How to Grow Pakalana

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Pakalana flowers are highly fragrant.
Pakalana flowers are highly fragrant. (Image: arkira/iStock/Getty Images)

Though popular in Hawaii for the making of leis, pakalana (Telosma cordata, minor or odoratissima) actually originated in India, China and Southeast Asia where its edible flowers are considered a vegetable. Also known as Chinese violet, Tonkin creeper or cowslip creeper, the vine is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 11. In colder climates, it can be grown as a potted plant and moved indoors over the winter.

Envision Pakalana in Your Garden

A member of the milkweed family, pakalana grows to 20 feet in the ground and to 3 feet in containers with 1 1/2- to 5-inch heart-shaped leaves. Its 3/5-inch diameter, 5-petal flowers appear in dangling clusters of 15 to 30 blooms from spring into fall. Generally yellow with cream-colored centers, they open in succession and often darken to orange as they age. The vine, which bleeds white sap when cut, begins budding when days lengthen and temperatures rise above 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the spring.

Grow Pakalana in the Ground

Pakalana needs a position protected from wind and ocean spray near an arbor or trellis on which it can climb. It prefers fertile and well-drained sandy loam with a pH between 6.1 and 7.5, in full sun to partial sun. If your soil is heavy clay instead, mix 2 inches of compost into it to lighten its texture before planting pakalana. Space it at least 1 foot away from other vines on the same support.

Feed and Water Your Pakalana

Since pakalana is susceptible to root rot if its soil stays soggy, water it deeply only about once a week during dry periods. Fertilize the plant every other month from spring through autumn, with an organic bloom booster type fertilizer such as 4-10-7, using two cups per plant. After sprinkling the fertilizer onto the ground around the base of the plant, scratch it into the soil and water thoroughly.

Grow Pakalana in a Pot

If you wish to grow your pakalana in a container, give it an 8- to 10-inch clay pot with drainage holes – filled with cactus potting soil to help prevent root rot -- and a 3-foot pole or pot trellis on which to climb. Indoors, keep the pot on a sunny or partially shaded windowsill, where the temperature remains above 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter and above 70 degrees F from summer through fall to induce buds. Water it whenever the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch and feed it every other week from spring to fall, mixing 1/2 teaspoon of a 15-15-15 water-soluble plant food with each gallon of water. Don’t fertilize the vine during the winter months, when it generally stops blooming, drops into dormancy and may lose some leaves.

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