Types of vines for the garden

Types of vines for the garden

Vines are a great way to decorate the garden, being low maintenance and hardy. Vines are good for decorating fences, pergolas, trees, or separators, but choosing the right vine is important if you want the best results, both aesthetically, and holistically.

Vines are theoretically speaking, any type of plant that exhibits a climbing or trailing growth habit. There are plants that are semi-vines, and there are full fledged vines as well. Climbing vines are classified according to their climbing habit, and there are 4 main forms of vine climbing habit, which are twining, clinging, spreading by tendrils, and human aided/tied climbing.

ivy vine

Twining vines grow by means of wrapping their stems around any nearby support. The new growth twists or spirals as it grows, and is able to climb up small trees or poles. The structures of pergolas are highly suitable for twining vines, as are fences, stakes, or any kind of mesh-like structure. They need guidance during the early stages, but once established, twining vines are usually not difficult to manage. Some good twining vines are:

  • Common white jasmine (Jasminum officinale)
  • Wax plant (Hoya carnosa)
  • Giant Burmese Honeysuckle (Lonicera hildebrandiana)
  • Evergreen Wisteria (Milettia reticulate)
  • Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confuses)
  • Evening Trumpetflower (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Tendril-type vines are another form of twining vine, except that they climb through means of tendrils, which are slim, specialized stems growing forth from the stems or the ends of leaves. These tendrils grow straight at first, but turn into a spiral when they make contact with any nearby support, and then they start winding and twisting. Some tendril vines you can plant include:

  • Foetid Passion Flower (Passiflora foetida)
  • Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta)
  • Evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii)
  • Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus)
  • Evergreen Grape (Rhoicissus capensis)
flame vine
Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta)

Clinging vines spread by means of special growths in the form of small adhesive tendrils or rootlets that attach onto flat surfaces or crevices. Clinging vines can do damage to wooden structures, and should only be used on solid brick walls. Even old brick walls are not suitable for clinging vines because the vines tend to collect moisture and debris around their rootlets, slowly weakening the wall over time. Some clinging vines are:

  • Algerian Ivy (Hedera canariensis)
  • Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala)
  • Winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei)
  • Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
virginia creeper vine
Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Vines that require human assistance are not very common, and some can be classified as semi-vines. These are vines that require tying up to a supporting structure, because they are not naturally predisposed to climbing. For example, some roses climb by means of thorns on their stems, and unless guided by the gardener, will grow in any direction. Some examples of vines that require tying are:

  • Bougainvillea species
  • Cup of Gold Vine (Solandra maxima)
  • Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis)
  • Climbing roses
bougainvillea vine
Bougainvillea species

Vines generally grow well in fertile and well drained soil. They are mostly sold in containers, and can be planted at any time of the year. Bare root vines should be planted in early spring though. Once established, vines do not require a lot of maintenance, except for some aggressive kinds, like ivy. Some like kudzu are best avoided, as they can become too problematic later on. Vines provide a classic touch to gardens, and they are great sunscreens as well. If you want fast greens to cover over bare spaces, vines may just be what you need.

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