Botanical Name — Stephania venosa
Other Name – Stephania rotundifolia
Plant Family — Menispermaceae
A stunning caudex plant from Malaysia, Stephania venosa has a woody, gnarled exposed root and delicate circular leaves. During the winter, this plant may completely defoliate and look like a cracked stone or large tuber vegetable. Once mature, it blooms clusters of orange flowers in early spring. Known as a medicinal plant in South Asia, it is sold to treat everything from cancer to the common cold. The latin name ‘venosa’ was given because this plant’s sap is bright red.
• Stephania venosa does best in filtered sun, 4 to 5 hours a day. Avoid intense afternoon sun by sheltering this plant beneath the limbs of a larger plant or placing it in the shadow of a sheer curtain. Grow outdoors in light shade or indoors in a sunny window with eastern or western exposure.
• Stephania venosa prefers warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s. It can become stressed if left in conditions of extreme temperatures or intense sun.
• These plants are not cold hardy, if grown outdoors migrate to a sunny spot indoors when night time temperatures drop below 55 ºF.
• Native to sub-tropical climates that regularly experience dry seasons, Stephania venosa are drought tolerant plants. Water when the soil dries out (fairly often) in the summer and only infrequently during the winter. Their soil should be allowed to dry out entirely before watering thoroughly.
• Stephania venosa prefer a sharply draining mix. Cacti or succulent potting mix is great. You can amend a regular potting soil with sand, pumice, or perlite up to 50% to improve grittiness and drainage.
• Stephania venosa produce clusters of orangish red flowers when mature, most often in late March or April. Male and female flowers look very different on this plant. They are pollinated by fruit flies.
• These plants do not require fertilizer though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly, diluted at half strength.
• Stephania venosa is most successfully propagated from seed. Cuttings sometimes work, but are usually hit and miss.
• Stephania venosa are attractive to mealy bugs, so keep an eye out for fuzzy white specks in caudex folds.
• Root rot can also be a concern and is triggered by overwatering. Always err on the side of underwatering.
Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
• Little maintenance is required to grow these plants.
• This plant loves to be rootbound in a pot. Once planted, they will be happy in the same pot for several years. Repot once every two to three years.
• If you have a young Stephania venosa, do not plan on exposing the caudex until it’s fully established.
• Stephania venosa is a traditional medicine for populations in South Asia. It is not known to be toxic. A bitter tonic is brewed from the roots to treat a variety of ailments. Also, the red sap of the plant is traditionally used as a tattoo dye.
• Avoid consuming or using this plant, unless under the guidance of someone practiced in its traditional applications.