Flowering vines add color and shade (plus birds and butterflies love them)
Flowering vines can add a lot of beauty to the landscape. Whether annual or perennial, vines enhance the garden by creating vertical interest and a layered effect. Though there are many choices when it comes to flowering vines, some are better than others.
There are a handful of flowering vines that are commonly found at garden centers, but their aggressive nature makes them a poor choice for all but the largest gardens. Vines like trumpet creeper, wisteria and silver lace vine are incredibly fast growing, and after just a few years of growth, they can gobble up the trellis, arbor or pergola they're growing on. Plus, these vines can take five or more years to flower. There are many flowering vines that are a better choice for gardeners who want less-aggressive plants that flower just a season or two after planting.
Among my favorite flowering vines is the Clematis. With a wide range of flower colors, clematis do well in any sunny location. There are even a few species that prefer the shade. While some varieties are faster growing than others, they're all beautiful. I love the purple blossoms of Clematis “Polish Spirit,” the creamy white, late-blooming flowers of sweet autumn Clematis, and the light blue, nodding flowers of Clematis macrapetala. But my favorites are the bright yellow, pendulous bell-shaped flowers of Clematis tangutica.
Another perennial vine that's well-worth growing is Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia durior, A. macrophylla). This native vine is fast growing, but it's not super aggressive. It reaches 20 feet tall, so you'll need a sturdy trellis, but the large, heart-shaped leaves create a lovely canopy. The curved, pipe-shaped flowers are incredibly unique. They're pollinated by flies, so if you stick your nose right in the flower, you'll find they don't smell very good, but that shouldn't stop you from growing this unique vine. This vine is also a host plant for pipevine swallowtail butterflies. It's a great choice to cover privacy fencing or a patio pergola.
Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.) are another easy-to-grow perennial vine. There are many different cultivars that bear a wide variety of flower colors. Among my favorites are “Mandarin” which has bright orange flowers, “Goldflame” which has pink and orange flowers, and “Major Wheeler” which bears deep pink, long, tubular flowers. For the most part, honeysuckles are deer resistant, and they thrive in full to partial sun. As an added bonus, the flowers are incredibly attractive to hummingbirds, and some varieties bloom off and on throughout most of the growing season.
There are also many annual vines that should have a home in your garden. Morning glories (Ipomoea tricolor), moon flowers (Ipomoea alba), cypress vine (Ipomea quamoclit), corkscrew vine (Vigna Caracalla), scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus), hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus) and climbing black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia) are among the best annual vines. Another favorite is the Mexican firecracker vine (Ipomoea lobata). All annual vines such as these are easy to start from seed by either directly sowing the seeds into the garden after the danger of frost has passed, or by starting the seeds indoors under grow lights in early April. If you choose to start them indoors, grow the seeds in plantable peat pots to avoid disturbing the roots when the vines are eventually planted outdoors in late May.
Most of these vines are available as plants or seeds from local garden centers, with the exception of the Dutchman's pipe, which may have to be sourced from an online retailer such as White Flower Farm (whiteflowerfarm.com) or Sunlight Gardens (sunlightgardens.com).
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio with Doug Oster. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is jessicawalliser.com.
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