University of Illinois Extension

Annual Vines Add Height

“Vines are becoming very popular among gardeners because they add a vertical accent to the garden and can make even small gardens more interesting. Gardeners get so involved thinking about perennial vines that they often forget that there are many annual vines,” said Sharon Yiesla, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “Annual vines not only give us that vertical accent, they have the added benefit of allowing us to change our landscape every summer since they are not permanent.”

While perennial vines climb by different methods, most annuals climb either by twining or through the use of tendrils. Vines with tendrils can climb by wrapping their small tendrils around the support.

“This makes them useful on open structures like arbors and open fences,” Yiesla said. “If the vine is an aggressive grower, it can be a problem because it can grab on where it’s not wanted. These plants will need some training to keep them on the intended structure.”
Twining vines climb by winding their stems around the support. They also do well on open structures.

Like vines with tendrils, these twining vines can go where they are not wanted.

Sharon Yiesla

“Like vines with tendrils, these twining vines can go where they are not wanted,” she noted. “They will also need some training. Fast-growing twining vines may engulf smaller plants quickly if not monitored carefully.”

Yiesla said most annual vines are easy to grow from seed and are seldom sold as plants at the garden center. She reviewed a few common annual vines that might be useful in the garden.

Dolichos lablab (Lablab purpureus) or Purple Hyacinth Bean has fragrant, purple, pea-type flowers in early summer. These are followed by bright purple (magenta) bean pods. The leaves may also have a slight purplish cast to them. This vine needs full sun and good soil moisture.

Ipomoea alba or Moon Vine has large (5 to 6 inches), fragrant, white flowers in late summer. These flowers open in the evening and last through the night. The vine has large, heart-shaped foliage and needs full sun and well-drained soil. Seeds are hard and need to be nicked and soaked overnight before planting.

Ipomoea purpurea or Common Morning Glory has large funnel-like flowers in shades of red, white, or blue. The flowers open in the morning. Morning Glory prefers full sun and grows best in moist soils but is also fairly drought-tolerant. Seeds are hard and need to be nicked and soaked overnight before planting.

Ipomoea tricolor or Morning Glory (left) has funnel-like flowers in shades of purple, blue, and white. Flowers open in the morning. This plant may self-seed and become weedy. “Heavenly Blue” is the most well-known cultivar. Give the plant full sun and moist to dry soil. Seeds are hard and need to be nicked and soaked overnight before planting.

Ipomoea x multifida or Cardinal Vine has small, red, tubular flowers with white throats in summer. The leaves are deeply dissected, adding interest to the vine. Cardinal vine needs full sun and will grow in moist to dry soils. Seeds are hard and need to be nicked and soaked overnight before planting.

Ipomoea quamoclit or Cypress Vine has small, red, tubular flowers, summer into autumn.
“The flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies,” Yiesla said. “The interesting foliage is deeply dissected--finer than Cardinal Vine. This plant likes full sun to partial shade and moist to dry soils. Seeds are hard and need to be nicked and soaked overnight before planting.”

Lathyrus odoratus or Annual Sweet Pea (right) has fragrant, pea-type flowers in shades of blue, pink, white, red, or purple. It flowers best when temperatures are cooler. Annual Sweet Pea can tolerate full sun to partial shade. It needs moist, well-drained soil.

Phaseolus coccineus or Scarlet Runner Bean has red, pea-type flowers in summer. After the flowers finish, pods are formed. The pods contain black seeds marked with red. The pods are edible. The vines like full sun to partial shade and a rich, moist, well-drained soil.