University of Illinois Extension

Add Annual Vines to Your Garden

“Plant your annual vines in the ground in front of a windowpane trellis or a tree, wrapped with flexible trellis,” said Greg Stack, Extension horticulture educator.

“Use them in a planter box with a redwood fan, a pot with a topiary frame, or in a hanging basket or window box. A particularly attractive option if you have limited room is to construct a trellis in a planter box on a deck or balcony.”

Most annual vines attach themselves to a support with twining stems or tendrils. This allows them to attach easily to a chain link fence, wire, or thin strips of wood.  Usually, vines don’t cling well to brick or wooden walls.  However, they can with some help.

Here are some vine options Stack recommends to gardeners.

“Sweet pea, an old-fashioned favorite, comes in all sizes, from two-foot tall bushy plants to eight-foot climbers,” he said. “The pea blossoms range from scarlet to white to lavender to brilliant bi-colors.  Perhaps their best trait is their highly fragrant flowers that also make great cut flowers for indoor decorations.

“Sweet peas grow best in full sun during the cooler weather of spring and summer. They like a rich garden soil that retains moisture, and can be direct-seeded outdoors.”

It is often helpful to soak the seed overnight to hasten germination, Stack added.
Sweet pea varieties that can tolerate the heat of summer are ‘Old Spice’ and ‘Cupanis Original’.  There is also a perennial sweat pea called ‘Pearl’ that blooms in June and July and makes a good cut flower.  Unfortunately, it is not fragrant but is hardy to zone 3.”

Something different is Balloon Vine, also called Love-in-a-Puff.

“Gardeners plant this vine not for its flowers, because they are very small, white clusters that go virtually unnoticed,” said Stack. “What follows the flowers, though, are whimsical, greenish balloon fruits about the size of very large grapes. These air-filled sacks look like little lanterns on the vine and offer something different. Balloon Vine grows best in full sun in average soil, reaching about 10 to 15 feet.  The leaves are very finely cut.”

Cup-and-Saucer, sometimes called Cathedral Bells, is another vine to consider for uniquely-shaped flowers.  This vigorous vine produces lush heart-shaped foliage and peculiar reddish-purple cup-shaped flowers that are nestled into light-green saucers.

“Nasturtiums are another old-fashioned flower that deserves a place along side of other vines,” said Stack. “Nasturtiums tend not to climb but make a great basket or window box plant as they trail over the edge of containers.  They are great companion plants to plants that grow taller.”

Red, orange, yellow and white-spurred flowers are mixed with unique round leaves.  These vines are easy to grow from seed and prefer a sunny location in well-drained soil that is not too fertile.  Rich soils will encourage abundant foliage and few flowers.  The flowers are great when cut and offer a sweet fragrance indoors.

The Canary Climber produces feathery yellow flowers that look like a flock of tropical birds. .

Greg Stack

“The Canary Climber is another vine to consider, as it is a relative of the Nasturtium that does not bear much family resemblance,” said Stack. “This vine produces feathery yellow flowers that look like a flock of tropical birds.  The bright yellow color is not often seen in vines so it is a welcome addition.  The foliage is bright green and deeply lobed. It does prefer the cooler season and so does better during spring and early summer.”

Black-eyed Susan is a fast-growing, vigorous vine that is equally at home growing up a picket fence or in a hanging basket on the balcony. It is almost better in a basket.  The arrowhead-shaped foliage is a blue-green color and the thin vines hang very well and move gracefully in the wind when used in baskets.
“This vine will bloom all summer and colors can range from orange to yellow to white and all the flowers have very dark centers that contrast well, giving the vine its common name. This vine prefers a full sun location in moist, well-drained soils. Start seeds indoors or buy started plants.”

The Hyacinth Bean grows to impressive proportions, Stack noted.  The attractive blue-green to almost purple leaves are carried on purple stems.  All of this provides a good background for the dark purple pea-like flowers.  Following the flowers is the second act for the vine--extremely attractive, dark, glossy purple fruit that grows to about three-to-four inches in length. Hyacinth Bean grows best in full sun and in soils that provide it with plenty of moisture.  Sow its seeds directly in the garden when soils start to warm.

“For those who want to encourage hummingbirds to the garden, consider planting Cardinal Climber,” Stack said.  “This vine prefers a full sun site growing to about eight-to-10 feet and producing very fine textured, deeply lobed foliage.  The bright red trumpet-shaped flowers are a calling card for hummingbirds. Soak seeds overnight prior to seeding in the garden.”