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Chosen with care and placed thoughtfully, vines are the workhorses and problem solvers of landscaping. Many homeowners and gardeners have discovered the following landscape uses for vines.

Seasonal color. While annuals like pansies and impatiens provide long periods of color, you can also enjoy the more fleeting displays of perennial vines. Spring is marked by the white, dogwood-shaped blossoms of evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii) and the purple blooms of wisteria. Summer brings a myriad of choices for blooming vines, including hybrid clematis, annuals like morning glories, and such tender, tropical selections as bougainvillea and mandevilla, which will often bloom long into the fall before a killing frost cuts them down. Signature vines of the fall include sweet autumn clematis and silver lace vine (Polygonum aubertii), both of which produce a froth of many small, white flowers.

Fragrance. When planting a scented vine such as honeysuckle or jasmine, be sure to place it near a door or walkway where its scent will be noticed.

Small spaces. Because vines utilize the vertical dimension of the garden, even the tiniest piece of earth can accommodate a vine or two. Make the most of available space by ‘doubling up’ -- growing vines against walls, over shrubs, up small trees and on top of climbing roses.

Privacy. Vines can obtain heights greater than the average privacy fence and can grow faster than the average shrub. If you have a small lot, with neighbors right on top of you, it’s important to me to have some sort of visual protection. For example, site an arbor so that when you look out from the house, you see an evergreen vine instead of the house next door.

Shade. Many types of vines, including trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), grow with rampant abandon and can cover a pergola or arbor in a season or two, shading a patio or walkway more quickly than a tree could. Trumpet vine sports orange, trumpet-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds but can become a nuisance as it spreads by underground runners, often emerging six feet or more from the parent plant. Virginia creeper is primarily a foliage plant, with five leaflets resembling the fingers on a hand. Deciduous vines (those that shed their leaves completely in fall) can actually help to save energy. Their shade blocks the hot sun, reducing air conditioning costs all summer, while in winter, bare stems let the sunlight through, warming the house and lowering heating bills.

Camouflage. Using vines against walls and fences provides the option of softening hard elements. For example, a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris), which does well in part shade, can help to blur the rigid lines of a stucco wall. The delicate foliage of Akebia quinata can hide a utilitarian chain link. Homeowners with a ramshackle shed or unsightly garage could easily put this technique to work.

Architectural Interest. Structural elements like pergolas, arbors, and trellises can add much interest to the home landscape. If you’re a do-it-your-selfer, you can probably find plans for a variety of garden structures at a building supply store. Lightweight wooden or fiberglass trellises, on the other hand, are usually available ready-made from local garden centers and mail order sources, although they are also easily made at home. One of the most popular garden structures suitable for vines is the wooden or wrought iron arch, designed to serve as a sort of doorway or transition between two sections of the garden. Mail order catalogs offer these at reasonable prices in standard sizes; most come with some sort of provision for anchoring them in the ground.

Before deciding on a support for a particular vine, you must understand how the vine climbs. Clinging vines, which include trumpet vine, climbing hydrangea and English ivy, adhere to a surface with tiny aerial rootlets that grow from the stems. They can damage wooden siding and weaken the mortar in a masonry wall and are therefore most safely grown on a trellis or other structure that is placed six inches away from the building.

Grasping vines, like grape (Vitis species), climb by grasping their support with tendrils. Clematis are also considered a grasping vine, as they use their petioles, or leaf stems, to grab onto their support. These types of vines can most easily grasp onto wires or thin lattice pieces that are spaced closely together. An ornamental trellis with wide open spaces should be backed with chicken wire or some similar material to help grasping vines get a toehold.

Twining vines climb by coiling themselves around their support, and do well on chunkier supports such as lamp posts and porch pillars. They will also weave themselves in and out of open latticework as they head in an upward direction.