Photo by Larry LeFever/Grant Heilman
CHOOSING A VINE
The word vine is a general term for a wealth of plants with varied ways of growing and climbing. Vines can be evergreen or deciduous, flowering or nonflowering, rampant-growing or restrained. As with all landscape plants, choose vines that are hardy in your climate and grow well in the light and space provided. They should also be adapted to the soil in your yard. Have your soil tested by a county extension service or a private lab. Here are some other basics for the perennial vines we'll focus on:
How vines grow. Vines climb toward the sunlight they need in ingenious ways. Before choosing any vine, find out how it climbs and how aggressively to determine the appropriate support for it to grow on.
Vines with twining tendrils, such as Boston ivy, clematis, passionflower and trumpet vine, reach out and wrap around anything nearby. These vines require a wire grid, wood lattice or other narrow crisscrossing support.
Twining vines, such as honeysuckle and grape, encircle vertical supports. They can maneuver themselves through and around an open fence or wire trellis, or coil up a single cable. Most twist in one direction around thin supports like cord or wire.
Clinging vines, such as Virginia creeper and creeping fig, produce attachments such as small suction disks and aerial roots that grip supports tightly as they grow. True to their name, they cling to any rough surface tenaciously. Removal involves prying them loose once they are established. Unfortunately, these vines can damage soft brick or mortar, and will also tear apart wood siding.
Still other "vines" are actually sprawling shrubs with long supple stems that can easily be tied to a support and trained to grow upward without growing out. Climbing roses are a prime example.
CLEMATIS (Clematis species) feature slender, twisting leafstalks and dramatic flowers that range from 1 to 10 in. across. This easy-to-control vine should be planted against a porch railing, lattice framework or other prominent spot where blooms can be admired. Most vines in this diverse group are deciduous, including the large-flowered hybrid clematis 'Nelly Moser,' shown here. While undemanding, clematis do have specific requirements. Plant them where roots are cool and shaded and tops can grow in sun. Provide rich, loose, fast-draining soil and constant moisture. Height (6 to 30 ft.) and hardiness (to as low as
-30°F) vary by species.
Why you're growing it. Think about exactly what you want a vine to do for your yard and choose accordingly. For example, evergreen vines, such as blood-red trumpet, give privacy and all-season color. Deciduous vines, like grape or wisteria, provide shade in summer and allow sunlight to warm your home in winter, after the leaves have fallen.
Also consider growth rate. A quick climber like silver lace vine can twine to 25 ft. or more in a season, providing near-instant privacy or help with screening an unsightly view. But rampant growers will quickly engulf other plants or structures if they don't have enough space.
Once you decide what kind of vine you need, look for other appealing features—edible fruit, fall color and fragrant flowers are a few examples.
Clusters of sweetly scented blossoms are a hallmark of WISTERIA (Wisteria species). This vigorous deciduous vine requires sturdy support such as a fence, arbor or pergola. It's also the wrong vine to plant against wood siding because its strong branches can wreak havoc. Wisterias aren't fussy about soil, but they require good drainage. Plant in full sun and water well during the growing season when buds are forming. Prune annually to direct growth and maximize flowering. Young plants are slow to flower, but can top 7 ft. their first year. Hardiness (down to -20°F) varies by species.