Against a backdrop of trees, shrubs and other “stationary” plants, flowering vines add a touch of romance and softness to any garden. Although their feet remain firmly rooted, their arms reach out to cover structures or scramble along the ground. Their vast botanical diversity includes different sizes, shapes, colors and bloom seasons. Some vines are evergreen; others are deciduous. And while many are fast-growing, some grow slowly. You may want a flowering vine for a small space that grows only as tall as you are, or you may have the perfect spot for a vine that grows up to 80 feet. No matter what size yard you have or what your personal preferences dictate, there’s truly a flowering vine for every garden.
Types of Vines
Vines are classified by their method of climbing:
1. Clinging. Specialized structures on some vines allow them to clasp structures. Tendrils are leafless plant stems that grasp objects and coil around them. Holdfasts are root-like extensions of stems that attach themselves to structures.
2. Twining. As the stems of some flowering vines grow, they spiral or twist around structures or other plants as they climb.
3. Sprawling. Some flowering vines don’t have specialized structures that attach them to a support, and they don’t have spiraling or twisting stems. These types of vines produce long stems that have to be tied to a support (such as a stake) or woven through it (such as lattice).
Some vines need a little help as they start to climb:
1. Clinging vines that use tendrils need slender supports to clasp, such as wire, a thin stake or a shepherd’s hook. If these vines can’t find an outside support, they’ll start clasping their own stems, leading to a big tangle. Vines with holdfasts can climb masonry structures, but they should not climb on wooden frame houses. Moisture can become trapped between the holdfasts and the wood, promoting decay.
2. Twining vines need stakes or posts to coil around. Care should be taken that stakes or posts are strong enough to hold the type of vine they need to support.
Flowering Vines in Landscape Design
The uses of flowering vines in your yard and garden are limited only by your imagination and creativity of design:
• Plant a flowering vine on one or both sides of an arbor to create a stunning entrance to your garden.
• Design a shady sitting area by training a flowering vine over a pergola.
• Space a flowering vine in front of each fencepost along your wooden or chain-link fence to form a living fence.
• Position a short flowering vine behind your mailbox post for a flowering mailbox cover.
• Train a flowering vine to grow on a tall shepherd’s hook, and hang a bird feeder from the hook.
• Plant scrambling flowering vines to cascade over a terraced garden.
• Use flowering vines to cover a steep slope for erosion control.
• Fill hanging baskets with scrambling flowering vines for your deck or patio.
• Place fragrant flowering vines near verandas, patios, porches, decks or your favorite outdoor sitting area to savor the scent.
Flowering vines are irresistible to hummingbirds and butterflies, which feed on the nectar they produce. Some native vines are the sole host plants for certain butterfly species, providing a food source for the caterpillars (leaves) and adults (nectar) as well as a place to lay the eggs (leaves and stems). Hummingbirds like tubular or bell-shaped flowers, and they’ll often bypass a hummingbird feeder in favor of sipping nectar from a flowering vine!