Vines are great additions to most landscapes because they’ll grow on almost any surface – be it vertical wall, chain link fence, arbor or right along the ground. (They’ll even grow over another plant if you allow it.) They lead the eye upward and take beauty in the garden to a whole new level.

Grapes

Grapes don’t have to be reserved for vineyards.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Gourds

Gourd-producing vines offer great interest.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Malabar spinach

Malabar spinach is often grown for its edible leaves.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

There are many dozens of great vines grown by gardeners in all parts of the country, ranging from easy annuals to long-lived herbaceous or woody perennials. They’re used and enjoyed in many different ways.

Some vines are grown purely for their foliage and color, texture and the screening their fast growth can provide; others are put to use as groundcovers or for erosion control. Many are best known for their beautiful and fragrant flowers and, in some cases, their attractive or edible fruit.

So let’s take a look at some popular vine choices, as well as what to consider when choosing vines for your own garden.

Some Vine Options

It seems that everyone has tried their hand, with more or less success, at growing tomatoes, whose fast-growing annual vines are tied up and coaxed into producing sweet, tangy, colorful fruit ranging from smaller-than-grapes to larger-than-oranges. Beans, grapes and raspberries are other popular edible-fruit vines, while Malabar spinach is grown for its edible leaves.

Other annual vines commonly grown around the country include moonflower, cypress vine, black-eyed Susan vine, morning glory, nasturtium, sweet peas, gourds and ornamental sweet potatoes, which are typically grown as fast-spreading groundcovers or cascading potted plants.

Tropical vines such as bougainvillea, allamanda, jasmines and mandevilla are popular in both mild-climate areas, where they can live for many years, or in colder areas, where they’re either brought indoors over the winter or treated as annuals and simply replaced every year. Other semihardy tropical vines include passion vine and Dutchman’s pipe.

Very popular hardy woody vines include grapes, climbing hydrangea, wisteria, ivy, Virginia creeper, clematis, climbing roses and trumpet creeper.

Choosing the Best Vine for You

Although they may look different than other plants you’re used to growing, vines have the same important characteristics that are important to consider when choosing which one is right for you and your gardening space. There are evergreen and deciduous vines; some feature flowers and fruit, while others are known for their ornamental leaves. Vines can be annual or perennial, fleshy or woody, tropical or hardy; and, of course, each vine has its own needs for best health and appearance. So how do you choose which is best?

Start with where you live and what growing conditions your vine will receive. If you live in Minnesota, for example, planting a tropical bougainvillea outside will grow like an annual – giving you only one season of growth. Similarly, a clematis species that needs cool temperatures won’t work for you if you live in Miami. Consider the amount of sun that your vine will receive, the soil type and moisture content you’ve got to work with and the planting site (container vs. in the ground). These are all important factors that will steer you in the right direction when making your vine choice.

The main function of your vine is also important; that is, how do you wish to use your vine? Do you want an evergreen plant that screens out unsightly views and provides some privacy, or do you want to jazz up a boring wall with color and seasonal interest? Do the vine’s ornamental characteristics match your garden décor? Figuring out the function of your vine will help you narrow down your choices even more.

Does the vine have a strong structure to grow on or something much less substantial? Certain vines, like wisteria, need strong support or they can actually crush the structure they’re growing on. Others, like birdhouse gourds, may have heavy fruits later in the season. The location of vines in your landscape and what they will grow are other factors to consider.

Lastly, be aware that some vines are aggressive and may even be listed as an alien invasive in your region. Always choose a vine that won’t grow out of bounds for you – or prove to be an environmental hazard for your community.

The point is there are vines for every gardener and every garden. Give one a try and discover the vine joy of gardening!