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Designing with Vines

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Vines create tremendous vertical effects while using little horizontal space. They can be an asset to a garden’s color, texture, and form.

If a garden is small, with a lot of wall or other vertical space, vines become an important design element.

Vines can complement architecture or other hardscape in a garden or landscape.

Vines can soften hardscape or serve as a transition between a building or other built elements in the design and the planted landscape.

Vines can also hide hardscape such as fences or walls.

Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, frames a doorway
Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, frames a doorway

What vines can do

Here are a few reasons to use vines in a garden design:

  • Vines can complement a building by adding texture and color.
  • Vines can be used to frame a doorway or window.
  • Vines can be used on an arbor to frame a garden entrance.
  • Vines can provide shade when climbing up and over a pergola or overhead garden structure.
  • Vines can soften, camouflage, or hide a fence or wall.
Jasmine covers a walkway arbor
Jasmine covers a walkway arbor

How to choose a vine

Here are some considerations when selecting a vine or climbing plant for your garden design:

  • What color are the foliage and flowers? When does it flower?
  • How tall does it grow? Some vines can grow to 30 feet or more.
  • What kind of support does it need? Some vines become woody and heavy as they mature and require solid permanent support.
  • Does the plant need sun or shade?
  • Is the plant annual or perennial?
  • Is the plant evergreen or deciduous? Can it survive cold winter temperatures where you live?
  • What are the plant’s soil and water requirements?
  • What is the plant’s climbing habit? Does it climb using tendrils that can wrap around a trellis or stake? Does the plant use stickfasts or aerial roots to attach itself to a wall? Stickfasts can be hard to remove when it comes time for painting.
  • Will it reseed?
Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera
Trumpet honeysuckle, Lonicera

Vines for arbors and trellises

Common NameBotanical NameZones
Black-eyed Susan vineThunbergia alataAnnual
Chocolate vineAkebia quinata5-9
ClematisClematis spp.3-9
Jessamine, CarolinaGelsemium sempervirens7-9
Morning gloryIpomoea tricolorAnnual
MoonflowerIpomoea albaAnnual
Passion flowerPassiflora spp.7-10
Roses, climbingRosa spp.Variety
Jasmine, starTrachelospermum jasminoides8-10
Sweet peaLathyrus odoratusAnnual
Trumpet honeysuckleLonicera sempervirens4-9
Wisteria covers a pergola
Wisteria covers a pergola

Vines by height

Common NameBotanical NameZone
Small (10 feet and under)  
Black-eyed Susan vineThunbergia alataTo 10’
Clematis, large floweredClematis spp.To 10’
Jasmine, starTracelospermum jasminoidesTo 6’
NasturtiumTropaeolum majusTo 10’
Bean, scarlet runnerPhaseolus coccineusTo 10’
Sweet peaLathyrus odoratusTo 8’
Sweet potato vineIpomoea batatasTo 8’
Medium (10-20 feet)  
Cardinal climberIpomoea x sloteriTo 20’
Carolina jasmineGelsemium sempervirensTo 20’
Hyacinth beanLablab purpureusTo 20’
MoonflowerIpomoea albaTo 20’
Morning gloryIpomoea tricolorTo 20’
Night blooming jasmineCestrum nocturnumTo 12’
Pink JasmineJasminum polyanthumTo 20’
Roses, climbingRosa spp.To 20’
Star jasmineTrachelospermum jasminoidesTo 15’
Tall (20 feet or more)  
Bittersweet, AmericanCelastrus scandensTo 25’
Euonymus, wintercreeperEuonymus fortuneiTo 40’
Hydrangea, climbingHydrangea anomalaTo 80’
Ivy, EnglishHedera helixTo 50’
FirethornPyracantha coccineaTo 15’
HoneysucklesLonicera spp.To 30’
Sliver lace vinePolygonum aubertiiTo 30’
Trumpet creeperCampis radicansTo 40’
Virginia creeperParthenocissus quinquefoliaTo 50’
WisteriaWisteria spp.To 30’

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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