How to Grow and Care for Cup and Saucer Vine

Jump to Section

Cobaea scandens, better known as cup and saucer vine or cathedral bells, is a fast-growing plant native to subtropical regions of Mexico. Cup and saucer vine is a perennial climber that can grow up to 20 feet in height. It has showy, trumpet-shaped flowers in white, pink, or purple shades.

You've seen this beautiful plant at the nursery or garden center, and you want to bring one home, but you're not sure how to care for it. Most plants are easy to care for once you know what they need, but figuring that out can be tricky, especially if you're a beginner gardener.

Our cup and saucer vine care guide will tell you everything you need to know about growing and caring for your new plant. We'll give you tips on watering, fertilizing, pruning, and pests and diseases. Read on!

What Is Cup and Saucer Vine?

Also known as Cobaea scandens or cathedral bells, cup and saucer vine is part of the Polemoniaceae family and goes several different names, including cup and saucer vine, cathedral bells, monastery bells, and Mexican ivy. This is a fast growing vine with beautiful flowers.

What Is Cup and Saucer Vine?
Image credit:

The bell shaped flowers are pale green as they open but then turn purple or white as they mature. The flower buds have a somewhat unpleasant scent, but the flowers develop a floral honey fragrance once fully opened.

Cup and Saucer Vine Care

Cup and saucer vine grow so quickly that it's usually started from seed rather than nursery plants. Directly sow seeds in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed, or get a head start on your seasonal garden by starting seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your last frost spring.

Cup and Saucer Vine Care
Image credit:

The blooms on the cup and saucer vines are primarily pollinated by bats when the plant is grown south of USDA hardiness zones 7. Also, remember that this sprawling vine can easily engulf nearby plants, so start training young and pliable vines to grow up a structure or on a trellis, and they'll take it from there.

To control the size of the plant, pinch off the stems when they reach the top of your support, as this will encourage branching and bud sets.

Site Considerations

Clear weeds and incorporate compost into a site in the garden near a sturdy arbor or fence that is in full sun. The site should have well draining soil. If you're unsure how to tell if you have well-drained soil, dig a one-foot hole where you want to plant and fill it with water. Let it drain completely and refill the hole.

Light Requirement

Cup and saucer vines need full sun to bloom well. If you live in a hot climate, your vines can tolerate a bit of afternoon shade, but you should aim for at least six to eight hours of direct sun each day.


During the plant's growing season, you'll need to water it regularly to keep the soil moist but not wet. In general, cup and saucer vines need about one inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation. Allow the soil to drain but not to dry out completely between watering. You can dramatically decrease your watering cadence to once a month or so during the winter months.

Soil Requirement

You don’t have to know how to test soil pH because cup and saucer vine isn't particular about soil pH or soil type, but it does need a well draining soil to thrive. In addition, mixing some organic matter into your soil will keep your plant growing strong and blooming without the addition of fertilizers.

Temperature and Humidity

As a summer annual, cup and saucer vine grow well in just about any growing zone. If you grow it as a perennial, it will be reliably hardy in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 but might die off in zone 9. If you direct sowing seeds outdoors, note that young cup and saucer vine plants are sensitive to the cold, giving them extra protection if the temperature deeps below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.


Cup and saucer vine plants don't require much fertilizer to grow big and healthy. A light application of organic fertilizer every other month should be sufficient. Too much nitrogen will result in lush, green foliage at the expense of flowers.

Pruning Cup and Saucer Vine

Cup and saucer vines don't necessarily need pruning, but you can groom the plant to help keep the plant at manageable size. With the younger plant, pinch a few of the side shoots in the spring. For older plants, trim the side shoots in February. Without trimming, the foliage will hide some flowers and inhibit growth. Trimming helps give the flowers more sunlight and room to blossom.

Seed pods form in the fall, and you may have volunteer seedlings in the spring that you need to remove. Clean up dropped seed pods and dropped leaves in the fall.

Grow Cup and Saucer Vine from Seed

Starting cup and saucer vine seeds are not that difficult, but it's best to scratch them a bit with a knife or soak them overnight in water before planting to encourage germination. Make sure you also learn the tips for indoor composting before planting your vine seed.  Sow the seeds in their edge trays filled with soil-based seed compost.

Make sure you put a sprinkle of soil on top of the cup and vine seeds, as too much will cause the seed to rot. Cover the seed tray with a piece of glass or plastic wrap and keep the soil moist but not saturated. Germination will occur a month after planting.

When your seeds have grown enough to be transplanted, move them to a 3-inch garden pot filled with high-quality potting soil. Move the plant to an 8-inch pot as the plant gets larger.

Cathedral Bells Vine Pests and Diseases

The Cobaea scandens is a healthy, hardy plant, but there are a few issues to pay attention to. Spider mites and aphids may attack your plant, especially in dry weather. Red spider mites are hard to remove from the cup and saucer vine plant. If you notice spider mites in your plant, trim the plant back in the spring to help revive the plant.

Using insecticidal soap or neem oil will also help get rid of spider mites. Aphids are also easy to get rid of by spraying the plant with a strong stream of water or using insecticidal soap.

FAQs on How to Grow and Care for Cathedral Bells Vine

How long does it take a cup and saucer vine to bloom?

The vines begin to flower about five months after planting. You need to ensure you do everything right and take care of it well to encourage blooming.

Is the cup and saucer vine poisonous?

No, it is not poisonous. However, the sap may cause skin irritation in some people. Be sure to wear gloves when working with the plant.

Final Thought on How to Grow and Care for Cobaea Scandens

As you can see, growing and caring for cup and saucer vine plants is not difficult. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Be sure to water the plant adequately and keep the soil light and well drained. The vine will flower about five months after planting and requires moderate watering. Enjoy your beautiful cup and saucer vine.


Kristina Perrin

Kristina Perrin

Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.

Related Articles

Download Free Chart Now!

Your email will be used only to confirm your request and to provide free kitchen information. By submitting your info on this form, you are agreeing to be contacted regarding your service request by means of email. This is no obligation form and doesn’t require you to purchase any service.