The passion flower
Growing exotic-looking houseplants can be a challenging but very interesting endeavour. No plant is more exotic looking than the passion flower and around Easter time it takes on an increased significance as it has religious symbolism connected to this Christian season. Each bloom consists of a flat base of petals above which a ring of filaments grows. These filaments are said to be symbolic of Christ’s crown of thorns. Rising above the base of the flower, and supported by a sturdy, short stalk, are the ovary and stamens and these are arranged in such a fashion as to symbolize the crucifixion, which is basic to the Easter story. The unusual colours of passion flower blooms make them appear even more exotic — the most common being white, green and dark purple. Some varieties have white blooms while there is also a red one and plants whose blooms are various shades of purple and mauve.
Passion flowers can be grown from seed and although this is perhaps the cheapest and easiest way to obtain a plant, a seedling will take several years before it is mature enough to produce bloom. Also, it can be difficult to get the seeds to break dormancy — using sandpaper to rough up the outside of the seeds is one way to allow moisture to penetrate the seed coating and break the dormancy of the seed. Warm temperatures — in the mid-20s C at least — are necessary to germinate the seeds. The propagation of passion plants by seed can be challenging and time consuming, and since plants are offered for sale periodically in larger garden centres, this might be the best way to get a plant. The passion flower is actually a vine and is quite fast growing. It needs to be grown on a trellis or given some other support so that its twining tendrils will have something to hold on to and thus support the plant.
It likes a cool environment although it is a tropical plant, and will object if the room temperature falls below 10 C. It is happy in a bright-light environment where it is protected from the direct rays of the sun, although in the dead of winter it will easily tolerate some direct sun coming through a window. Passion flowers like a rich, well-drained soil and the planting medium should be kept consistently moist.
The plant can be placed outdoors during the summer as long as it is not subjected to temperatures that are too cool. Placed in a location that receives strong, indirect light, it will grow quickly and bloom profusely.
Although not the easiest plant to propagate, the passion plant is relatively easy to care for, and makes a unique contribution to any indoor landscape.