Aristolochia elegans, commonly called calico flower, is a tropical twining evergreen vine that produces unusual flowers, each of which resembles a dutchman’s pipe suspended on a thin stalk. It is native to South America, but has naturalized in certain tropical areas around the world as well as in Central America and the southern U.S. Where winter hardy, it will grow to 15-20’, but can be grown smaller. In one growing season, it will grow to as much 8’ long. Plants produce slender stems clad with alternate, simple, heart- or kidney-shaped, glossy light green leaves (to 3-4” across) that are gray-green beneath. Each flower is shaped like a curved pipe, hence the common name. Flower color is creamy white densely mottled with deep purple-brown. Vines primarily bloom in summer and fall, but in warm climates are free flowering. Flowers are pollinated by flies. It is synonymous with Aristolochia littoralis.
Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-12 where it may be grown in moist, moderately fertile, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Avoid dry soils. It needs a trellis, arbor or shrubs on which to grow. In cool regions it can be grown in containers that are overwintered indoors in greenhouses or sunrooms. Keep soils moist during the growing season, but reduce water in winter. It also may be grown as an annual.
- Soak the seed in water for 48 hours.
- The seeds like moist, rich, well-drained soil. Prepare a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. Put the soil in a pot. Water the mixture so that it is moist but not wet.
- Put the seeds on the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil.
- Water the seeds.
- Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade.
- When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.