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, so fertilization is normally quite easy and prolific. The female flowers are generally at the base of the racemes with the males on top!
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.
Leaves of the Chocolate Vine are mid green when matured after a brief spell of the new foliage being tinted bronze – quite an attractive stage of its growth. Where the vine holds its leaves throughout mild winters, the foliage takes on a bronze appearance. It is not dying – it is the norm.
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.
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.
Simply carry out any renovation or restraining pruning in late spring after flowering – or early winter. It does not require pruning other than for the above.
Sow seed as soon as ripe in cool conditions. Coldframe being an ideal place - or in covered pan under shelter of tree or hedge.
Akebia trifoliate is deciduous and not as attractive as A. quinata for garden situations.