What’s in a name? For these plants, everything
by Megan Hilf
Cherokee County Master Gardener
August 24, 2012 12:00 AM | 1133 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Millettia is a woody climbing vine often referred to as “Chinese Evergreen Wisteria” or “Summer Wisteria.” Before you panic, start shouting or grabbing the flame thrower, this is not a Wisteria nor is it an evergreen in zone 7. How it got its common name, I’m not sure, other than it has beautiful “pea-like” clustered flowers similar to wisteria and they both belong to the Faboideae Family. This is where the similarities end. This vine is not aggressive or invasive.

Millettia Taiwanensis (the species I have) or Reticulata are wonderful vines to add to a pergola, chain-link fence or arbor. They produce fragrant purple-red flowers in late summer to early fall when most other plants have succumbed to the summer heat.

I challenge the term fragrant, as mine kind of smells like moth balls, but to each his or her own. Millettia is an acid soil loving perennial growing in zones 7 to 11. It prefers full to part sun and will do well in containers.

Cold hardness is 0 to 10º F. It is recommended to plant this vine in a semi-protective southern area of the yard to avoid extreme cold and wind. It grows at a moderate rate reaching heights of 12 to 15 feet and a spread of 6 to 12 feet.

It can easily be maintained as a shrub by trimming back after flowering. The leaves are a glossy green leathery texture in an imparipinnate or odd pinnate pattern, and do not stay on the plant year round in zone 7.

Propagation is by seed. Pods ranging from 3 to 4 inches are produced after flowering and should be allowed to dry on the vine. The seeds do not store well and should be sown in the soil as soon as possible. An all-purpose fertilizer should be applied in the spring before new growth appears.

These plants not only have attractive flowers but also have other beneficial uses around the world. Millettia pinnate, found in India, is being highly researched for its potential use as a biofuel. The Millettia Taiwanensis has been used in Eastern Medicine for treatment of certain cancers, infertility, gastrointestinal parasites and as a red blood cell promoter. It is also used in Chinese agriculture as a pesticide — mostly against aphids. The bark from these vines is used in making strong ropes.

Some of you may have seen this vine at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It has been used throughout the gardens to add a late summer attraction. So, the next time you have a fence to hide or need a late summer bloomer consider adding a Millettia to your collection, and don’t let the name fool you.

Information about Extension Solutions for Homes and Gardens can be found on the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/cherokee or by contacting the Cherokee County Extension Office at 100 North St., Suite G21 in Canton at (770) 479-0418. The Georgia Extension Master Gardener Program is a volunteer training program offered through county offices of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.
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