Photo by Melody

Spotlight on Hardenbergia, Australian Native Lilac Vine

By Jacqueline Cross (libelluleNovember 2, 2008

This Australian native is easy to grow and has beautiful spikes of vibrant color to grace your garden trellis or arbor.

Gardening picture

Hardenbergia comptoniana, an Australian native was named for Franziska, Countess von Hardenberg, sister of Baron Carl AA von Hugel, a 19th century Australian patron of botany. H. comptoniana belongs to the Papilionaceae family. According to Botanary, this family name is from the Latin papilio (butterfly), after the shape of the pea and bean flowers.

The name comptoniana relates to the Compton family of Newby Hall, Yorkshire, England.

Hardenbergia comptoniana is commonly referred to as Compton coral pea, native lilac vine, wild sarsaparilla and wild wisteria.


Hardenbergia comptoniana
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden Member DaveH

Hardenbergia comptoniana
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden Member kennedyh

Hardenbergia violacea seed/seed pod
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden Member kennedyh

Growth Habit:

H. comptoniana is a twining vine that grows to six feet high but may also reach as tall as twenty feet when allowed to grow without pruning. Being an evergreen plant, H. comptoniana lends interest to the garden throughout the year. Plant has dark green leaves and pea-like purple blooms. Bloom time is from late spring through late summer. Training the vine on a trellis will create a nice screen for a deck or patio. If preferred, it will also make a thick, tangled groundcover in areas where other plants do not do well.

Needs of Hardenbergia comptoniana:

H. comptoniana like warm temperatures and sunshine but if grown in extremely hot areas, the vine should have a little shade.

Water regularly while plant is young and then enjoy, even in drought prone areas. Once it is established, it can take quite a bit of dry weather if grown in light shade. Feed a well balanced fertilizer; I prefer compost tea, once every two to three months.

Pruning can be done after blooms fade. For a thicker vine, prune the vine only where it twines around itself. Closely watching growth will allow you to pull these limbs out and thread them into the trellis rather than having to trim them back.

It is important to note that this vine will scramble across the ground and wrap itself around other plants. Keep a watchful eye out for this tendency.


Propagation of Hardenbergia is easily accomplished by softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings in early spring. Cuttings should be rooted in a mix of 25% peat moss and 75% sand, kept moist and given plenty of light. Note that this mix can contain as little as 65% and as much as 80% sand with no notable difference in the process of rooting cuttings.

Seeds germinate easily but must be scarified before planting. An example of this can be found in Garden Terms by clicking the link above.


Perhaps an even better known species of Hardenbergia is the Hardenbergia violacea.

Hardenbergia violacea is also a twining vine. There are cultivars which have more shrub-like growth habits such as the H. violacea ‘Mini Haha'. Blooms appear from winter through spring in a variety of colors including white, pink and various shades of purple. A few cultivars are listed below.

Cultivars of Hardenbergia violacea:

‘Alba' (white)

‘Blushing Princess' (shrub-like, mauve blooms)

‘Bushy Blue' (shrub-like, blue blooms)

‘Free-n-Easy' (white)

‘Happy Wanderer' (purple)

‘Mini Haha' (compact, shrub-like, purple blooms)

‘Pink Fizz' (pink)

‘Purple Falls' (purple)




Hardenbergia violacea
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden member mgarr



Hardenbergia violacea
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden member ginger749

Hardenbergia violacea
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden member Lyndaadlng


Hardenbergia violacea
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden member Rich Swanner


Hardenbergia violacea
Photo courtesy of Dave's Garden member Kell


These are beautiful plants, especially when trained to grow on trellises and pergolas and allowed to drape down over sitting areas of the garden.

As stated earlier, Hardenbergia prefer warm climates. Gardeners living in zones colder than zone 9 can still enjoy this lovely plant throughout the summer but it should be considered a tender perennial in those areas.

Happy Gardening

Learn More:

A wonderful book about Australian native flora and how to use it in the landscape;
Australian Native Plants Fifth Edition:
Cultivation, Use in Landscaping and Propagation (5th Edition)
by John W Wrigley and Murray Fagg
ISBN: 9781876334901
ISBN-10: 1876334908

To see more photographs of Hardenbergia violacea, take a look at Dave's Garden Plant Files.

A source for seeds right here at Dave's Garden can be found in Plant Scout.

A quick online search for mail order sources brought up Heart Garden Friends, an Australian (only) source.

In the U.S., I located it at Clifton's Flower and Garden Center.



  About Jacqueline Cross  
Jacqueline CrossI'm a native Floridian...feet planted in the shifting sands of northwest FL. but my heart strings are tightly knotted to the hills of Tennessee. I live with my poodle, Minnie Pearl, Zsa Zsa the cat who runs the whole show and a new addition, Kitty Belle. I'm a writer, gardener, quilter, cross stitcher, soapmaker and nature lover. Mother to 3 wonderful daughters & Nana to 6 perfect grandchildren. I also write for and was promoted to Feature Writer in the vegetable gardens section in 2008.

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