For many, seeing a thick mass of English ivy creeping up the side of a brick home is a thing of beauty.
However, true ivy plants (the genus Hedera) can be invasive and all are toxic to some degree.
The good news is that there are many other vining plants in the Vitaceae family that make great substitutes.
One of these is Cissus amazonica (SISS-us am-uh-ZOH-nik-uh), commonly referred to as either amazon jungle vine or grape ivy plant, is great example, with its attractive foliage and the ability to be grown as either an annual or perennial.
This hardy native of the Brazil and Amazon rainforest and the genus Cissus is a small, pet-friendly climber that’s sure to please.
Amazon Jungle Vine Care
Size & Growth
Generally reaching 3’ feet tall and a little under 2’ feet wide, this little climber or hanging basket houseplant is not nearly as aggressive as its ivy kin.
It can be a very slow grower, but with proper humidity levels will suddenly spring to life, achieving its full size after 2 to 5 years.
The dark green leaves are the main showstopper, with a green on both vine and foliage that can range in color from a bluish green to silvery green, and occasionally leaves will develop a burgundy underside.
Both the leaves – which may grow as long as 5” inches – and stems tend to secrete a substance that can be mistaken for an infestation but is perfectly natural and non-toxic.
Flowering and Fragrance
Cissus plants, in general, don’t bloom domestically, and Cissus amazonica is no exception.
Indoors or outdoors, this plant is so finicky that you will likely never see it bloom.
Light & Temperature
Lianas (or woody vine plants) are used to living in the shelter of a forest canopy and don’t handle direct sunlight very well.
Instead, a bright indirect light or dappled sunlight will work best for this plant.
Unlike true ivy plants, it’s best to avoid too much shade for this plant as it can develop soil mold if there’s not enough light to keep the soil from being too wet.
Speaking of wet, this plant needs a high humidity.
Attempting to grow it in moderate room humility may work, but the plant will be sluggish and less vibrant.
Instead, you should attempt to keep it in a high humidity of 70 to 80% percent, at which point it will absolutely thrive.
Most growers prefer to keep it in a terrarium or greenhouse, but you may also choose to use a humidifier or pebble tray to keep the humidity levels up.
An interesting side effect of lower humidity is that the plant will refuse to climb, which has been a matter of frustration for many first-time growers.
However, the plant will grab onto anything in reach when it’s adequately humid.
This plant can be grown outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 10c to 12 but may suffer from the lower outdoor humidity levels in most areas.
Indoors, it’s very forgiving and can handle temperatures from 50° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit.
However, it will best enjoy a daytime range of 70° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit and a nighttime range of 50° to 65° degrees Fahrenheit.
Be careful not to expose the plant to drafts, as sudden temperature changes can lead to fainting and other issues.
Watering and Feeding
Room temperature distilled water or natural rainwater is best for this plant.
Using the soak-and-dry method, water this plant when the soil is dry ⅓ of the way down, going slowly and evenly until moisture seeps from the drainage holes.
Be very careful not to overwater or let the soil dry out completely, as both can cause severe harm to the plant.
In the winter, cut back on watering, but add a small amount of water here and there to ensure the soil never becomes completely dry.
Feed the plant 1 to 2 times per month during spring and summer using a balanced liquid fertilizer diluted to half and cut back to half that frequency in fall and winter.
Add the fertilizer directly after a watering to avoid chemical burns.
Note that many growers prefer to time their feedings to be every four waterings in the growing period and every 6 in the dormant period.
Soil & Transplanting
Amazon ivy plant is happy in any good, slightly acidic potting mix as long as it’s well-draining.
You may wish to add some perlite to help ensure the soil is well-draining.
It will need to be repotted every 2 to 3 years, replacing the soil when you do.
As this plant is highly susceptible to transplant shock and prefers to be slightly root-bound, it’s best to repot only as often as needed.
You may choose to graduate to one container size larger or keep the plant in the same size pot to control growth.
Watering the plant 24 hours before repotting can help against the risk of transplant shock, as well as trying not to handle the roots more than necessary.
Grooming And Maintenance
Trimming your cissus is an easy matter, but the plant doesn’t handle damage well, so you will want to always use sharp, sterile shears and make single cuts.
Remove any damaged or diseased leaves, cutting below any discoloration to avoid spreading possible infections.
You can also clip the stems for use in propagation at this time.
Related: Cissus Discolor – Rex Begonia Vine
How To Propagate Grape Ivy Plant?
As mentioned, stem or leaf-tip cuttings dipped in a rooting hormone are the most common way of propagating this plant.
However, it is also possible to propagate through division.
Amazon Jungle Vine Pests or Diseases
This plant isn’t drought tolerant and the high humidity it requires can lead to fungal and bacterial infections such as:
- root rot
- heart rot
- red lead-spot
- southern blight
Similarly, moisture-loving pests can be a problem, with the most common invaders being aphids, greenflies, mealybugs, scale, red spider mites, thrips, and whitefly.
While not exactly edible, the plant is non-toxic to both humans and pets.
Ingesting too much of the vine or leaves may result in nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite, but no serious symptoms.
Cissus Amazonica Uses
This plant looks great when climbing a bamboo trellis or moss pole where the tendrils attach. Is it also at home cascading over the edge of a hanging basket.
It’s also a popular alternative to true ivy plants due to its smaller size, less aggressive growth habit, and non-toxic nature.