|UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION|
|Climbers and Twiners – Vines for the Home Garden|
Climbing vines are remarkable plants that can cover the sided of a building, cover fences, decorate trellises, and accent architectural features. Some can even be used as ground covers.
There are many types of vines that differ in size, growth habit, method of attachment, leaf and flower characteristics, and season of bloom. Some are slow growers needing help to get started and others take off at breakneck speed. Vines are exciting because of their diversity of leaves, flowers, fruit, and structure. They should be considered and integral part of the landscape. The best thing about vines though is they are easy to grow, colorful, interesting and fun.
What are vines? Vines are opportunistic plants with long flexible stems, often not self-supporting but using neighbors or some type of structure for support.
Key Features of Vines
Flowers are usually colorful, interesting and often fragrant and attractive to birds.
Foliage comes in interesting sizes, shapes, textures, colors and often has brilliant fall color.
Fruit can have interesting shapes and colors that are attractive to birds and good for dried arrangements.
Uses of Vines
Style and Function
What To Do
What Not To Do
Do Vines Damage Buildings?
The in-ground roots of vines do not damage building foundations. The aerial rootlets or adhesive discs don't damage or break-up mortar. They cling to the surface with cement-like compound that they secrete. They may actually help protect bricks and masonry as they moderate the effects of moisture/heat and dryness. The overlapping leaves of Boston and English ivy are like a thatched roof keeping rain from the walls.
Some vines can be trained like small shrubs. Wisteria and climbing hydrangea are a few examples.
Maintenance - Pruning
Initially: Prune early to establish a strong well-shaped framework. Stake the branches of young plants apart at the base until they become thick and woody to get them started with filling in the allotted space. Later they will produce many more flowers and fruit because of this practice. It will also prevent twiners from twining around each other and causing large mats.
When To Prune
This class of vine can be confusing to prune. Some varieties flower only on the previous year's wood, others produce flowers on new growth and still others will flower on both old and new wood. Many times abbreviations will be attached to the cultivar to help guide in pruning.
How Vines Attach
Best on brick, block, coarse bark and coarse wood surfaces. Aerial rootlets do not penetrate. They secrete cement like material that helps them adhere to the surface. Some examples include English ivy, and climbing hydrangea.
These bear thin wire-like appendages sometimes with disc-like pads on their tips. They either wrap around their support of if they have discs, they secrete a cement-like material that helps them attach to the surface. At first they reach out straight for support, their forked tips grip and wrap around the supports, then they contract spirally first one way then the other with as many turns in one direction as the other. This is thought to prevent snarling. Usually tendrils are formed on the shady side of the leaves. If they don't have, tendrilous plants attach well to chain link fences, metal sculpted supports and trellises. If they bear disks they will cling well to brick, block, coarse bark, and smooth or coarse surfaces. Clematis is a bit different in that its leafstalks act like tendrils and wrap around the support. Some examples include grapes, Boston ivy, Virginia creeper, and sweet pea.
These have stems that spiral around their support. They are good for covering chain link fences, trellises, poles, tripods, and thin trunked trees. Twiners will not ascend the trunk of large trees. They either spiral clockwise or counterclockwise and in about five of the species they do not have a clear direction. Some examples include wisteria, bittersweet, honysuckle and Dutchman's pipe. Darwin studied twining plants and published The Movement and Habits of Climbing Plants. He found that Akebia quinata takes 1 hr. and 38 min. to complete a revolution and hops take 2 hrs. and 8 min.
Weavers (lattice formers)
The young shoots of these seek dark places weaving in and out and thus are good on latticework. Generally they become very woody at their bases. Trumpet vine is an example.
Vines to Consider for Home Planting
Actinidia arguta 'Isaai' - Self-fertile hardy Kiwi - Grows to about 60 feet by twining. Oval medium green leaves, flowers white followed by small green edible fruit.
Actinidia kolomikta - Kolomikta vine - Grows to 10-12 feet, twining. Medium green leaves with white/pink blushed tips. Summerbome flowers are white and fragrant.
Akebia quinata 'Fruitful Combo' - A. quinata in combination with the cutivar A. qiunata 'Alba' - Need to plant the two together in order to get the attractive fruit. Grows to 40 feet by twining. Full sun to light shade. Semi evergreen five-parted leaves. Purple flowers in late spring with large bratwurst shaped fruit in the fall.
Ampelopsis brevipedunculata 'Elegens' - Variegated Porcelain Vine - Grows to 15 feet by tendrils. Leaves are variegated white and green. Small flowers in early summer followed by fruit that is lilac to light blue in color and very porcelain looking.
Aristolochia macrophylla - Dutchman's Pipe - Grows to 30 feet by twining. Very large heart shaped leaves. Has very interesting pipe shaped flowers in late spring.
Campsis radicans and cultivars - Trumpetvine - Grows to 30 feet by aerial rootlets and also weaves. Attractive compound leaves. Tube shaped flowers range in color from yellows to orange to red and are attractive to hummingbirds. Flowers in summer.
There are many cultivars of clematis in the marketplace. Many of these have showy and dramatic flowers. For something different though, look to the species types of clematis. From a cultural standpoint, species clematis offer the important advantage of being drought and heat tolerant, and most importantly resistance to stem rot, a devastating disease that can kill many of the hybrid types. They are also ornamental. Species clematis offer unique features that make them highly prized.
They are vigorous. Their strong stems grow quickly, attach effectively to trellises or wire supports and act as strong supports to their attractive foliage. The foliage as compared to many of the hybrid cultivars is different. Instead of being sparse and carried on spindly stems it is lush, robust and sometimes very colorful.
Clematis alpina 'Constance' - Constance Alpine Clematis - Grows to about 6-8 feet by clinging. Has one to two inch long bell shaped rose-red flowers in spring.
C. macropetal 'Bluebird' - Bluebird Large Petaled Clematis - Grows to 8-12 feet by clinging. Deep green foliage along with large quantities of blue bell shaped flowers in the spring. 'Markham's Pink' is the pink version of C. macropetal.
C. maximowicziana - Sweet Autumn Clematis - Very vigorous vine growing to 30 feet clinging by petioles. One of the most dependable bloomers for late summer/fall with large quantities of white fragrant flowers. C. virginica is the native counterpart.
C. tangutica - Golden Clematis - Grows to 15 feet clinging by petioles. Plant has rich green leaves and bears large quantities of rich buttercup yellow bell shaped flowers in summer followed by ornamental seed structures.
Hedera colchica var. dentat and 'Sulfur Heart' - Persian Ivy - Grows to about 50 feet by aerial roots. Very large leaves that are evergreen to semi-evergreen and carry a fragrance that smells like celery. Excellent vine for large scale applications. Seldom flowers or fruits. Hardiness may be an issue so may want to locate in a protected location.
Hedera helix - English Ivy - Grows to 50 feet by aerial rootlets or can be used as a ground cover growing to about 3-5 inches. Many cultivars available ('Baltica', 'Thomdale', 'Evergreen Acres', 'Walthamensis'). Various selections exist with varying leave size, color and shape. Evergreen to semi-evergreen and good for shade areas. Variegated cultivars available but need to give extra winter protection to these as hardiness is questionable and often exaggerated.
Humulus lupulus - Hops - Grows to 12-18 feet by twining. Rapid grower. Pale yellow flowers followed by ornamental pods. Sun to part shade. Hops is root hardy in zone 5 gardens. This means that the top will die to the ground each year and new stems will be produced in the spring from the overwintering root. In the spring, prune away any old stems before growth resumes.
Hydrangea anomala petiolaris - Climbing Hydrangea - Considered to be the Cadillac of vines. Grows to about 50 feet. Attractive medium green foliage and very large panicles of white flowers in early summer. Very attractive cinnamon colored exfoliating bark adds interest in the winter.
Lonicera selections - Honeysuckles
Lonicera x brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet' - Grows to 8 feet by twining. Has blue-green leaves that tend to be semi evergreen. Bright orange, scarlet throated, trumpet shaped flowers in early summer.
L. x heckrottii - Goldflame Honeysuckle - Grows to about 8 feet by twining. Blue green semi evergreen leaves. Flowers are red, white, and yellow trumpet shaped. Flowers in early summer. Very attractive to hummingbirds.
L. japonica 'Purperea' - Purple leaved Japanese Honeysuckle - Grows to 25 feet by twining. Semi evergreen purple colored leaves that turn dark purple in autumn. Highly fragrant flowers that are red in bud, ivory white when they first open and then age to yellow. Attractive to hummingbirds.
L. 'Mandarin' - Mandarin Honeysuckle - Grows to 15-20 feet. Large coppery green leaves with lots of bright yellow - orange flowers in early summer.
L. periclymenum 'Harlequin' - Harlequin Honeysuckle - Grows to 10-15 feet but is a slow weak climber. Has purple stems and attractively cream and green variegated foliage. Fragrant rose-purple and yellow flowers in late spring.
L. sempervirens and cultivar 'Blanche Sandman' - Trumpet Honeysuckle - Grows to 20 feet by twining. Semi-evergreen blue green foliage with brilliant scarlet trumpet shaped flowers in early summer to fall. 'Blanche Sandman' has flowers that are even longer and more tubular.
L. sempervirens 'Sulphurea' and 'John Clayton' - Yellow Trumpet Honeysuckle - Grows to 15 feet by twining. Semi evergreen bluish green foliage with yellow trumpet shaped flowers in the summer. 'John Clayton' has a tendency to rebloom throughout the season.
Parthenocisis quinquifolia - Virginia Creeper - Grows to 45 feet by clinging tendrils. Has large hand shaped 5 parted blue green leaves. Common in the woods and often mistaken for poison ivy. Has brilliant red early fall color. Variegated selections are worth a try.
P. tricuspidata - Boston Ivy - Grows to 60 feet by clinging tendrils. The classic vine especially common on the east coast on brick buildings. Ivy league schools get their name from this. Has three parted medium green leaves with a red-purple fall color. Also good to use has a hanging plant when allowed to trail over and down.
P. tricuspidata 'Fenway Park' - Golden Boston Ivy - Golden leaved form of Boston Ivy.
P tricuspidata 'Lowii' - Lowe's Boston Ivy - Small leaved form of Boston Ivy.
Polygonum aubertii - Silver Fleece Vine - Grows to 15-20 feet by twining. Medium green leaves with chains of white flowers during the summer.
Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight' - Variegated Climbing Hydrangea- Grows to 45 feet' by aerial rootlets. Differs from climbing hydrangea in some very minor floral qualities. Leaves blue gray with silver overtones.
Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea' - Purple Leaved Grape - Grows to 30 feet. Deeply lobed, rounded, richly colored foliage. Red in the spring, deep red-purple in June and translucent red- purple in the fall. Attaches by holdfasts to chainlink, trellis, lattice or arbors. May also be used as a ground cover.
Beautiful Mysterious Wisteria
Wisterias are the envy of all who don't have them, the joy of those whose porch is covered with them and the despair of those who have plants that have never bloomed. Wisterias may take as many as 10 years before blooming. An understanding of their cultural requirements though may help make that wait a little shorter.
Fertilization - Wisterias are members of the pea family. Thus, they fix their own nitrogen. They should be grown without the addition of any nitrogen otherwise you will get lots of leaves. It is suggested that about 1/2 pound of superphosphate be added to the soil each year for each inch of diameter of the trunk. They also like to have the area surrounding them covered with mulch. They also tend to like a higher pH soil.
Siting - Full sun.
Root pruning to stimulate flowering - Prune the roots in October to slow growth. Use a spade to cut the roots to a depth of 18-24 inches in a circle all the way around the plant. Start cutting about one foot away from the plant for every inch of trunk diameter.
Branch pruning to stimulate flowering - Wisterias are like apple trees in that they bloom on structures called spurs. These short, branch-like structures are encouraged by first establishing a strong central trunk and then lateral branches that will support spur production.
Wisteria floribunda - Japanese wisteria - Grows to 30 feet by twining. Has medium green compound leaves and long chains of violet to purple blue fragrant pea-shaped flowers during early summer.
W. macrostachya 'Aunt Dee' - Grows to 15-25 feet. Very fragrant selection of Kentucky wisteria with flowers borne in midseason.
W. sinensis - Chinese Wisteria - Grows to 30 feet by twining. Chains of mauve to deep lilac flowers are borne during the spring about the time that the leaves start to unfurl.
Hyacinth Bean - Annual vine - Grows to 10-12 feet. Fast growing with distinctive purple stems and large purple veined leaves. Spikes of deep violet blooms followed by large glossy purple seed pods that are four inches long. Full sun.
Thunbergia - Black-eyed Susan Vine - Annual. Grows to 6-8 feet. Good for baskets or trellis. Large bright yellow, orange or white flowers with dark centers. Sun to part shade.
Passiflora - Passion Flower - Grows to 10-15 feet. A vigorous vine with very showy flowers from July on. Needs sun and a moist soil location for best growth.
Morning Glory - Annual vine growing to 10-12 feet. Adaptable vine for covering trellis and other structures. Trumpet shaped flowers come in a variety of colors. Sun.
Developed by Greg Stack, Extension Educator, Horticulture, 2004.