Aristolochia Elegans: How to Grow the Climbing Calico Flower

With its unusual flowers, Aristolochia elegans makes an interesting addition to any room.

Pronounced [a-ris-toh-LOH-kee-uh] [ELL-eh-ganz], Aristolochia elegans belongs to the Aristolochiaceae family of plants.

It’s native to parts of South America, including Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay, but cultivated all over the world.

Aristolochia Calico flower

The plant stands out due to its unique blooms, which resemble pipes or old night caps featuring intricate patterns.

Due to the odd patterns, the plant goes by several common names:

  • Calico flower
  • Elegant Dutchman’s pipe
  • Pipe vine
  • Dutchman’s pipe vine

This climbing vine is a perennial also known as Aristolochia littoralis, is capable of living a long life with the right soil, watering, and sunlight.

Purchase in early summer just before it starts to flower, making it easier to select a healthy plant.

Aristolochia Elegans Care

Size and Growth

The foliage is light green and may reach up to 15 feet in length, but it’s a slow grower.

It features thin, woody stems and kidney-shaped leaves.

As a climbing vine, calico flower typically needs some variety of support such as a trellis, fence, or sticks.

Flowering and Fragrance

The plant flowers in the summer, producing its unique blossoms.

The flowers are heart-shaped and several inches long, growing from the leaf axils throughout the growing period.

The flowers are often brownish with white patches and a yellow base but may feature interesting markings on the interior.

While the individual flowers don’t live long, the plant continues to produce new ones throughout the summer.

The flowers can produce an unpleasant odor, but it isn’t always noticeable. The carrion-like smell helps attract flies to pollinate the flowers.

Light and Temperature

As a plant that is native to South America, the calico flower remains winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 12.

It should never winter in temperatures below 50° degrees Fahrenheit.

Vines are not the easiest plants to bring in for the winter.

In regions requiring overwintering, consider growing the plant in a large pot or tub for more accessible transport.

Don’t set the plant in direct sunlight.

It needs light, but the direct light can dry the plant out and scorch the leaves.

Partial sun to moderate shade works best.

Dutchman’s pipe also needs circulation. It prefers a light, airy breeze, making it an excellent choice for a greenhouse with proper ventilation.

Watering and Feeding

Water the plant regularly during the growing season.

Typically, it will need water about once or twice per week.

In the winter, water the plant sparingly, no more than once per week.

Add liquid plant food to the water during the summer, feeding the plant every second or third watering.

Soil and Transplanting

Plant calico flower in rich soil with excellent drainage.

If the soil is too clay-like, add perlite to make it more porous and increase drainage.

Repot younger plants every other year. Mature plants need repotting every three to five years.

Transplant in the spring before the flowers arrive. Only move to a large pot if needed.

TIP: If the roots form a root ball around the soil when removing the plant for transplanting, it likely needs a larger pot.

Grooming and Maintenance

To manage the size of the plant, trim it back in the fall after the flowers come and go.

The plant doesn’t need grooming, but it helps keep it from outgrowing its space.

Related Reading: Aristolochia Macrophylla

How to Propagate Calico Flower

Cuttings provide the easiest way to propagate Aristolochia elegans.

Take cuttings in the fall when trimming back the stems.

Use the cuttings for propagation following these steps:

  • Dip the tip of the cuttings in rooting hormone.
  • Place the cuttings in propagating mix with fast drainage.
  • Cover the cuttings with plastic or glass and set in a sunny spot.
  • Keep the plants moist.

The cuttings should take root within one to two months.

They should also start producing small shoots.

When this occurs, remove the cover and move them to a cooler spot.

After the young plants reach two to four inches, repot in individual four-inch pots.

Elegant Dutchman’s Pipe Pests or Diseases

The biggest threats include whiteflies, red spider mites, and loose or faded leaves.

To deal with the pests, use an insecticide like garden safe neem oil.

If the infestations get too severe, consider tossing the entire plant.

Limp leaves indicate cold temperatures or overwatering.

Try limiting the watering and moving to a sunnier spot.

If the leaves start to fade, it lacks nutrition.

Use fertilizer with each watering but avoid adding too much during one feeding.

Besides the typical pests, growers should watch out for a couple of other issues.

The plant is toxic. Keep pets and small children away from the plant, especially during the flowering season.

Cats and small dogs especially are likely to experience severe reactions to the toxic elements in the leaves and flowers.

Suggested Calico Aristolochia Uses

The plant is best suited for placement near a window or open spot to show off its unique flowers.

Consider growing in a large tub using a trellis to support the vines, making it easier to move indoors or outdoors throughout the seasons.