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How to Grow and Care for Stephania

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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 up to 3.3 feet (1 m) tall, with a large, woody caudex. The 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.

One species, 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 Australasia region, especially Indochinese countries. In their natural habitats, these caudex plants are usually found in seasonal deciduous forest on limestone mountain.

In warm, dry, frost-free climates, these are interesting vines for clothing screens, porches, fences and other supports. They grow well in greenhouses under conditions that suit many cacti and succulents.

This plants thrive in sunny locations in any ordinary soil. In greenhouses they grow well where the minimum winter night temperature is 50 to 60 °F (10 to 16 °C) and the day temperature a few degrees higher. Stephanias 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 period of winter dormancy water should be withheld entirely. Do not overwater, as the caudex will rot and your plant will die.

Propagation

Stephanias can be propagated from seed sown in porous soil in a temperature of about 60 °F (16 °C).

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