Vines are unique for their flexible stems which make them useful
for sprawling, trailing, and training in a multitude of directions.
Without support, many vines make good ground covers.
And, with support, they grow upright and thus take up little
ground space. At the same time they introduce an interesting
vertical dimension to the landscape. This is especially important
in today's smaller landscapes where often the only direction to
go is up. But vines do more than just cling and grow upward,
and they have a great deal to offer in the way of ornamental
Vines offer a broad array of floral and foliar interest. Wisterias
provide excellent color and a very classic look with their pendant
trains of fragrant flowers. But they also offer vibrant green
fernlike deeply compound leaves. The trumpet vines (Campsis
species) have large tubular flowers that appeal to hummingbirds
-as do those of honeysuckles which range from white to
pink to yellow and often are pleasantly fragrant. Honeysuckle
leaves, by the way, range from yellow to green to purple. On
the small end of the spectrum are the flowers of Boston ivies
and Virginia creeper with their tiny green nearly invisible flowers.
Such vines as these compensate for their tiny flowers with
magnificent showy leaves that turn bright red or yellow during
Some vines even produce interesting fruit. That of Boston ivy
(Parthenocissus) is grapelike and persists through winter. The
fruit of Akebias is colorful, large, and exotic, and that of trumpetvine
resembles a miniature banana.
Vines as Ground Covers:
Vines that work well as ground covers tend to grow rapidly and
fill in to make a dense weed-impenetrable blanket. Hall's honeysuckle
is a popular ground covering vine, and English ivy and
purple wintercreeper are so popular as ground covers that they
are often overlooked as climbers.
Vines as Accents:
Used as accent plants, climbing
vines help draw one's attention to
other plants as well as such objects
as trellises, pillars, railings, light
poles, chimneys, or other attractive
ornamental features. For the purpose
of accent, one or two plants are
usually sufficient. The specific variety
should be selected so as to contrast
- through foliage color and
texture, or flowers, with the feature
that is being accented.
Vines as Screens:
Vines are wonderful for
or concealment and
there is a vine that will
screen most anything.
When using vines in
this manner it is important
to choose one with
the proper growth
characteristic so that it
will effectively attach
itself. It is also important
to use a vine with
the proper texture and
leaf size to match the
object being screened.
Textures will vary
according to the size
and shape of the leaf.
There is a broad range of leaf sizes available.
Vines For Decorating Walls, Fences, and Tree Trunks:
Vines are exceptional for adding
color and textural interest to drab
walls and harsh looking fences.
They are also fantastic for dressing
up the trunks of coarse barked
trees and for draping over the
edges of retaining walls and
Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies:
Vines with tubular flowers (like honeysuckles
and trumpet vines) are
magnets to hummingbirds. Others,
such as climbing hydrangea, are good
for butterfly gardening.
Methods of Attachment:
Twining Vines: Twiners have
stems that circle around other
plants or objects to gain their
support. These vines are good to
use on chainlink fences, light
poles, and trellises. They won't
wrap around a large tree but
they can overrun small trees and
shrubs so be sure to use them in
areas away from such plants.
Clinging Vines: Clinging vines
attach themselves by aerial
rootlets or adhesive disks and are
great for attaching to flat surfaces. Those with aerial rootlets need
a coarse surface to cling to, such as brick or coarse textured bark.
They are good for use with large trees and brick walls and chimneys.
Those with adhesive discs will attach to smooth (as well as
coarse textured) surfaces and will climb just about anything.
The maintenance of vines varies with the variety, its growth rate,
and where it is planted. Ground covering vines usually need a
simple trimming back once or twice a year to keep them in
bounds. Those grown against a wall may need annual pruning to
keep them away from windows and eave-troughs. And climbers
growing on fences may go for several years without pruning.
Planting, Spacing, and Watering:
Similar to ground covers. Please refer to the ground cover section
of this brochure.
Controlling Weeds in Vine Plantings:
Follow the directions in the ground cover section of this
Most vines are moderate feeders and should be fertilized in similar
manner as ground covers (see ground cover section).