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Vigna caracalla - The Snail Plant

Vigna caracalla is the best known ornamental garden variety of this diverse genus. Best described as a creeper or climbing vine it is faster growing than its name suggests.

However if we looked at common names then you will find a nmber that are equally as well known.

With flowers that look like a colorful corkscrew, or snail these tender vines grow well in a warm position in the garden. The flowers are very fragrant with an attractive lilac to jasmine perfume.

It is a tropical to sub tropical climbing plant, and is vigorous in these conditions. We would class it as one of fastest growing vines in warm tropical conditions. However in cooler climates its behavior is a little different.

Excellent for covering a long fence or a wall quickly, it can grow at 1ft a day in good conditions. It is easily pruned, if you wish to keep it smaller.

In cooler climates it will die back in winter and can be cut back fairly hard at this time. Vigna caracalla can be grown in containers, just give it a good sized pot and a frame to climb on. You will need to prune it to keep it under control, however the fascinating flowers and perfume may just be worth the effort.

Varieties

So if Vigna caracalla or 'Snail Plant' is the best known ornamental what about the rest.

Some species used as ornamental plants and other used in horticulture.

Vigna Varieties

  • Vigna caracalla 'Snail Plant' used widely as an ornamental plant, purple scented flowers. Is not frost tolerant and dies back in winter.
  • Vigna radiata (Mung Bean)
  • Vigna marina a creeping plant found on the coastal sand dunes of Queensland and the Northern Territory, a native of Australia.
  • Vigna unguiculata the yardlong bean
  • Vigna lanceolata a native of Australia known as the ' Pencil Yam'
  • Vigna sinensis 'Cowpea' o r 'Blackeyed pea' is used widely in cultivation as a food source
  • Vigna trilobite used as a pasture crop in India

Propagation

When sowing seed Vigna can be very slow to germinate, the outer coating if tough. We suggest pouring boiling water over the seed and letting it cool over night. Then lant out into normal soil mix. We have found this gives reasonably good germination rates.