There’s little unusual about planting vines – after all, they’re just plants, with normal needs for decent soil, light fertilization and a deep watering during dry spells. Like other plants, they range from fast-growing annuals and tropical vines to longer-lived herbaceous or woody vines. And just as with other plants, some vines grow well in sun, while others prefer shade.

Vines around trellis

Make vine structures large and sturdy for proper support.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Clematis jackmanii

Use vines to decorate a fence or trellis.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Hyacinth bean

Supports with large-spaced reinforcing mesh help vines do their thing.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Sometimes vines are used as groundcovers for shady areas or erosion-prone areas, or they’re used as lawn substitutes where mowing is difficult (in which cases large areas of soil may need tilling or working up). But most gardeners plant an individual vine beside a fence, trellis, arbor or pole, or where it can clamber up and over walls – and even on other plants.

It’s this last note that separates these unique plants from all others: Because of their flexible stems, vines tend to flop over the ground without physical support; they need something to grow on. Stems of some vines wrap around and encircle their supports; others have aerial roots or tendrils that curl around or attach to soft supports. Still others have to be lifted off the ground and tied to stakes, wires or hooks attached to walls.

At any rate, the single biggest mistake most gardeners make when planting climbing-type vines is underestimating how large the vines get. A vigorous tomato plant can quickly spill over the top of a store-bought “tomato cage” and need extra support; a bougainvillea vine planted near the street can reach out and grab pedestrians. And climbing roses can totally overwhelm a typical arbor, making it nearly impossible to walk under or sit beneath.

Don’t be weak when it comes to making an arbor, pergola or other vine support. Vines often outgrow flimsy “store-bought” arbors, and it isn’t unusual for climbing roses and wisteria to tear up a wooden lattice within just two or three years. It’s important to think “long haul” and make vine structures large and sturdy enough to provide the support and room needed for mature vines.

Some vines – especially annuals like morning glory, gourds and tomatoes, are grown from seed, planted in warm soil outdoors or started indoors a few weeks before the last frost of the season. Their soil needs to be worked up fairly well, with plenty of organic matter dug into poorly drained, heavy clay or very sandy soils to help roots quickly grow as deep and far as possible in a single growing season. These vines can cover an area fairly quickly and often need regular attention to get started on their journey upward.

Other vines, including herbaceous perennials and slower-growing woody vines like climbing roses, wisteria and trumpet creeper, need more patience. The old adage about long-lived perennial or woody vines goes, “First year they sleep, second year they creep, third year they leap.”

Whether you’re growing fast annual vines, enjoying container-grown tropical beauties or long-lived perennials, it’s best to simply take your time, prepare the soil well, and cover and mulch the area. (Then get ready to jump out of the way!)