What is a Cissus?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2019
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A cissus is a plant in the genus Cissus, a group of climbing vines native to the tropics. These grape relatives are cultivated as houseplants and can be grown in the garden as long as a garden is between USDA zones 10 and 11, in a tropical region. Nurseries and garden supply stores sometimes carry Cissues species and they can also order specific plants by request. This plant grows very readily from cuttings and gardeners may be able to arrange exchanges or trades with other gardeners if they are interested in a particular cultivar.

Plants in this genus grow by anchoring themselves with tendrils and climbing substrates like other plants, trees, walls, and trellises. The plants tend to grow leggy in the wild and can be pruned and pinched to encourage a more spreading, bushy growth. The dark green leaves vary in shape and size and in some species may be varicolored, as in C. discolor, a houseplant with variegated leaves.

Cissus is native to the Asian tropics. Several species have historically been used as medicinal herbs, most commonly in the treatment of soft tissue injuries. Research has been done on these species to learn more about the active compounds they contain. Some athletic suppliers with supplies of nutritional supplements offer Cissus products on the grounds that they can support people through athletic injuries, as well as strengthening the soft tissue.


These plants need warm, humid environments. If people are growing them outdoors, the plants should be in a sheltered area of the tropical garden, out of direct light. Greenhouse and indoor gardeners can use Cissus in containers, especially hanging baskets. It is important to prune it to control the sprawling growth habit and to use a rich soil to retain moisture. If the environment is dry, misting is recommended to keep the humidity levels in the zone preferred by the plant, and the soil should be checked regularly for dryness.

Hardiness is a noted trait for members of this genus. They are well suited for cultivation as houseplants because they thrive in a variety of conditions and do not require extremely attentive care. As long as they have enough water and bright light, they should be content. If the leaves start to droop and dry out, it indicates the soil is too dry, and watering should allow the plant to perk up again. Plants may need to be periodically repotted to accommodate growing rootballs.



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