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Did you know there’s an adaptogen you can grow as a houseplant? Jiaogulan, also known as immortality vine, is a lush plant from the cucumber family. Surprisingly, the leaves contain some of the same properties as ginseng. Unlike ginseng, jiaogulan is easy to grow- even indoors!
Adaptogenic herbs are a wonderful group of plants to work with for health, and they can make nice garden and landscape plants as a bonus. I’ve been experimenting with several in my gardens. Eleuthero, tulsi, and codonopsis are doing really well for me. These plants need outdoor containers or a garden setting to thrive.
Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is more versatile. It grows up to 20 feet long outdoors, but if you keep it indoors you can harvest it to keep it at a manageable size.
I initially kept mine in a hanging basket on the patio, but it was difficult to keep the soil moist enough. After I switched to a deeper, ceramic pot indoors my jiaogulan has been much happier. It’s happiest on my living room windowsill during summer and winter, but I sometimes set it outside in the spring.
If you place your jiaogulan outdoors during the summer, don’t be surprised if it dies back in the fall. When grown outdoors, the above-ground part of jiaogulan withers away for the winter. The plant will grow back from the roots in the spring.
Growing jiaogulan organically
Out of all of the herbs I’ve grown, jiaogulan is the most prone to insect damage. When I’m keeping it indoors this isn’t a problem. However, any time I put it outside it is a magnet for beetles and slugs! I’ve found that a homemade Castille soap spray is good to help control pests on jiaogulan houseplants if you want them to be indoor/outdoor plants. Neem spray is another good choice.
Tips for growing jiaogulan indoors
If you want to grow your own, you should be able to find live plants at Strictly Medicinal Seeds and at Gurney’s. I bought mine from Strictly Medicinal Seeds as a live plant and haven’t tried growing from seed. Here are some tips for growing jiaogulan indoors that I learned from the seed catalog. These tips are working well for me!
- Water every 3-5 days. Jiaogulan doesn’t like to be dry.
- Give it plenty of natural light (by keeping it on a windowsill or in a sun room)
- Feed it weekly with compost tea or liquid kelp
- If you set it outdoors in summer, make sure to keep it shaded
- Trim the vines when they get too long (and make some tea!)
The best part of keeping this herb as a houseplant is using it to make tea. Whenever my plant needs a trim, I either hang the cut vines or spread them out on a coffee filter and let them dry for a day or two. Once they are completely dry, I crumble them up and store them in a glass canning jar.
Jiaogulan has many of the same compounds that are found in ginseng, but it is much easier and faster to grow. It tastes good by itself, but I also like mixing it with green tea. Not bad for a houseplant!
Where to buy jiaogulan
Growing other adaptogens
Tulsi is another easy-going adaptogen that’s perfect for home gardeners. Read my article about growing four different kinds of tulsi to see if you might be able to add it to your garden.