Grit Blogs > Nature and Gardening at the Edge

Vines and Vining Plants

Minnie Hatz headshotVines are generally defined as plants with weak stems. This also seems to define some ground covers so I would add elongated stems to the definition. Some vines have tendrils or other means of hanging onto trellises, walls, trees or other plants. At one time, I probably had no vines. Trees, shrubs, flowers and lawn defined landscaping. I have now welcomed vines into the landscape. Vines are great at disguising and camouflaging anything in the landscape that is not exactly a positive. Of course, they also can harmonize nicely with a trellis and grace a fence or a wall. 

My next addition is some English ivy. I snipped a start from a friend’s garage wall. I have long enjoyed it indoors but obviously it grows well in this climate and if I have it outdoors, I have an endless supply of starts for indoor pots. Many vining plants, including English ivy will root in water. Others, like Virginia creeper, readily put down roots wherever it touches the ground. These starts on the soil can be uprooted and moved to better locations or given to friends. 

Many berries will grow on the support of a fence or trellis but are not actually vines. These include blackberries, raspberries and currents. Grapes of course are the most popular vining small fruit. With their tendrils they readily gain support. 

Clematis not yet stakedFlowering vines such as wisteria and clematis are great additions because they flower in season but are very attractive most of the year. I have never had much success with these types without providing a trellis or other support. 

I find that the most vigorously growing vines are great at creating shade where there are trellises.  

Shade from vines can definitely take planning ahead, as the real shade may not develop for years. 

Euonymus is a broadleaf evergreen that is usually called a shrub but is another plant that will grow on a trellis. In fact, if it is not pruned or tied up to a trellis, it may take up a lot more space than planned. It does actually shed leaves in the fall but never is bare. It also has flowers that are not significant in appearance but seem to really draw bees, flies and other insects. 

One of the challenges that I have found is maintaining the trellis or wall once the vine starts growing. Painting a trellis is fine but repainting it is probably not going to happen! If a vine is one that you prune back annually, maintaining the trellis can be done after pruning.  

Vines on wooden walls or fences create a similar problem, as repainting is nearly impossible. Another support problem that I have heard about but not experienced is that of vines, particularly ivy, clinging to rock and even glass so firmly that it is almost impossible to remove. Apparently it actually creates an etch effect on glass. 

Which brings me back to my newest vine and the dilemma of where to plant it. I think not against a structure but placing vines can be a challenge. Power poles may eventually become a hazard if the vines reach the electrical wires and connections. Some vines should not be placed on fences where livestock grazes least they are eaten. As mentioned above, enough room must be allowed for support for years of growth. Like all plants, sun or shade requirements, drainage, and soil type can be concerns. Perhaps by the time the roots appear, I will find the perfect location!