Having a Vine Time with Perennial Vines

Beautiful perennial vines can take your garden to new heights! 

June 23, 2020
Vining Flower

A few years ago we built a pergola. Nothing fancy, just a rugged 10x10 foot cedar frame outside the back door. It’s a great place to put my houseplants for the summer. It also gives me a spot for hanging baskets and a place to hang a hammock. Most of all, it gave me 4 posts that could support climbing vines. There are so many perennial vines to choose from. Here are some favorites.

So far, on our pergola, we have a climbing hydrangea that is just starting to climb its post. It seems that it would rather scamper along the adjacent stone wall than do any climbing.

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We also planted a chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) which is doing great, having quickly climbed up and across the top of the structure but I’m still waiting for its chocolate-scented flowers.

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For season-long color, I planted an annual black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) in a pot next to another one of the posts. By the end of summer it usually has made it to the top as well.

What to plant on the fourth post? There are too many to choose from. But first, where do you grow a vine?

Where to Grow Vines

You don’t need to go to the trouble and expense of building a pergola to enjoy vines. Many do just fine with other means of support.

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This climbing hydrangea is growing on the stump of an old maple tree.

Vines are great for screening an unsightly view, offering shade, or covering a boring fence or blank wall and most are fast growing.

And it doesn’t have to be an ugly fence! A flowering vine makes a heart–melting display with tumbling tresses of stunning blooms. 

Perennial Vines for the Home Garden

Here are just some the many perennial vines to consider for your home garden. All bloom beautiful flowers or fruit. Always check the hardiness zone of any perennial vine you are buying.

Clematis

Called Queen of the Climbers, there are many types of clemmies to choose from.  They’re generally hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

  • Sweet autumn clematis (C. paniculata) is an enthusiastic climber, wrapping its leaf stems around anything within reach. Every spring I cut ours back to about shoulder height and it climbs up the trellis on the front of our shed to the roof. Its tiny white blossoms are sweetly fragrant in late summer and a favorite with the bees.

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  • For something a little different look for ‘Sweet Summer Love’. It has purple flowers and blooms earlier, in mid-summer. Unlike other sweet autumn clematis only grows to be 10 feet tall.

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The large-flowering types of clematis have broad star-shape flowers earlier in the summer. They come in a wide range of colors including the popular purple Jackmanii and bi-colored viticellas and grow 6 to 10 feet tall. You often see these growing on lamp posts and mailboxes.

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After the flowers fade most clematis, like this yellow ‘Pagoda’, have interesting shaggy white seedheads.

  • I love the clematis that have nodding bell-shaped flowers like yellow Golden Bells (C. tangutica), red Texas native (C. texensis), or blue hybrid ‘Betty Corning’. Each grows to be about 10 feet tall and since they bloom on new growth they can die to the ground in winter and still blossom the next summer.

Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) is a slow grower but once it gets going, stand back! It is said that the first year after planting it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps. We have found it takes a little longer than that but once established it does take off. Along with the one on the pergola, we have several of these growing up trees and across stone walls.

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This big guy is growing on an old telephone pole and its lower branches are running across the stonewall at its feet.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) blooms best in full sun. It grows 10 to 15 feet tall and needs a rugged support. Mine blooms from May to October.

  • Hummingbirds can’t resist its pink and yellow flowers.  
  • Avoid the Japanese species (Lonicera japonica) since they can become invasive.

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Trumpet Vine

Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is a vigorous growing, tough plant that will bloom in half-day sun. It can reach 20 feet tall. Easy to grow, it spreads by underground runners so it can become invasive. Plants are hardy in Zones 4 to 9.

  • Hummingbirds are attracted to its bright orange-red flowers and there is also a yellow variety called ‘Flava’.
  • Trumpet vines grows very quickly is this is what you need. It could ascend telephone poles in a growing season. But since it blooms on new wood, don’t hesitate to cut it back hard in the spring.

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Wisteria

Wisteria is another strong grower that can add 15 feet in a season so pruning is necessary to keep it in bounds. It needs full sun to bloom its best but will grow in part shade. Keep in mind that wisteria is invasive in some area; check with your county extension office.

  • The Chinese varieties bloom first and have 8 to 12 inch long clusters of purple or white pea-like flowers. The white ‘Alba’ is most fragrant.
  • Japanese species bloom later and have larger, more fragrant flowers in clusters that can be 18 inches long.
  • Now available is a native wisteria, bred at the University of Minnesota, which thrives from Zone 4 to 8. Called Summer Cascade Wisteria, it has foot-long tresses of lavender blooms that fade to white. Vines climb by twining stems around supports and easily rise 15 to 20 feet in full Sun, with sturdy support.

See the Almanac’s Growing Guide to Wisteria.

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Hardy Kiwi Vine

Hardy kiwis ( Actinidia arguta and A. kolomikta) need at least a half day of direct sun. They have fragrant white flowers and the new leaves are variegated white, red, and pink.

  • You’ll enjoy their fruit, too, but need to plant a male vine (along with female plant) to get a good crop. It produces small, smooth, green fruit that can be eaten whole like a grape or made into juice. 
  • Slow growers, they need sturdy support and will eventually reach 20 feet long and flower and fruit on old wood. The vines are hardy in Zones 4 to 8.

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Grape Vines

  • Grapes are another edible vine to consider. They require a full day of sun to produce a good crop and the vines need tying and pruning to train them up their supports and to encourage branching. Imagine plucking ripe grapes to eat in your hammock!

Learn more about growing grapes. See the Almanac’s Grape Growing Guide.

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Jasmine Vine

The Jasmine Vine (Jasminum officinale), also called True Jasmine, is a deciduous vine with clusters of starry, pure-white flowers that bloom all summer. It’s a twining climber with rich green leaves that have five to nine leaflets, each up to 2½ inches long. The very fragrant flowers are up to 1 inch in diameter.

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Hardy to zone 7, the vine grows vigorously and looks stunning climbing a large pergola, fence, or very large trellis. In the landscape, jasmine can also be pruned as a shrub near the house or near a walk so its intense fragrance can be enjoyed and so you can watch hummingbirds and butterflies come to the flowers.

See the Almanac’s Jasmine Guide to learn more.

About This Blog

Get inspired by Robin Sweetser’s backyard gardening tips and tricks. Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. She and her partner Tom have a small greenhouse business and also sell plants, cut flowers, and vegetables at their local Farmer’s Market.

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