Vines have many uses. They produce flowers and fall color for eye appeal. They can shade the south or west wall of a house, soften the look of a fence, visually break up large, unadorned walls, enhance the good features of a house, or conceal less attractive areas. Vines are especially good for small spaces because they are so vertical. For example, a vine growing on a fence will take up only 12” of width, whereas many hedges would need 4’-6’. Some vines can even be used as ground cover on a hillside.
The lushness and health of a vine depends largely on how content the roots are. Dig a large hole and improve the soil as needed with peat moss or other organic matter. Don’t fertilize at planting time. In subsequent years, you can fertilize with 10-10-10 fertilizer early in the spring.
Unless used as a groundcover, vines need an additional support structure in most cases. This support should be sturdy enough to bear the weight of a full-grown specimen. Trellises should be 4”-6” away from a solid wall for good air circulation.
Vines climb in different ways. Some climb via tendrils which coil around a fence or trellis (i.e., Sweet Pea. Others climb via root-like “suction cups” which adhere to brick or other rough surfaces (i.e., Boston Ivy. Sometimes the whole stem will twine around the support (i.e., Morning Glory, Bittersweet). Don’t use the “suction cup” type vine on wood, especially if the surface needs periodic repainting. The wood may be damaged by the vine and it’s very difficult to get the vine to adhere again once it’s been pried off the surface.
Annual vines only last one season but provide very quick results and are especially good in an area for which you have future plans. Try twining plants such as Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata), a yellow or orange flower with a black centers, or Morning Glory (Ipomoea) with flowers of blue, pink, white, or red. Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus) climbs by tendrils and has fragrant flowers in many different colors. Some Sweet Peas may survive our winters.
There are several perennial vines to consider:
'Autumn Revolution' Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)
A twining vine that grows 20’ or more, depending on available support. It prefers sun or very light shade. The yellow fall color and bright orange-red berries are an autumn favorite. 'Autumn Revoultion' produces both male and female flowers, so only one plant is required for fruit production. Since Bittersweet can become quite invasive, it is best to plant it on poorer soil to help keep it in check.
Clematis produces gorgeous flowers in many beautiful colors. They prefer well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil, and need generous watering. Clematis likes sun on the top but need cool, moist roots (achieved by either underplanting with a short annual or perennial, or by mulching). Clematis grow to 8’ or more depending upon variety. When planting, place the crown 2” below the soil level. The vine should be tied loosely to its support as it grows. Don’t expect full growth the first year.
Learn more about Clematis Care and Varieties by viewing the Fact Sheet.
Dropmore Honeysuckle (Lonicera hirsutax sempervirens)
A twining vine that produces red-orange flowers from summer into fall. It has nice, rich green foliage and grows 10’-15’.
Kintzley's Ghost Honeysuckle (Lonicera reticulata)
Grows from 8’-12’. Its yellow flowers are fragrant and may attract hummingbirds. Along with the flowers, eucalyptus-like bracts are visible, unusual, and very attractive. Berries are produced in the fall.
Honeybelle Honeysuckle (Lonicera hirsutax sempervirens)
Honeybelle was a new introduction in 2009. Easily grows to 10' - 20' and produces fragrant blossoms throughout the season. Hummingbirds and butterflies find these flowers quite attractive. It may produce small red berries in the fall. Although this plant can be grown in partial shade, you will get the best blooming and impact if planted in full sun. Avoid planting in very wet sites.
Major Wheeler Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler')
Major Wheeler is an exceptionally mildew resistant variety! You’ll appreciate the clean foliage on this honeysuckle variety. Plus, it’s loaded with red, trumpet-shaped blooms that the hummingbirds love. Best blooming occurs in full sun. Likes well-drained soils. Needs support to climb.
Trumpet Vine, Red (Campsis radicans)
Climbs with root-like holdfasts and is very vigorous. Even though it sometimes dies back in the winter, it will recover quickly. Its orange-red trumpet-shaped flowers appear in July. Trumpet Vine prefers full sun.
Trumpet Vine, Yellow (Campsis radicans 'Flava')
Yellow Trumpet Vine flowers best in a full sun location. It will do fine in any soil except those kept continually wet. Climbs quickly up to 30 feet when given support. The yellow flowers are borne in summer and are often visited by hummingbirds. Rapid growth makes training easy, but regular pinching and pruning is required to establish this vine on a structure. Be careful when pruning because some people react to the foliage with skin inflammation. Pollen causes some allergy problems for some people.
Balboa Sunset Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans 'Monbal')
Balboa Sunset Trumpet Vine flowers best in a full sun location. Discovered growing wild on Balboa Island, CA in 1998. The red blooms are dark and velvety and touched with shades of dark orange. Requires regular weekly watering. Climbs quickly up to 30 feet or more when given support. Hummingbirds love it! Be careful when pruning because some people react to the foliage with skin inflammation. Pollen causes some allergy problems for some people. This vine can also be used as a groundcover.
Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
Good for use on masonry. It climbs by tendrils that have adhesive discs at their tips. Boston Ivy has blue-black berries and good fall color. Although it may die back in winter occasionally, and takes about two years to become well-established, Boston Ivy grows quite vigorously after attaining some age. This vine can also be used as a groundcover.
Englemann Ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
Another robust vine that works well on masonry, fences, and arbors. It turns a wonderful dark red in fall and produces blue-black berries.
Blue Moon Wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya)
is a hardy wisteria that produces blue-violet flowers borne in showy, drooping 12” racemes, from spring to summer. Wonderful for draping over gates and archways. This plant serves as a butterfly nectar sources and as a host for butterfly larvae.