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Vines add versatility and height to the landscape, whether they're flowering or foliage-focused, perennial or annual, grown from seed or purchased as seedlings. Climbing vines can be used to add background to a garden bed, shield an unsightly view, or supply fragrance. In order to successfully use vines and other climbers, you must first understand the best growing condition for each particular type of plant. The Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia provides in-depth growing information on a wide range of vines, such as USDA Hardiness Zone, sun or shade preferences, and moisture limitations. The characteristics -- flowering, fruiting, mature height -- of each climbing vine is also explained, as are design suggestions, plant combinations, and other helpful growing tips.
Though akebia has beautiful purple or white flowers that smell of chocolate, it's really the beautiful foliage that makes this lovely vine worth growing. The blue-green leaves are divided into leaflets, giving it a wonderfully soft texture as it scales walls, pergolas, and other structures. Give it a sturdy support -- akebia can get to be big at maturity and may crush small structures.
If the flowers are pollinated, akebia may produce edible, sausage-shaped fruits -- but the vines usually need a different variety planted nearby to produce the fruits.
Black-eyed Susan vine is a top pick for adding easy-growing bright color to the summer garden. The trumpet-shape blooms appear in cheery shades of yellow, orange, and white; many selections have dark purple throats. It's a polite vine you can count on to stay in bounds and not become overgrown.
Blackberries produce succulent fruit in summer on woody canes. Beware that the vigorous woody canes can become invasive if not pruned regularly. There are two distinct forms of blackberries -- trailing and erect. They may be thorny or thornless. Erect blackberries are hardy, stiff-caned plants. The trailing kind, also called dewberries, are tender and grown mainly in the South.
Boston ivy, unlike most vines, waits until fall to put on a show when its foliage turns a bold, rich red that rivals just about any maple tree. It's a fast-growing vine that uses small adhesive disks to attach to the side of a wall, fence, or other structure. Note: If you pull the vine down, the adhesive disks remain attached to the structure. The vine also features purple fruits that attract birds, though these fruits are quite poisonous to people and pets.
Bougainvillea is one of the showiest vines you can grow. The large plant practically smothers itself in big clusters of papery bracts. These bracts appear in bold shades of pink, lavender, red, gold, or orange and create a display you can see a block away.
While bougainvillea is tropical, it's usually grown as an annual in cold-winter areas.
Note: Many varieties of bougainvillea bear sharp spines, so take care not to plant these varieties next to doorways or paths.
Fill your summer landscape with brilliant red color from cardinal vine. This easy-growing vine bears masses of scarlet-red flowers that look like miniature morning glories from summer to frost. The deeply lobed foliage makes a great foil for the pretty blooms.
Note: All parts of this plant, especially the seeds, are poisonous.
Clematis is undoubtedly the most versatile vine you can grow. Few other climbers offer such a broad range of bloom colors, shapes, and seasons. Dwarf clematis are great for growing in containers or along decks and patios; medium-size varieties look great intertwined in small trees. For a knockout mix, plant a blue or white clematis with a red climbing rose.
Most clematis grow best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil.
Note: All parts of clematis are poisonous.
A full-grown climbing hydrangea in bloom can take your breath away. This big vine produces large clusters of white flowers held against rich, dark green foliage. Climbing hydrangeas grow by producing aerial roots that grow into walls, fences, or even up the side of a large tree. The vines can be slow to get established -- so be patient with them. Note: All parts of this plant are poisonous.
Dress up an entry arbor or a pergola with vigorously climbing and flowering cross vine. As soon as its cheery, trumpet-shape blooms open, watch for hummingbirds -- they practically can't resist this vine. The tiny birds flock to the blooms for the nutrient-rich nectar. This semi-evergreen to evergreen vine attaches itself to most surfaces by tendrils and grows in many types of soil, from fast-draining sandy loam to clay. Prune cross vine in winter to control its vigorous spread.
Cross vine is native to areas of eastern and central North America and gets its name from the cross-shape markings in the stem.
Cypress vine is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful annual vines. It bears lots of scarlet, trumpet-shape flowers that hummingbirds adore. Like morning glory (to which it's closely related), the flowers close up in the afternoon. But even without the blooms, its feathery, finely cut foliage looks great. Note: All parts of this plant, especially the seeds, are poisonous.
An adaptable vine, Dutchman's pipe seems to thrive just about everywhere -- from sun to shade. It creates a rich curtain of big (to 10 inches wide), heart-shape leaves that usually hide the fragrant summertime flowers. The vine is native to areas of North America and it is a host plant for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly. It's rarely bothered by pests, making it an ideal choice for creating privacy.
This versatile foliage plant grows well as a hanging basket, a groundcover beneath larger houseplants, or trained into topiary shapes. It needs medium light and grows best at temperatures between 55 and 70 degrees F. Keep the soil evenly moist and humidity high to discourage spider mites. This plant also grows as a groundcover outdoors in Zones 5-9.
You can't help but be wowed by gloriosa lily's fantastical flowers. This climbing vine offers spidery blooms that look a bit like fireballs because the petals curve back and appear in glowing shades of red and yellow.
While gloriosa lily is a tender bulb, gardeners in cold-winter climates can grow it by storing the tubers in a frost-free place for winter.
Plant gourds if for no other reason than because they're fun. They come in a delightful, wacky array of shapes, colors, and sizes and are sure to bring a smile when you harvest them. Some gourds are used for functional items or to eat, but all of these fast, easy growers are great project go do to with kids. Many will grow up fences and trellises, which makes them even more interesting and dramatic.
The term gourd is a catch-all for several closely related plants. Hard-shelled gourds are also called birdhouse gourds, bottle gourds, or dipper gourds. Immature fruits and vines are used as a vegetable, known as calabash. The interior flesh of the mature luffa gourd has long been used as a bath sponge. It is sometimes eaten as a vegetable when immature. Soft-shelled gourds come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They are used only decoratively.
Full sun and well-drained soil have the potential to produce massive, succulent clusters of red or white grapes. Sink your teeth into the sun-warmed fruit and you'll quickly devour the whole bunch. When allowed to ripen on the vine, homegrown grapes produce sweet, flavorful fruit that rivals any variety that you can purchase in the supermarket. Birds are also fond of grapes; plan to share part of your crop with winged visitors.
Hummingbirds adore honeysuckle vine, and after growing one you will, too. These easy-care climbers offer attractive clusters of blooms in a wide range of shades. The tube-shape flowers look great mixed in with a variety of shrubs, perennials, and annuals.
Few vines rival jasmine for beauty and fragrance. This easy-to-grow climber produces beautiful clusters of starry flowers you can smell from feet away. Most jasmines bloom in late winter or early spring, but some such as Arabian jasmine will flower throughout the year.
Most jasmines do best in full sun or part shade and moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Gardeners sometimes grow jasmine as a houseplant in areas where the vines aren't hardy.
Drink in the sweet perfume of confederate jasmine as it quickly twines up a porch post or over a sturdy fence. Count on this easy-to-grow woody vine to have glossy green leaves and sweetly fragrant white flowers that pack a surprising perfume despite their petite size. Be sure to support the heavy vines with a well-built trellis or other structure. It thrives in all types of soil. Prune vines as needed to keep them within bounds.
Clusters of fuzzy, brown kiwifruits have an unassuming presence, but once you slice one open you'll be taken with the fruit's sweet, tangy flavor and luscious green flesh. Packed with vitamins, kiwifruits offer many health benefits. This vigorous and productive vine is perfect for growing over an arbor or pergola; it will cast deep shade on the area below. It takes several years for a newly planted vine to come into production, but the wait is worth it.
Kiwi vines are male and female; you need one of each for fruit. A pair of vines will usually produce enough fruit for the home garden.
Among the garden's most elegant vines, mandevilla offers stunning trumpet-shape flowers in shades of pink, white, or red. It's the perfect plant for creating a lush, tropical look. Mandevilla is usually grown as an annual, though it can be overwintered indoors in a bright spot. Note: All parts of this plant are poisonous.
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