Garden Oracle / Drought and Heat Tolerant Gardening / Tucson - Phoenix - Arizona - California

Growing Sarcostemma cynanchoides:
Climbing Milkweed

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Form: Twining vine.
Lifespan: Perennial.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Rapid.
Mature Size: 10-15' long.
Flowers: Grouped in rounded clusters, five maroon, pink, or white petals with short hairs on their margins (fringed), five stamens.
Bloom: Mid-spring into summer.
Fruit: Long, tapered pods that split open when dry, filled with tufted seeds ready to catch the wind.
Leaves: Green, variable in form, usually heart-shaped, but those of the Hartwegii subspecies resemble a long, thin arrowhead.
Stems: Green and herbaceous, twining, smooth, no thorns. When cut or broken, they exude a milky sap with a foul odor.
Roots: A taproot, becoming longer with age. Invasive in moist soil.
Wildlife: Attracts butterflies and bees. A food plant for Monarch and Queen butterfly caterpillars.
Toxic / Danger: The sap is a skin irritant.
Origin: Southwestern United States and Mexico.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: 9b-11. Root hardy to at least 15°F.
Heat tolerant: Yes in part afternoon shade.
Drought tolerant: Dependent on root development and temperature.
Sun: Best in part afternoon shade.
Water after becoming established: Daily to weekly in the first year of the growing season. Every one or two weeks after the first year in the ground during the growing season.
Soil: Well drained, dry, low in organic content, pH 6.6-8.5 (neutral to alkaline). This plant is very tolerant of poor soil.
Mulch: No.
Planting: Can be grown in a large container.
Prune: Cut back dead vines in winter. This plant tends to lose leaves and flowers at the bottom over the growing season and needs to be shortened to improve appearance.
Litter: Leaves in winter, dried seed pods.
Propagation: Seed, cuttings taken in fall.
Pests: Aphids, Small Milkweed Bug.
Uses: Butterfly and bee garden.

This tough, vigorous plant is a member of the Dogbane family (Apocynaceae). Funastrum cynanchoides is a synonym. Another common name is Fringed Twinevine. Sarcostemma cynanchoides subsp. Hartwegii is a widespread, narrow-leaved subspecies.
This plant can form an extensive network of vines, climbing everything nearby. To minimize invasiveness, grow in a container and cut off the seed capsules before they mature. Invasiveness is rarely a problem in dry climates.

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Sarcostemma cynanchoides: Climbing Milkweed, flowers

Sarcostemma cynanchoides: Climbing Milkweed, leaves

Sarcostemma cynanchoides: Climbing Milkweed
Flowers, leaves, and stems of Sarcostemma cynanchoides subsp. Hartwegii

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Latest update: September, 2021