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Avoid Getting Tangled: Choosing the Right Vines

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Vines are often overlooked by new gardeners when designing a garden space. Incorporating well placed vines into your landscape, can not only add visual interest, it creates vertical walls that help frame your space. Choosing the right vines for the right place will give your garden an added dimension of interest as well as preserving the beauty of your garden design. Think vertical.

 

So which variety is best?

Well that depends…. Start by asking yourself a few questions.

  1. First, define what purpose the vine will serve (it can be more than one).
    • attract beneficial insects
    • screen or hide an unsightly area
    • add color interest with blooms
    • vertical walls, soften space, architectural feature
    • fragrance
  2. Determine the area vertically and horizontally you want the vine to cover.
  3. Do you want it to be green year round or die back in winter?
  4. Blooms – all summer, just spring, spring through frost?
  5. Sun, part sun or shade?
  6. Hardy, tender perennial or annual?

Based on what your needs are, you can then begin to select the appropriate vine. Keep in mind that most vines do require some pruning to maintain their shape and growth habit. For example, I usually prune my Star Jasmine once or twice a year, while others that die back in the winter (referred to as root hardy) can be pruned down to base and they’ll emerge again in spring. Rangoon Creeper and Mexican Flame vine are good examples.

Recommended Vines for Houston

Here is a list of  favorite vines for growing in our area. This list is not complete by any means and if you have favorites you’d like to share, please mention them in the comment section below.

Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)Also known as Confederate Jasmine, this evergreen vine puts off a show in spring with a flush of bright green new growth and small white fragrant blooms in the shape of a star.  A good choice for a trellis where you can shape it as desired.

Star Jasmine - instant garden wall

 

Star Jasmine

 

Star Jasmine bloom

Dutchman’s Pipevine (Aristolochia fimbriata) - Small ground hugging vine that prefers well-draining moist, rich soil. Good as a vine or ground cover with burgundy and yellow orchid-like flowers that bloom late spring to early fall. It is the host plant for Pipevine swallowtail butterfly. The larva will eat the foliage but the plant will recover. It’s a root hardy perennial that will return each spring. Adding this plant will attract more iridescent-blue and black butterflies to your garden.

White Veined Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia fimbriata)

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) – Evergreen climber that bursts into bloom in early spring with golden yellow flowers. A native plant with dark green foliage that grows well in sun, partial sun or bright shade. Would be excellent for year round coverage on a chain-link fence.

Rangoon Creeper (Quisqualis indica) – Native to tropical Asia this tender perennial vine is a fast grower and may cover a fence easily in one season. Very showy multi-colored trumpet-like flowers of red, pink and white, this vine is fragrant too. Usually dies back in winter. Prune in late winter/early spring. New growth will emerge from base in spring.

Rangoon Creeper

Crossvine Tangerine Beauty (Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’) – Easy to grow vine that provides abundant 2 inch trumpet shaped tangerine blooms in late spring, and sporadically in summer. Native, semi-evergreen to evergreen 30’, non-damaging tendrils, sun/part shade. Prefers moist soil with good drainage. Attracts hummingbirds.

Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty'

Mandevilla (Mandevilla spp.) Tender woody vine with trumpet shaped flowers. Usually dies back to roots in colder winters, but emerges again in spring from the base. Available in colors in white, pink and red flowers. Varieties Mandevilla boliviensis (white flowers), Mandevilla sanderi ‘Red Riding Hood’ (red flowers) and Mandevilla x amoenaAlice Dupont’ (pink flowers). Full sun to partial shade. Prefers moist soil. Attracts hummingbirds.

White Mandevilla (Mandevilla boliviensis)

 

Mandevilla 'Red Riding Hood'

Wisteria ‘Amethyst Falls’ (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’) – An improved selection of a native American Wisteria vine, not the more aggressive Asian varieties. It has longer and deep purple flower clusters and it flowers as a younger plant. Full to part sun.

Wisteria 'Amethyst Falls'

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) – Native, tough, deciduous to semi-evergreen, twining climber with clusters of 2 inch coral trumpet shaped flowers. Blooms heavy in spring with sporadic blooms summer and fall, full sun to bright shade. Produces bright red berries. Attracts hummingbirds.

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)

 

Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) bloom

Mexican Flame Vine (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides) – Synonym name (Senecio confusus). Coarsely toothed, fleshy leaves, foliage darkens to burgundy in fall. Bright orange, daisy-like flower that bloom from spring to fall. Sun/light shade, moist, good drainage, root hardy, loves the heat. Attracts butterflies.

Mexican Flame Vine

 

Mexican Flame Vine blooms

Pink Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus) – Heart shaped leaves, delicate vine that climbs by tendrils. Trailing sprays of hot rose pink flowers summer to fall. Attracts honey bees and bumble bees. Excellent summer bloomer. Well drained moist soil, thrives in sun/part shade, root hardy. Also available in a white variety.

Pink Coral Vine

 

Bumble Bees on Pink Coral Vine

Passion flower (Passiflora spp.)Passiflora caerulea with sky-blue corollas over white petals is cold hardy in our area. Passion flowers are the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

Gulf Fritillary on Passion flower

 

Blue Passion Flower (Passiflora caerulea)

 

Passiflora caerulea

They usually prefer the blue flowers but the Crimson variety is an exotic vibrant red and is considered a tropical variety in our area. These are not nearly as cold hardy as the others and will need good protection and mulch to entice them to return.

Crimson Passionflower (Passiflora vitifolia)

Maypops (P. incarnata) is native to the southeastern US and is better behaved than Passiflora ‘Incense’ (Passiflora incarnata x cinnicata) which is too aggressive (perhaps better suited in a container with a trellis). Check with our staff on which variety would be best for your needs.

Where can you find them?

Buchanan’s stock the vines mentioned in this post, as well as others, so come by and see them for yourself. Our staff will help you choose the right vines for your garden.

Tips for Growing Vines

Support

Provide adequate support for the weight and size of the vine through the use of a trellis, arbor, pergula, fence or wall.

Pruning

Cut back root hardy vines in early spring – if needed all the way down to the base of the plant. It will regrow again. Evergreen or semi-evergreen vines can be pruned to shape throughout the growing season. If you prefer a more informal look, like that of an English cottage garden, then choose vines with a free flowing growth habit.

Starting vines on a trellis

Whether you are planting your vine in a container or in a garden bed, training the vine to grow up a trellis is fairly easy. Some attach quickly with tendrils (a specialized stem, leaf or petiole – threadlike shape used by climbing plants for support and attachment) while others will need some help. Try weaving them in and out of the trellis by hand to get them started or using soft twine or green flexible tape to attach them. It is a good idea to check on them weekly and continue to wrap or attach the vines as they grow.

Metal trellises

 

Modern design with circles

Architectural features

Adding a trellis, arbor, pergula or gazebo to your landscape will ground your space and provide a dramatic focal point. The scale of your garden will determine the size needed.

This gazebo is a gorgeous architectural element

Arbors are often used over the entrance to a garden. A doorway into another room.

Metal Arbor

A large patio container with a trellis can do wonders to create an intimate seating area. The possibilities are endless.

Gorgeous arbor with seating

Consider an evergreen vine on a trellis to breakup a large brick or stone wall. It will help to cool your garden and provide year round interest and shelter for wildlife.

There are so many to choose from!

CONSIDERATIONS: Avoid the temptation to cover fences with vines just for the sake of it. Perhaps a container and trellis or just a trellis can produce the same visual effect while still preserving the architectural element of structure the fence provides. Black wrought iron fences often look perfectly lovely just as they are without being covered in vines, while a chain-link fence might be a good candidate for a vine. Consider the asthetic value of your fence and future maintenance when deciding.

Resources and Other Links:

10 best vines for Houston arbors –  Chron.com

Treesearch Farms – Vines List

Jacqueline D'Elia is a freelance garden writer, photographer and organic gardener living in Houston. She earned a BS in Horticulture from Texas A&M. She blogs about her garden antics at Southern Post Journal. Follow her on Twitter @JDElia.

22 Responses to “Avoid Getting Tangled: Choosing the Right Vines”

  • Amy Muhs:

    Thanks for the information. We have a star jasmine on our back fence that’s looking great. Does it freeze? And how long does it bloom? Amy

  • Hi Amy,
    Thanks for visiting our blog. Star Jasmine is an evergreen here in Houston and usually is not effected by our freezes. I’ve had mine for about 15 years. They are spring bloomers in Mar/April in Houston.

  • Susanna:

    Thanks for the information. We’d like to have a vine grow over the arch of the porch leading to our front door to give it a cottage feel. It faces west. What vine would likely work best?
    Susanna

  • Star Jasmine blooms with a heavenly fragrance in spring and is evergreen year round. Nice for a cottage look. -Jackie

  • Greg:

    Will sweet potato vine work, or are we going to be dissapointed?

  • That depends on what you are using it for? Sweet potato vine comes in lime green and a burgundy variety. They’re typically used in containers as fillers. See my post Thillers, Fillers and Spillers for more info. Hope that helps.

  • K.Cross:

    I have about 40 feet of new fence line that I have covered in wooden trellis in preparation for growing vines to cover the view of the fence (my dining room and breakfast nook look directly out onto the fence.) I want something that stays green all year, grows quickly, needs little maintenance, and deals well with hard soil and full/part sun throughout the day. Sounds like star jasmine is perfect, but I would like something with a little more color than white. What about Carolina Jessamine? How fast would Rangoon Creeper cover this area?

  • Carolina Jessamine would be fine, but Rangoon Creeper is not evergreen and usually dies back to ground here in Houston.

  • Matt:

    I’m looking for a vine that flowers a lot both seasonally and across the vine. Which of these varieties would be best? Would a clematis do the job?

  • Hi Matt,
    Your best bet is to come in and talk with one of our plant specialists. They’ll be able to help you. There are so many variables in deciding with one would be best. I think there would be some better choices than clematis.

  • Brian:

    Looking for vine to cover recently completed 8 ft x 21 ft pergola with Southern exposure (full sun). Would prefer evergreen vine not requiring annual pruning but with floral feature to attract butterflies/bees (fragrant a plus) and preferably a vining plant.

  • Hi Brian,
    There aren’t too many evergreen vines that flower throughout the summer for our area. If you want an evergreen vine that blooms in spring, Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) or Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) would be good choices. Your best bet is to come in and talk with one of our plant specialists.

  • JW:

    I’m looking for a vine to cover a north-facing trellis that gets afternoon sun (I’d consider it full-sun; it’s pretty intense and lasts a good portion of the day). The purpose of the trellis is to shade my back patio in the afternoon and to attract hummingbirds. The trellis is about 8′tall x 4′wide. I don’t want anything very invasive as I’m constantly having to deal with the neighbor’s vines trying to take over my back yard and am now very wary of invasive plants.

    Essentially, what I’m looking for is a nice, well-mannered shade vine that attracts hummingbirds but not too many bees since it’s right by my backyard. I’m not too concerned about whether it’s evergreen or not, as long as it really will grow back each year if it’s not evergreen. I’d previously considered crossvine, but I wonder if it would grow too large. Any recommendations?

  • Give the nursery a call 713-861-5702 and we’ll be happy to help.

  • alion:

    Jacqueline,
    For yours or anyone elses interest, my Carolina Jessamine’s first bloom was around Thanksgiving and is still blooming. That seems to be the case every year here. You can still see them blooming all around town.

  • alion:

    Jacqueline,
    Another great vine not mentioned here is Jasminum officinale aka Poet’s jasmine, Common jasmine. I bought it a Buchanan’s a few years ago. It blooms late Spring through around September and has a tremendous smell. Mine grows on a north facing wall which only gets direct sun during the summer months and it still blooms wonderfully. It’s thicker, older trunks twine nicely around my trellis but a lot of the newer shoots just grow straight up. Will it be safe to cut this down to it’s base this Spring? Thanks.

  • I was not able to find pruning information on this vine, so I would recommend checking with a staff member at Buchanan’s on your next visit.

  • Michelle:

    Can you recommend a vine to grown over an arched trellis over a window that won’t grow onto the surrounding wall/brick? I haven’t decided if I want to frame the entire window with a trellis or just the top arched portion.

    Thank you for sharing your expertise!

  • Give a call to the nursery or come by. They can help you pick one out. I was there on Monday and they had a lot of vines to choose from.

  • Ann:

    Hi Jacqueline,
    If Carolina Jasmine and Star Jasmine vines are planted next to each other, can they be trained to intertwine (hoping for longer blooming season)? If this isn’t a good idea can you recommend a long blooming, evergreen vine for the Houston area? It will be planted in full sun. Thanks for your help.

  • I loved the pictures, thank you!

    I’m pretty sure you’ve got P. alatocaerulea labeled as P. caerulea; the leaves don’t look right for caerulea, and the flowers are too fleshy and purple.

  • francoise:

    I did not realize fig ivy was not native when we moved in…. Now it has covered a great deal of our house. It looks great (if manicured), but I want to replace it by something native. Would Virginia Creeper be a good choice as “house cover” ? Or do you recommend something else?
    Thanks!