Akebia quinata: Flowers that smell of chocolate and vanilla

It is somewhat unusual, therefore surprising, the similarity of the aroma of Akebia quinata flowers with chocolate and vanilla. This variety, which is gaining popularity in temperate zones, is quite an olfactory spectacle. Fast growing, leafy and with a showy and fragrant bloom. Find out if you can have one in the garden.


The quirks of Akebia quinata correspond to their very specific taxon

We always talk about genera and species to situate the plant we are talking about in a taxonomic framework of the floristic kingdom and this case is quite special.

Genre Akebia there are only 5 currently recognized species and all are under review. But it is that if we go to a previous taxon, we find the families of Lardizabalaceae composed of only 9 genera (Akebia between them) and in total there are no more than 37 plants of this family.

Its natural distribution is centered on latitudes similar to those of central Europe, both on the American and Asian continents. It is considered invasive in some parts of the world, even within the same continent (USA). He is from East Asia.

In Spain it is not listed as an invader although, due to its hardiness and rapid growth, it is likely to choke out the growth of developing shrubs or small trees. If you decide to install it in your garden, take care of its reach by making it climb wherever you want (a wall, a trellis, a green wall, etc.), always controlling its development by pruning.

It can also be used to cover stumps or rocks if allowed to climb over them.

The flowering of Akebia quinataAppearance: Abundant, showy and fragrant

With the right conditions, it is considered a semi-evergreen and may not shed its foliage at all. In more continental climates like Spain, in winter it will lose its leaves practically throughout the peninsula. Maybe in some subtropical areas of southern Spain where it doesn’t freeze it might hold.

Its characteristic leaves, with 5 out of 5 leaflets, provide dense foliage. The flowers contrast with this bright green of the foliage and the pity that you are reading this is that we cannot show you the smell of its flowers. It’s a delight.

The scent of chocolate and vanilla make this vine a very attractive option for gardens in warm and temperate climates where there are pergolas, trellises, gazebos…

It is not usual to have flowers on ornamental vines with chocolate and vanilla aromas and this rarity of species has them in addition to being a very showy flower.

There are several varieties with different colorings of the flower. The “Alba” variety is distinguished by its small cream-colored flowers. The best known variety is the “Purple” for the intense purple color of its flowers. And in the intermediate tones we have the “Rosea” variety with more pale pink tones.

Akebia quinata flowersNotable differences between female flowers (large) and male flowers (small)

Relevant factors for abundant and fragrant flowering:

  • direct sun exposure
  • Phosphorus fertilization at flowering time

We see this in more detail in the care below.

Cultivation and maintenance of Akebia quinata

Temperatures and sun exposure

Its limiting factor as a semi-perennial vine is the cold. In somewhat harsher climates, it loses its leaves in winter, although it does not die. In the hardiness zones where it is found, it tolerates cold winters of -15ºC but loses its leaves and flowers. It usually suffers from late frosts.

With more temperate temperatures between 10 and 30ºC, it finds its optimal development in which the leaves can be enjoyed practically all year round. In frost-free places we can have it as a perennial.

It is very tolerant of different exposures, supporting the shade very well, although the very special flowering we are talking about occurs when it is located in full sun, as long as the temperatures do not exceed the aforementioned 30ºC too much.

You have to calibrate a little depending on the area where you live the balance between total exposure or something protected to ensure good lighting and protection from the sun in the event of slightly more extreme summers.

Foliage of Akebia quinataWith a good exposure and with a trellis or a fence as a support, the foliage is total.

soil and fertilization Akebia quinata

We need a very usual floor. Universal substrate with a little sand, and something more enriched with organic matter. Worm fumes or very mature compost can be added to help swell the soil, generate structure and prevent it from being flooded by irrigation. 50-50 substrate-sand mixes adding compost. During the flowering season (spring and part of summer depending on the climate) it can be helped with a little flowering fertilizer (with phosphorus content) to favor precisely this fact. In any case, it is quite hardy and fertilization pushes will not be necessary with a substrate rich and drained.

Irrigation and ambient humidity

It is necessary to attend irrigation in the early stages of rooting and development, watering once a week (not counting the rains). Once established, the irrigations can be further spaced, allowing the substrate to dry out in the first 5 cm of depth between irrigation and irrigation.

It tolerates moderate drought and what’s bad for it is waterlogging, so as we recommend most of the time, it’s better to go a little wrong by default than by excess. It is not a plant for very humid environments although it tolerates them.

Trellising and pruning

How will he grow better? Akebia quinata It is a good guide as a good climber, that is to say if you do not want it to drag on the ground of the garden. It can be supported by a fence, trellis, pergola or gazebo. Once well established it will grow at a moderately high rate and pruning is the best way to control it. He supports him well and in this way we will guide him where we are interested.

Reproduction of Akebia quinata

If we are sowing from seed, it is recommended to start in a protected environment for at least two weeks before moving the seedling to the ground. As a reference for sowing, it is recommended between a month and a month and a half before the last expected frost. In this way we ensure that when we go to transplant it to the definitive place, we do not have late frosts because this is its weak point, especially when it begins to develop.

It can be reproduced by cuttings of semi-woody stems.

  • Cut a new spring stem about six inches from a plant that has flowered for at least one or two years.
  • Stick the cuttings in a protected pot and with a germination substrate (well ventilated, soft, rich in organic matter, not at all compact and with moisture retention).
  • At this point you need to protect the pot in a warm, humid place until the cutting takes root. They can be used rooting hormones.
  • Once the root has developed (if by pulling lightly on the cutting you are unable to remove it from the substrate, it will be time) transplant to the final location.
  • It can suffer from the change of substrate during transplanting, so you have to be jealous and be attentive to the reactions caused by the stress of transplanting (water, temperatures, humidity, exposure…).


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