Friday, July 13, 2012

Tropaeolum Speciosum

Tropaeolum speciosum
     I like all the tropaeolums, but many of them, other than the commonly grown annual varieties, are hard to find as plants and tricky to grow from seed.  Tropaeolum speciosum, also commonly known as flame creeper or Scottish flame flower (although it is not from Scotland, but hails instead from Chile) is no exception.  The ironical thing about this scarcity is that once you have this vine established in your garden it can become rampant.  This is certainly the case in my garden.
     I got this plant from--where else--Heronswood, many years ago.  They had them listed as plants that you had to specially ask for because they weren't growing in pots, but instead were kept as roots in the refrigerator.  So when I purchased 3 of them I got 3 thread like roots kept moist in a paper towel.  I dutifully planted them in 3 separate places in my garden and waited.  It didn't take long for the wispy, delicate looking vines to come up, but it took them a couple of years to really get established and take off.  But take off they have and now in certain parts of my garden they are everywhere.  I don't really mind this because they are easily removed from places I don't want them.  They scramble up any vertical plant they encounter, but the vine is not so dense as to smother any of these hosts.  They look particularly good on conifers, providing a dash of scarlet color to an otherwise dull and boring plant.  They are just coming into bloom in my garden right now and they will bloom pretty much into the fall.
     I have read that they thrive in climates with cool, moist summers, which is apparently why they do so well in Scotland and probably why they do so well in my garden.  I wouldn't say we have moist summers, but they are certainly cool.
     These vines probably do not do so well in pots, which is why they are hard to find in nurseries.  That is just a guess because I have never tried to grow them in a pot, and I could well be wrong.  However, it is true that they are hard to find.  Seed is available from a number of sources including Chileflora and Plant World Seeds.


  1. Far Reaches has them in four inch pots most years & that's where I got my current specemins. My roots from Heronswood grew and bloomed beautifully but then something happened and the vines, blooms & all swiftly turned crispy and never came back. Perhaps vermin damage?

    1. Thanks for the info on where they can be purchased. By the way, I enjoy reading your blog, particularly your posts about Vashon Island nurseries. I do not know what might have happened to your vines from Heronswood. Mine have not had any problems.

    2. I have just checked the Far Reaches website and they list only Tropaeolum tuberosum at this time. Although that is a good plant,it is not the same as Tropaeolum speciosum.

    3. Kelly said that they're fattening up their supply so that they can offer them again next year. However, I bet he could be persuaded to make a division if you're really in need.

      I recommend your blog to all my gardener friends as you feature some of my favorite plants and even a couple that I've only read about! Thank you for your beautiful photographs and for sharing with us your experiences in your fabulous garden.