With its fascinating blooms and fragrance, the golden chalice vine is great for spilling over pergolas and
THE big blooms of the golden chalice vine attract not only pollinators but also the human eye and nose. My first whiff of the flower in bloom reminded me of bananas and coconuts!
The botanical name of the golden chalice vine is Solandra maxima (synonyms: Datura maxima, S. nitida, S. grandiflora and S. gutata). It's one of the many flowering plants of the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Its common names include Cup of Cold Vine, Chalice vine and Hawaiian Lily.
This species and another chalice species, S. longiflora are shrubby climbers of tropical America. They have large flowers with a distinct, heavy scent. S. maxima originates from Mexico and Central America and is a rampant liana. The spreading perennial can scramble up to 12m or more with its aerial roots and thick woody branches.
Its glossy dark green elliptical leaves grow up to 15cm in length and have long petioles. Interestingly, the variegata type bears new purple leaves that will turn a variegated green and white with age.
The flaring shallow cup-shaped bloom has stamens with large anthers and five reflexed corolla-lobes. Each lobe is marked with a dark brownish purple line that extends from the centre.
The light yellow fleshy petals fade to deep gold and open to form a huge bloom of about 10-18cm in diameter. Due to the large flower, the specific epithet of this species is maximus, which is Latin for largest. The genus, Solandra, was named in honour of the 18th Century Swedish botanist, Daniel Carl Solander.
The flower scent is stronger in the night than during the day. The bloom is also rich in nectar. All these flower traits attract bats, birds, moths and butterflies. In the wild, it bears red conical fruits 5cm in width after pollination.
In its native land, it is regarded as "kieri" which means Plant Of The Gods by the Huichol, indigenous people of Mexico, and other tribes. The juice is said to have hallucinogenic substances and was used in sacred rituals.
Grown for its fascinating blooms and fragrance, S.maxima is great for climbing up and spilling over big pergolas, walls and trellises. It makes a spectacular specimen as well as an accent plant. However, it is rarely planted in our landscapes and is, perhaps, not even available commercially.
HOW TO GROW
Solandra maxima can be propagated from seeds and stem cuttings. When propagating such thick and woody stem cuttings, patience is the key for success. They can take up to two years or more to bloom!
Take leafy stem cuttings of about 20 — 25cm long. Fill small pots with well-draining soil. Insert the cuttings into the soil and settle them down in a sheltered bright place.
When new growth appears, do not bring out the little plants to the open yet. The freshly rooted stem cuttings will not be strong enough to withstand any heavy or prolonged rainfall. They will drown quickly if the soil is waterlogged.
Keep the root cuttings in the shelter for eight months or more. The soil should be kept moist, not wet. Harden the plants well to the sun. Then, plant them out in the open in partial sun locations during moderate weather. In the highlands, S. maxima thrives in full sun once established.
Feed the plant with dried, pelleted goat manure regularly. Re-pot or transplant overgrown plant to a bigger pot. Always stake this sizeable vigorous grower with sturdy support.
A good time to take cuttings for propagation is early in the morning. Cut the leaves of the cuttings to half to lessen water loss before you insert them into the soil. All parts of the plant are poisonous.