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Vigorous Queen of Sheba vine is always in bloom

April 5, 2017

It may have been the first big trade mission. It might have been a spiritual mission. It might be farce.

She came up to Jerusalem from what is modern-day Yemen, with her retinue of camels laden with jewels, exotic spices and gold. But most of all, she came with questions, hard questions for mythical King Solomon. 

King Solomon's evil palace thugs feared that the king might marry this southerner, so they spread rumors that she had hairy legs and the hooves of a donkey.

To find out the truth, King Solomon built a palace with glass floors. Believing that the glass floor was water, the Queen of Sheba lifted her skirt to cross over the water, revealing her very human legs and feet. 

She and King Solomon communed of all matters of her heart.

Satisfied that King Solomon was indeed a mystic, she returned to her country a changed woman. She may have changed, but she will always be the Queen of Sheba. 

A fitting tribute to this biblical queen is the Queen of Sheba Vine (Podranea brycei). The Queen of Sheba always looked her best, and her namesake vine with its pink trumpet flowers blooms all year, too. 

The flowers have a delicate, light fragrance, and they are stunning with their creamy white throats and a hot pink ring at the ends of the stems. 

As a foliage plant, Queen of Sheba is showy all year long with glossy, pointed leaves that stay green indoors all winter.

This vigorous vine does best with enough room for its roots, so choose the biggest pot you can find. A three-gallon pot or larger does well. The Queen of Sheba vine needs to be moved into a slightly bigger pot about once every three years. 

Place your plant where it will get full sun. Feed regularly, especially during the spring and summer. A good, all-purpose organic fertilizer works well. Spread compost over the surface of the soil for additional fertility. 

Plants are available from specialty nurseries such as Logees (www.logees.com). 

Queen of Sheba vine is always in bloom, so if you need to prune it, you can cut it back anytime with no interruption in blooming. 

If you set your vine outdoors, it will attract hummingbirds, orioles and other nectar-feeding birds and butterflies.

With its trailing growth habit it is easy to place in the summer garden. It is hardy to 20 degrees F. Light frost might kill the leaves, but the roots will survive, so bring the plant indoors when the weather turns cold. 

All queens have their delicate side, and the Queen of Sheba vine is only hardy in USDA zones 9 and 10, so it is usually treated as an indoor vine or a half-hardy annual in the garden. 

There are false heirs to the crown, and in the plant kingdom, beware of the false queen, Podranea ricasoliana, a wild and often unwieldy interloper. 

To brighten your indoor windows or cheer your summer garden, nothing beats the everblooming, always regal Queen of Sheba vine.

Whether you decide to shave your legs is up to you.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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