Stephania erecta is native to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam where the plant grows in deciduous forests on calcareous soil.
Stephania erecta is a rare caudiciform succulent belonging to the Menispermaceae botanical family. The plant has a climbing habit and can reach up to 1 m in height. The plant has a woody thick caudex turnip-shape that can reach 15 cm in depth and 8 cm in diameter. The plants that form the caudex use their subterranean tuber to store water and cope with long periods of drought. The stem is very thin and pale green and bear the leaves. The leaves are round to heart-shaped, dark green with white veins and with long petiolate that attaches almost at the center of the leaf. The leaves die during the winter. Blooming occurs during the spring and the blossoms are borne along the stem. The flowers are small, made of 3-5 petals, yellowish and are dioecious so male flowers and female flowers are borne on separate plants.
This is a slow growing plant, easy to cultivate. The plant needs a full light sun exposure but is recommended to avoid direct sun-light during the summer. Long exposure to direct sun-light can cause burns and burnt spots. The plant does not like temperatures below 10°C so it needs to be placed indoors in the coldest periods. Too low temperatures can cause the stem or leaves to break due to water freezing inside the tissues. Temperatures between 10 and 15 °C allow the plants to enter vegetative rest which is essential for the flowering of the following year. Plants should not be placed inside the house where average temperatures of 20 degrees prevent vegetative rest. The perfect soil is a well-drained soil that let the water to drain away and avoid root rot. To achieve this feature, you can mix the pumice, clay and loam. The pumice should always be placed on the bottom of the pot. Remember to use a perforating pot to drain excess water. Watering can be done regularly during the vegetative period. In Spring and Autumn, the plant can be watered with half a glass of water every week; in summer it can be watered with two glasses of water a week; in winter stop the watering to allow the plant to enter dormancy. Decrease the amount of water if the plant is kept indoors or if the pot is smaller than 12 cm. About fertilization, for this plant is sufficient to fertilize moderately during the growing season with the specific fertilizers for succulents and stop fertilizing during the winter. If the pot starts to be too small for the plant you can repot the plant in a pot 2 cm wider. Repotting should be done early in the growing season with fresh new potting soil; it is usually done every 3-4 years. Be careful to red spiders and mealy bugs.
Propagation can be done by cutting or by seed. By cutting you can make the cut during the spring and then let the cutting dry; after a few days the cut surface will dry and a callus will form, then place the cutting in a mixture of sand, soil and pumice. To increase the success of propagation you can make two or more cuttings at the same time. It is advisable to use rooting hormone at the base of the cut to energize root development. For cuttings it is recommended temperatures around 20 °C. By seed it is very simple to propagate the plant, it is enough to sow the seed in a sandy loam and keep it with a high level of humidity and at temperature of 14 C°.
The name Stephania, in Greek, means “crown”: the anthers of its flowers, in fact, are arranged just like a crown.
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