Flower Friday – Cup and Saucer Vine

I love Clematis, of course, and other perennial vines, but there’s something about tall annual vines I find fascinating and quite brilliant. They start as teeny tiny seeds, full of mind blowing genetic material, and when planted in spring explode in growth to achieve staggering heights. Annual vines I’ve grown include scarlet runner bean, morning glory, purple Hyacinth bean and, last year, Cup and Saucer Vine – Cobaea scandens. It’s native to Mexico, where they are pollinated by bats, and can reach 30 – 40 feet (around 10 metres). In my northern growing season they topped out at about 12 feet (3.5 metres) before an October frost stopped them in their tracks. Here was their journey in my garden.

They started to grow quickly right after germination, and looked like spindly green giant insects, grasping up with claw-shaped leaves.
It took forever for the first flower buds to appear, and I didn’t know what I was looking at for a while. Leaves were quite beautiful, green on one side and reddish on the other.
The flower emerges white…
…and grows…
…before turning purple. It gets the name ‘Cup and Saucer’ because the bell shaped flowers have that ruff, supposedly looking like a saucer.
After flowering for a few days, the ‘cup’ part falls off, theoretically leaving a seed to mature within the ‘saucer,’ although I could never find any seeds. Perhaps there aren’t any bats in the neighbourhood…
One of the coolest thing about this vine was the tendrils – like thick, giant, pea tendrils. The tendrils have small hooks that help them cling to trees or other rough surfaces. The ‘scadens‘ part of its name is Latin, and means climbing.
I started the seeds indoors and transplanted three seedlings into a large pot at the foot of the back porch trellis. This photo was taken October 8.

This vine does not get covered with flowers – you don’t gasp at the sight of masses of flowers like you do with Clematis and the individual blooms are much smaller than morning glory. I never noticed it attracting pollinators. But it was a new-to-me vine and I’m glad I grew it. This year I’m looking for a different annual vine to try – perhaps Cardinal Climber – Ipomoea × multifida. The flowers and foliage both look great and, apparently, it produces a lot of nectar for hummingbird- which I DO have here.


  1. I remember scandens from some of our native plants. I’m not sure which ones just now, but the next time I bump into one, I’ll know. The photos of the emerging leaves and tendrils are so nice — so’s the emerging flower, for that matter. I’ve heard people talk about this plant, but don’t remember seeing such nice photos. Thanks!

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  2. I had no idea bats pollinate flowers! We have bats here, but I only ever see them flying low across the garden at dusk, scooping up insects as they go. I am going to try an annual climber new to me this year called Rodochitron. We will see if it does as well as yours!

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