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What kind of vines should I plant in my landscaping? – kechambers

What kind of vines should I plant in my landscaping?

Andy Rideout
| columnist

Vines are often underused and underappreciated in home landscapes.

This is unfortunate because vines can often fill spaces not practical for other landscape plants. Vines can provide a fast screen for privacy on your patio, hide unsightly views, and they can be grown on a pergola for quick shade or as groundcovers where lawns will not.

In small gardens, they excel at adding the element of height and when covering and blending a structure with other plantings. Not only are vines useful but they also provide beautiful flowers, rich foliage and sweet fragrance. In fact, vines may be one of the most versatile plants in the landscape.

Proper vine selection begins with careful consideration of the planting site. Vines used for screening should rapidly grow dense, evergreen foliage; fragrant vines should be placed close to windows or patios to enjoy; deciduous vines could be used for summer shade but allow light through in the winter; and a vine suitable for creative pruning may look great on a stone wall.

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Plant hardiness, soil adaptability, sunlight and type of support needed should also be considered.

Vines climb by tendrils, by twining, or by clinging. Tendrils are slim, leafless stems that wrap around most anything less than half an inch inch wide. Grapes and some clematis are vines that climb using tendrils. These vines will need support to climb but this could be as simple as stringing wires on posts or walls. Twining vines use their main stem to wind around posts, trees, wires and fences.

Wisteria, morning glories, and honeysuckles are examples of twining vines. Clinging vines climb by attaching small rootlets (ie English ivy) or adhesive disks (ie Virginia creeper). Both types of clinging vines will grow on brick and masonry walls, but vines that cling with rootlets may actually damage the mortar on homes over time.

Neither type of clinging vines should be grown directly on wooden homes since excessive dampness can occur that may lead to rot. If you truly want a vine to climb your home, try hanging a trellis on the wall and place spacers two to three inches thick on the back of the open latticework to keep vines away from the structure and allow for air circulation. Use twining or tendril vines to cover the trellis.

Vines benefit from a rich, deep, well-drained soil. If you are adding organic matter such as compost to improve your soil, be sure to incorporate it into the top six to 12 inches of the planting bed rather than just backfilling the planting hole. Water after planting and use a mulch to keep moisture in the soil.

If growing vines next to a building, space the plant at least 18 inches out from the house to avoid the roof overhangs. Container-grown vines can be planted any time of the year, but bare-root vines are best planted during the fall and winter months.

Fall and winter planted vines can be fertilized with a balanced fertilizer (about a tablespoon of 10-10-10) in the spring. Wait five weeks before fertilizing if you plan your vines in the spring. Established vines need 1 1/2 lbs per 100 sq. ft. of 6-12-12 or 5-10-10 in early spring and mid-summer.

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As a general rule, flowering vines should be pruned after they bloom. Generally, pruning is only necessary to remove dead, diseased, and damaged wood, to reduce size, or to promote branching. However fast-growing vines like wisteria may require a great deal of pruning to keep them in bounds.

There are many excellent vines available for our areas. Below you will find a few of the less common perennial and annual vines and some of their traits to prime your imaginations. Check out websites or gardening books for other great vines.

Perennial vines

  • Five-Leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata) – evergreen; tendril habit; use for arbors, fences, trellis; very attractive foliage
  • Japanese Hydrangeavine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides) – white blooms in summer; decidedly; needs partial shade; clinging habit; slow grower but bark exfoliates with age
  • Climbing Honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrotti) – yellow blooms in spring and summer; semi evergreen; twining habit; ‘Goldflame’ cultivar rated as one of the most popular

Annual vines

  • Love-in-a-Puff (Cardiospermum halicacabum) – tendril habit; full sun to part shade; Plant has attractive green papery seed pods each containing three seeds with heart-shaped markings
  • Cup and Saucer Vine (Cobaea scandens)—tendril habit; full sun; produces large, bell-shaped flowers that mature to a deep purple
  • Spanish Flag (Mina lobata) – twining habit; full sun; vigorous grower; clusters of scarlet flowers fade to yellow and cream
  • Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) – twining habit; full sun; fast growing vine produces clusters of brilliant red flowers and edible beans

P Andrew Rideout is the UK Extension Agent for Horticulture and can be reached at

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