If you have an ugly fence or a bare expanse of wall, a lush, green
vine might be the answer you’re looking for.
The word “vine” once referred only to grape plants, but now in
American English usage, vine can include many varieties of climbing
and creeping plants.
I know some people are hesitant to plant any kind of vine as they fear
its potential to become invasive. However, if you are aware of this
potential at the outset, you can either select varieties that are
minimally invasive or decide to control the spread of your vines to
keep them manageable.
Most vines are remarkably versatile plants, able to grow vertically if
given a trellis or wall to cling to, or to spread horizontally across
the landscape, creating a dense and verdant groundcover.
Let’s take a look at a few vines so you can see which ones might work
best for you.
A good choice if you will be planting away from direct sunlight
because Climbing Hydrangeas are tolerant of shady areas. Actually,
they prefer at least partial shade in hot areas of the country.
However, they bloom more profusely when exposed to a fair amount of
In early summer, Climbing Hydrangeas produce fragrant white groupings
of blooms called lace caps, each about five inches across. The dried
flower heads and reddish brown, peeling bark are attractive in winter.
Climbing hydrangeas prefer moist but well-drained soil that is at
least moderately rich.
Wisteria sinensis Also known as Purple Wisteria, due to the color of
its blooms, this is a fast-growing vine that is ideal for trellises
and arbors. You can also train it into tree form if you prefer. The
bright purple flowers are about one inch long, appearing in late May,
borne in dense, 6 to 12 inch long racemes.
Wisteria is actually a member of the Pea family and is named after an
eighteenth century anatomy professor named Caspar Wistar. You can read
a helpful fact sheet titled Growing Wisteria, published by the Ohio
State University Extension Service at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1246.html
Yup, this one really can be invasive, so understand that you will
probably need to keep an eye on it and be prepared to take steps to
contain it if it begins to spread beyond your desired area. Having
said that, English Ivy is a very attractive plant (except to those who
consider it a pest) and its dark green, glossy leaves, growing
vertically in a dense mass can add an established characteristic quite
quickly to new construction.
As much a spreader as a climber, Baltic Ivy is often used as a
groundcover in northern zones as it is an evergreen with remarkable
cold hardiness properties. In fact it was brought to America from
Latvia in 1907 by Alfred Rehder, curator of the Herbarium at Harvard
University, who gave it the name “Baltic” Ivy.
A university bulletin, published in March 1932, stated that the
plants: “have grown into a solid mantle of green reaching well above
the second story windows.” As a consequence, in 1937, a journalist
coined the term “Ivy League” to describe Harvard and seven other
Although it certainly can climb, given the opportunity, Purple
Wintercreeper is seen most often as a groundcover. It can spread
almost indefinitely by way of rooting stems, and thus it could be a
good choice for an edger alongside a path or driveway that would act
as a natural container.
Purple Wintercreeper can be a useful plant to battle erosion on slopes
and hillsides and I have seen it climbing walls and the outsides of
chimneys. It works equally well in the sunny or shady areas of your
Just a reminder: as I’ve mentioned before, a product that can be
effective in controlling spreading vines is an herbicide called Vine-X
Vine and Brush Control. Vines can be a pleasing addition to your
landscape when kept properly under control. The Plant Man is here to
help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to
firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and additional information, or
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