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How to Grow Cat's Claw Vine in the Desert

Desert gardeners find plenty of cat's claw vines (Macfadyena unguis-cati) while shopping at local nurseries and gardening centers. It's one of the most popular flowering vines in desert cities such as Las Vegas and Phoenix. cat's claw vine takes its nickname from the sticky, claw-like structures along its stems. They cling to just about any material. Although the vine typically doesn't damage stucco as some vines do, it takes a long time to remove once it covers the side of a stucco home. cat's claw vine grows to 25 feet or more in length and, although it is native to tropical Central and South America, it thrives in desert gardens.

Water the cat's claw vine once a month, slowly and deeply, to a depth of 10 inches. The plant is listed as drought-tolerant, but it flowers better with consistent irrigation. If grown in full sun in particularly hot areas of the desert, the leaves will burn if the vine isn't hydrated.

Control cat's claw vine while it's young. Once established and clinging to a structure, it is time-consuming to remove. Cut it back as much as required to keep it to the structure you've provided, or to the shape you desire. Remove it immediately from any structures on which you don't want it to climb.

Fertilize the cat's claw with a 10-10-10 formula in the middle of February. Use the rate listed on the package and water to a depth of 6 inches after applying. Wash off any granules that fall on the vine's foliage.

Cut the cat's claw vine back to the soil in late winter, if it's become overgrown.

Tie the vine to the support structure if you live in an area of the desert with high winds. Use soft fabric or commercial plant ties and tie the vine loosely to avoid cutting into it.


Cat's claw vine may lose foliage in desert regions that receive winter frost, such as parts of the Mojave in Southern Nevada. It should come back in spring.

To remove cat's claw vine from a structure, push on it instead of pulling it. This causes the “claws” to release, according to author and desert gardening expert Linn Mills.

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