Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Good Snail For Your Garden

Last week's trip to Raleigh, NC for the annual Garden Writer's symposium was successful on several fronts, but perhaps most successful in my being able to capture some great images of many unique and unusual garden plants which I'll be bringing to you here over the weeks and months to come.

The first of those has been a favorite plant of mine since I grew it as a child. Vigna caracalla, or snail vine, is a snail you'll definitely want to have in your garden! The name snail vine comes not from the fact that it's as slow as a snail (actually, just the opposite), but from the one-of-a-kind blossoms that curl and twist like the shell of a snail. It's certainly one of the most unique vines you can grow.

Snail vine can be easily grown from seed and is available from several sources which you can find with a quick Google search. It will grow fairly rapidly to make an 8-10 foot vine (maybe larger in warmer areas) and is perfectly suited to covering a small arbor, trellis or other structure. In warmer zones, it may be perennial (probably borderline in Zone 7b, more reliable Zone 8 and warmer). For those of you in colder areas, I've read that snail vine can be grown in large containers, cut back in the fall and overwintered in a cool, frost-free place to be returned to its outdoor location the following spring where it will resprout, grow and flower the following season. I have not tried this myself (I usually just start from seed each spring), but have talked with several gardeners who overwinter theirs this way with good success.

Flowering typically occurs in late summer and fall and the unique, curled blossoms are more than worth the wait. Full sun to very light shade will give the most flower production. Also, be careful about overfeeding, as you could sacrifice blooms at the expense of foliage.

This is just the tip of the iceberg where unique and unusual plants are concerned, so be sure to stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as I begin posting about many of the wonderful plants I saw on this trip, as well as several other recent plant-related adventures. I know there will be something new you'll want to add to your garden!


Anonymous said...

Hi Troy ~~ Barbara has written a post on the Garden Writer's gathering too. Sounds like a wonderful time for you all. I grew snail vine years ago. Maybe it's time for a redux. I look forward to your next installment.

Sal said...

if your readers are looking for more information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is a detailed, interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at

Kiki said...

I have always been interested in this plant! Beautiful photo! Great post!

azplantlady said...

Hello. I love your blog. I enjoyed the beautiful photo of the Snail Vine. We grow it here as well and serves as a great screen for a fence.

PamHMG said...

Great post on this gorgeous flower. I love in zone 6 and need to overwinter this. Does that mean I can just cut it back, move the container to the garage and take it out in the spring again? Or does it need to really be kept alive: sun, water etc. Thanks, I know this is a simple question but my indoor area is crowded with plants at the moment.