10 pointers for growing vines in your garden

Whether you want to transform a dull wall or fence into a magnificent living barrier or simply call attention to your mailbox, vines are the plants for the job. Here are ten pointers for growing vines in your garden.

10 pointers for growing vines in your garden

Vines in your garden

You can start with a short-lived annual vine, decide how you like it and then switch to a long-lived woody vine. Chain-link fences in particular benefit from the presence of vines.

1. Watch out for poisonous vines

Beware of poisonous climbers — and not just poison ivy!

  • Wisteria, sweet pea, and some other climbers have poisonous parts that can be dangerous when eaten.

Teach children not to eat berries or seedpods from ornamental plants.

2. Buy vines in containers

  • Never buy a climbing plant with exposed roots.

The odds are that the plant has suffered, and the roots have dried out. Replanting may be difficult.

  • Look for several stems growing close to the base of the plant rather than a single tall one.

3. Plant perennial vines in spring

  • Plant perennial vines just as the buds are beginning to swell.
  • Give the soil in the pot a good soaking before planting a vine in a hole enriched with compost or organic fertilizer.

4. Beware of invasive species

Vines are often able to grow by throwing new stems over other plants, so they can become invasive if not kept in check. Some, such as Oriental bittersweet and Japanese honeysuckle, grow so exuberantly that they shouldn't be planted at all.

  • Choose native species, such as Virginia creeper (now available in a variegated form) or coral honeysuckle instead.

5. Keep the roots cool

Most vines like to have their feet in the shade and their heads in the sun.

  • Plant a low, shallow-rooted shrub, evergreen if possible, on the sunny side of the climber's base. Its cool shade will help the vine establish itself and reach its full potential.
  • Keep the soil around both plants cool by spreading a thick layer of organic mulch over the surface.

6. Keep your house cool

  • A climbing vine that covers a south- or west-facing wall provides insulation in summer, keeping the house cooler and air-conditioning costs down.

This is a great use for annual vines, which grow only during the summer.

7. Don’t plant ivy

Don't plant ivy or other vines where they can climb on wood siding; they can quickly cause the wood to rot. In some places, English ivy is so invasive that it's considered a noxious weed.

8. Use an old tree as a trellis

Some vines will climb a tree, adding colour and texture to the trunk.

  • Select vigorous species that can tolerate shade and tree-root competition and can climb unassisted.
  • Ivy, winter creeper, and cross vine are good choices.
  • Install plants carefully around tree roots in humus-rich soil and give extra food and water as needed.
  • Train the stems by tying them loosely to the trunk.

9. Let vines wind on wire

  • Heavy vines, such as those of honeysuckle and passionflower, can be supported on strong copper wires.
  • The wires will eventually oxidize to an attractive green that blends into the foliage.

10. Create a handy, removable trellis

  • If you regularly repaint the wall on which you install a climbing plant, mount a trellis on hooks so that it's easy to remove when the time comes to paint.
  • Or put the base on hinges so the trellis and plant can be folded down in one piece when you need to work on the wall.
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