quite hard to kill it, even if you wanted to.
The Chocolate Vine is a care free vine, very few problems can occur as long as the planting and soil requirements are met.
Water frequently when the plant is young, every 3 or 4 days and weekly thereafter.
It is a fast grower, therefore regular pruning is required to keep it tidy and not intrusive to other plants.
Always give it a harder prune in late spring to early summer, just after flowering.
It is a garden rarity, with no problems from pests or diseases and being quite hardy. The only basic problem is that it does not like to be transplanted – other than the initial planting from pot. Therefore, ensure that you are planting your Akebia vine in the right permanent position!
Flowers may be damaged by late spring frosts but foliage rarely suffers.
What is wrong if it does not flower or fewer flowers than last season.
The main cause is a lack of phosphorus in the soil.
This is easily remedied by adding either use a phosphorus rich fertilizer or add some bone meal to the soil.
What is wrong if the Akebia Quinata does not produce any fruit?
Not enough sun, or too much nitrogen in the soil.
You can wait until the end of Autumn and carefully dig it up and move it to a sunnier position. You can treat your soil with NPK or other fertilizers.
The Akebia Quinata's leaves have rust coloured edges to its leaves.
Over watering or poor drainage, its roots are water logged
Cut down on your watering or improve the soils drainage.
The Akebia seeds are contained within the center of the fruit. Once the fruit is rip to over ripe, the fruit splits, exposing the seeds. Naturally they will fall to the ground and self set, if the conditions are right.
You can wait for them to fall and collect them off the floor or remove them whilst they are still in the fruit.
If you do not have access to the seeds from an existing plant, you will have to purchase some, from your local Garden Center or online retailers.
You will need to prepare some Loam Soil, you can follow our guide to mix your own, or if you do not have access to the raw materials to make your loam soil, you can purchase from your local Garden Center or online retailers.
Finally you will need suitable a plant pot or container to grow them in. You will need a plant pot / container large enough to sow the seeds 1 to 2 inch apart in either direction, and at least 5 inches deep.
Soak your seeds - Firstly you must place your seeds in a glass of tap water and soak them for 24 hours
After 30 days, remove from the fridge and place it in your green house / window sill / warm, dry, area with a lot of natural light. Keep it there for another 14 to 21 days. Your Seeds should show signs of germination.
Water if required
Remove from the plastic bagOnce they reach about one foot in height, you can plant them out or re-pot them.
Although they make good solitary specimens, the akebia's flowers would be set off well by the early blue Clematis macropetala or C. alpina; the climbers could slug it out quite happily, if given some physical support. An alternative would be the vigorous Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea', which has intensely silver-haired, purple young leaves in spring.
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