Vine plants are one of the most common plant species found in gardens. They provide shade from direct sunlight and provide other benefits such as attracting bees, butterflies, birds and insects. Many people have used them for many purposes including decoration, landscape design, landscaping and even food production. There are various types of vines, each with its own characteristics. Some varieties grow tall and straight; others are short and wavy. All varieties of vines have three main parts: leaves, stems or branches and flowers. Leaves make up the majority of any vine’s body while stems and branches form the rest of it.

Vines are usually divided into two groups: climbing and non-climbing. Climbing vines include climbing hydrangeas, creeping bentonias, creeping violets, creeping roses and climbing ferns. Non-climbing vines include all other kinds of vines except those classified under the heading “Climbing” (see table at right).

The term “crawling” is sometimes misused to describe vines. Vines cannot crawl, because they do not have the necessary organs such as legs or arms for locomotion. A vine that has tendrils sometimes appears to be crawling along the ground but it is not – the tendrils are merely being pulled towards the nearest support. A vine can appear to be “crawling” along the ground towards its support.

Why Use Vines in the Landscape?

Vines can add color in the landscape during the growing season (depending on species) and they can be an aesthetically pleasing addition to any yard. They also improve a yard’s curb appeal. Depending on the species of vine, they can also attract birds and other wildlife to a yard. Also, climbing plants can be used to cover unsightly fences and outbuildings.

Vines as Ground Covers

There are several vines that can be used as ground covers, including:

  • Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
  • Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
  • Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera)
  • Creeping speedwell (Veronica repens)
  • These vines spread fairly quickly under the right conditions. They can be used to cover the ground in shady locations. They can also be used along borders between two properties.

Vines as Trellises and Hedges

Many types of vines can be trained to grow up a trellis or other wooden framework. They can also be used as living fences. Species that can be used for this purpose include:

  • Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
  • Virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana)
  • Witch alder (Fothergilla major)
  • Climbing roses (Most climbing or ramblers roses)

Vine Plants As Shade Cover: Creating Shade With Vining Plants

Vine plants can be trained to grow over an area, providing shade. This can be an attractive option for people who don’t wish to install permanent structures such as arbors or gazebos. Some vine plants that provide shade include:

  • Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
  • Wisteria (Wisteria spp. – note: some wisteria species can be invasive)

These plants can also be used to cover unattractive features such as walls, fences or sheds. They can also be trained onto trellises or other wooden structures in the garden to add interest and color to an area.

Common Vines

This section describes some common vines that can be used in the landscape.

Beautyberry or American snowbell (Sabatia angularis)

This plant produces medium to dark purple berries. It should be pruned on a regular basis if it is to be grown as a vine because it tends to grow very aggressively without pruning.

Beautyberry or American snowbell has large leaves that are medium green in color. The berries are its most outstanding feature. They begin as a lavender color, then gradually turn a deep blue and finally turn a deep purple as they ripen.

It prefers full sun to partial shade and is hardy in zones 5b to 10.

Climbing roses (Rosa spp.)

Climbing roses are undoubtedly the most popular vines used in the landscape. There are many different varieties of climbing roses available. All of them produce gorgeous blooms in a wide range of colors and are very easy to train onto trellises, arbors and pergola’s.

Climbing roses must have a sturdy support to grow on. They aren’t really suitable for growing on chain link fences or other unsupported surfaces. They also need to be pruned on a regular basis if you want to shape them and keep them under control.

Climbing roses do best in full sun, but can grow in partial sun.

Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)

Creeping fig is a small plant that produces clusters of tiny leaves. It doesn’t really produce anything that could be called flowers. It does produce very small figs (nothing like the edible fig) that contain a small amount of seeds.

Creeping fig has aerial roots that can be shallowly buried into soil to help the plant get started growing where you want it.

Creeping fig prefers full sun to partial shade and is hardy in zones 7 to 11. It can also be grown in a container and kept indoors like a house plant.

English ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy is one of the most popular vines used in the landscape. It does best in a location that doesn’t dry out. It shouldn’t be grown where it will be exposed to extreme cold.

English ivy has aerial roots that readily grab on to whatever they come in contact with. This is how it attaches itself to surfaces.

Some people recommend cutting the aerial roots back if you are growing the plant on a wall or other vertical surface. This will keep the plant from spreading too much. It also keeps it from using its roots to get a good grip on the support structure that it is climbing on.

Ivy should be fed a high nitrogen fertilizer in the spring to promote lots of leaf growth. It prefers partial sun to full sun and is hardy in zones 5 to 10.

English ivy can also be used as a ground cover

 

Sources & references used in this article:

Shading performance of a vertical deciduous climbing plant canopy by K Ip, M Lam, A Miller – Building and Environment, 2010 – Elsevier

Climbing plants in a temperate rainforest understorey: searching for high light or coping with deep shade? by F Valladares, E Gianoli, A Saldana – Annals of Botany, 2011 – academic.oup.com

The natural history of lianas on Barro Colorado Island, Panama by FE Putz – Ecology, 1984 – Wiley Online Library

Ecophysiological traits may explain the abundance of climbing plant species across the light gradient in a temperate rainforest by E Gianoli, A Saldaña, M Jiménez-Castillo – PLoS One, 2012 – journals.plos.org

Quantifying the thermal performance of green façades: A critical review by AM Hunter, NSG Williams, JP Rayner, L Aye… – Ecological …, 2014 – Elsevier

Green vertical systems for buildings as passive systems for energy savings by G Perez, L Rincon, A Vila, JM Gonzalez, LF Cabeza – Applied energy, 2011 – Elsevier

The behavioural ecology of climbing plants by E Gianoli – AoB plants, 2015 – academic.oup.com

Tropical vine growth and the effects on forest succession: a review of the ecology and management of tropical climbing plants by GS Paul, JB Yavitt – The Botanical Review, 2011 – Springer

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