Cobaea Scandens – How to grow the Cup and Saucer Vine

how to grow cobaea scandens

I’m always on the lookout for fascinating plants that are a little bit different to the norm. When I heard about this climber, the cup and saucer vine, I decided to find out more about it. It’s latin name is Cobaea Scandens and it is also known as cathedral or monastery bells or Mexican ivy.

I can see why it’s called the cup and saucer vine because of the beautiful flowers that resemble a cup or a bell. It originally comes from Mexico so you wouldn’t think that it would be very at home in our cooler climate. When we grow it in this country we should treat it as an annual, although it is  half-hardy and can be over-wintered in a warm greenhouse or conservatory.

We wanted to grow something against an old fence but needed something quick growing. We think that this fence will be replaced at one point so we didn’t want to grow anything permanent. An annual climber seemed ideal to cover it quickly. I came across the cup and saucer vine and thought it looked beautiful, so I purchased some seeds.

Growing from seed

Honestly, I didn’t really expect to have much success with them but I’m happy to say I was very wrong. I planted them in my recycled plug trays filled with choir compost. I didn’t soak the seeds and didn’t really know how deep to plant them so I loosely covered them with soil and placed them on our kitchen window sill.  The seeds sprouted after a few days! Wow, the packet said that it would take a week at least so I’m really pleased they germinated so soon.

I have read that ideally you should soak the seeds before sowing. Although mine grew very quickly without having soaked them, it may be a good idea to follow this advice.

cup and saucer vine seedlings

Update: after another week of growing on my windowsill, the seedlings are a lot bigger and tougher looking. At this rate I will have to pot them on quite soon and hope that I can find some more space on another windowsill before planting them outside. Until all danger of frost has passed, I will have to keep them on a warm and sunny window sill.


How to grow

Apparently this is a quick-growing climber that can reach 3m (10 feet) and produces 8cm long bell-like flowers. It’s best to support the plant, which produces tendrils to cling onto the support. They like full sun and well-drained soil.

You can help the vine by training it onto a trellis or support as it grows. Pinching out the tip of the vine will make it grow lateral shoots.

Here is a summary:

  • Tender Perennial but best grown as half-hardy annual climber in the UK
  • climber
  • likes neutral, well-drained soil but keep moist when dry
  • grow in full sun and sheltered position
  • reaches up to 3m (10ft) in height
  • plant 15cm (6in) apart at the base of a wall, fence or trellis
  • sow indoors January-March and support as it grows, plant out after last frost
  • flowers from July to November

You can buy seeds or seedlings here, or click the advert below. I have found their customer service to be very good. They also stock a lovely white variety called ‘alba’.

Sarah Raven: Everything you need for a beautiful garden

Where to plant

This is a perfect plant if you want to cover an ugly wall or trellis very quickly. Just make sure the plant gets as much sun as possible and that it is fairly protected. Soil should have good drainage and keep it moist especially in very dry weather.

The flowers can also be picked for flower arrangements and look great together with rosemary or you can float the blooms in a shallow bowl.

I will let you know how my seedlings progress and hopefully I can report some success. So far the experience has been better than expected, I probably expected it to be more difficult because this plant looks so exotic. Which is another example why you should just try anything in gardening, most of the time you will be successful.

I hope this post has given you the confidence to try growing this beautiful plant or maybe something similar. Let me know if you have tried or are going to try growing this plant, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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  1. Alison
    13/02/2022 / 2:00 PM

    Thanks for the tips first time sowing cobra seeds looking forward to see how they progress 🌺🐝🌺

  2. hannah
    01/03/2021 / 9:03 PM

    i have collected my own seeds from last year. I did not soak them before planting. They should germinate

    • Nuria
      26/09/2021 / 12:26 PM

      Yes, they should, mine self-seeded and they grew fine.

    • Maggie
      29/02/2024 / 12:18 AM

      New here- Love your blog! Silly question… when you planted the seed which orientation did you push the seed into the soil? I know the seed should be vertical not horizontal, but pointed side into soil or facing up? Thanks

      • Nuria
        27/04/2024 / 11:17 AM

        Welcome to the blog! Not a silly question at all, with seeds, it doesn’t really matter about orientation, that is more important when planting bulbs. Seeds can just be sown without worrying about orientation. I hope that helps, and thank you for your question.

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