Stephania is a genus of flowering plants in the Moonseed Family, Menispermaceae, native to eastern and southern Asia and Australasia. They are little known horticulturally. The species are herbaceous perennial vines with a large woody caudex. They grow up to 3.3 feet (1 m) tall. Leaves are shield-shaped, arranged spirally on the stem, and with the leaf petiole attached near the center of the leaf. Male flowers have 6 to 10 sepals, 3 to 5 fleshy petals, and 6 anthers. Female flowers have 3 to 5 petals as in male flowers and a 3- to 6-parted style. The fruits are drupes.
The genus name is a cognate of the Greek "Stephana," which is a feminine form of "Stephanos," meaning "a crown." This refers to the anthers being arranged in a crown-like manner.
Stephania tetrandra is among the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is called Han Fang Ji.
Growing Conditions and General Care
Stephanias are native to south-east Asia to the Australasia region, especially Indochinese countries. These caudex plants are usually found in the seasonal deciduous forest on limestone mountains in their natural habitats.
In warm, dry, frost-free climates, these plants are interesting vines for clothing screens, porches, fences, and other supports. They grow well in greenhouses under conditions that suit many cacti and succulents.
Stephanias thrive in sunny locations on any ordinary soil. They grow well in greenhouses where the minimum winter night temperature is 50 to 60 °F (10 to 16 °C) and the day temperature a few degrees higher. These plants need very well-drained soil, full sun, and airy, not excessively humid conditions. From the time new growth begins in spring until stems and foliage die down in fall, they need moderate watering, enough to keep the soil evenly moist but not saturated. During their winter dormancy, water should be withheld entirely. Do not overwater, as the caudex will rot, and your plant will die.
Stephanias can be propagated from seeds sown in porous soil at a temperature of about 60 °F (16 °C).
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