How to Grow Cobaea – Cup-and-Saucer Vine

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Cobaea — commonly called cup-and-saucer vine–is a tropical vine that grows vigorously to 3- feet (9m) or more. Cobaea is commonly called cup-and-saucer vine because the 2-inch-long cup of petals sits in a large, green, saucer-like calyx.

Cobaea is a perennial evergreen in its native tropical regions of Mexico and South America. In cooler regions, even parts of Zone 9, it will be grown as an annual. Leaves have curling tendrils which allow Cobaea to vine and climb rough surfaces without support, but it is best started with a trellis or other support in place.

Cobaea is a genus of about 20 species of woody, evergreen, and herbaceous climbers found in the forests and thickets from Mexico to tropical South America.

Cup-and-saucer vine, Cobaea scandens
Cup-and-saucer vine, Cobaea scandens

Get to know Cobaea 

  • Plant type: Tender perennial vine usually grown as an annual. 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 9 to 10 
  • Hardiness: Tender to Zone 9
  • Height and width: Climbs to 30 feet (9m) or more.  
  • Foliage: A vigorous vine that clings to trees and trellises with tendrils; leaves are divided into two or three pairs of oval, 4-inch leaflets; at the ends of leaves are curling tendrils that enable the vine to climb rough surfaces without support.  
  • Flowers: Fragrant, bell-shaped greenish at first then lavender to purple flowers; there are also white-flowered forms. 
  • Bloom time: Summer to fall. 
  • Uses: Clings to trees or trellises.  
  • Garden companions: Climbing roses, autumn snakeroot (Cimicifuga simplex
  • Common name: Cup-and-saucer vine 
  • Botanical name: Cobaea 
  • Family name: Polemoniaceae
  • Origin: Tropical Mexico and South America

Where to plant Cobaea 

  • Plant Cobaea in full sun.  
  • Plant Cobaea in moist, well-drained, humus-rich in sheltered spot. 
  • Plants should be given a trellis or other support to climb. 

When to plant Cobaea 

  • Plant Cobaea seed indoors in spring for earliest results.  
  • Set container-grown plants in the garden in spring; also in autumn in Zone 10 and warmer.
Cobaea scandens, cup-and-saucer vine

Planting and spacing Cobaea 

  • Cobaea vines can grow to 30 feet (9m) long; space plants accordingly.
  • Sow seed 1/8 inch deep or less. Seed can be started indoors 10 weeks before the last frost for setting in the garden when all frost has passed.
  • From Zone 9 and warmer, sow seeds outdoors where you want plants to grow.

How to water and feed Cobaea 

  • Keep the soil evenly moist; Cobaea needs regular water.
  • Feed plants every 10 weeks through the growing season with an all-purpose, organic fertilizer.

How to care for Cobaea 

  • Pinch seedlings to encourage branching.
  • Plants should be given a trellis or other support to climb. 

Cobaea pests and diseases 

  • Cobaea is seldom affected by diseases. 
  • Cobaea has few garden pests.  
Cobaea scandens
Cobaea scandens

Cobaea propagation 

  • Take softwood cuttings of Cobaea in summer.  
  • Sow seed in spring in warm soil.

Cobaea varieties to grow 

  • Cobaea scandens is the most commonly grown member of the Cobaea genus; it is a vigorous tendril climber to 30 feet or more where hardy, shorter in cooler regions; bears pinnate leaves with four leaflets and fragrant 2-inch flowers that are bell-shaped, each with a ruffled green cup (calyx) at the base; flowers open greenish-white and age to purple; cultivar ‘Alba’ has white flowers. Cobaea is evergreen where hardy; grows as annual in cooler zones.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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