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University of Illinois Extension
Vines: Climbers & Twiners

Perennial Vines

There are numerous perennial vines that can add a permanent landscape feature to your garden. When choosing vines listed as perennial, make sure that they are listed as hardy for your planting zone. These vines come back year after year and when properly handled, continue to offer attractive foliage and flowers.


Self-fertile Hardy Kiwi

Self-fertile Hardy Kiwi - Actinidia arguta 'Issai'

Zone: 4-8

A large, vigorous twining vine growing up to 25-30 feet. Prefers a full sun location. Produces fragrant, white flowers in May-June followed by small, green edible fruit that is produced without the need for both male and female plants. Prune right after flowering if needed to control size. May limit potential fruit production however. Hardy kiwi is more valued for its ornamental purposes than its ability to produce useable fruit.


Tri-Color Kiwi

Tri-Color Kiwi - Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty'

Zone: 4-8

Interesting variegated form of kiwi growing to a compact size of about 12 feet. This twining vine has intriguing white flushed with pink variegations on large, oval leaves. Young, newly planted vines may show very little variegation. It may take up to 3 years to show variegation. As vines age variegation becomes more prominent. Fragrant white flowers in May followed by small, gooseberry-like fruit. Because of the variegation, the vine is best grown where it receives light shade to protect the variegated leaves from scorching in hot sun. The vine may also be trained vertically as a specimen plant for the garden. Best variegation is achieved when the plants are not overly fertilized.


Dutchman's Pipe

Dutchman's Pipe - Aristolochia durior

Zone: 4-8

An extremely vigorous twining vine growing to 25-30 feet with large rounded, dark green leaves. Because of its size it will need a substantial support. Will grow in full sun to shade. Flowering in May-June, the unique flowers are greenish-yellow and shaped like a meerschaum pipe. Unfortunately, the flowers often go overlooked as they are buried under the large foliage canopy. Makes a good screen. Prune in late winter to control growth. Prefers a moist soil location.


Trumpet Vine

Trumpet Vine - Campsis radicans and cultivars

Zone: 4-8

A rapid, vigorous growing vine climbing by both aerial roots and twining. Grows to 30-40 feet. Will grow in sun to light shade with best flowering in full sun. Because of its vigor this vine will need a substantial support. Large compound green leaves that look almost tropical. Flowers are orange-scarlet, 3 inches long, tube-shaped and showy from July-September. Attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies. After flowering, long, bean-shaped pods are produced that often persist through the winter. Trumpet vine may not flower for several years after planting until it becomes well established in the garden. Looks best when given moisture during dry periods in the garden. Trumpet vine will sucker freely in the garden so use caution about its use in small space gardens. Suckering can be "controlled" by timely removal of suckers by digging as they appear. Also tends to reseed so pull out seedlings as they appear. Vine tolerates heavy pruning in late winter or early spring. This is suggested in order to keep it under control and maintain quality.

Selected Cultivars

  • Campsis radicans 'Flava' Yellow flowered trumpet vine growing to 20-40 feet
  • Campsis radicans 'Minnesota Red' Deep red velvety flowering trumpet vine growing to 30 feet
  • Campsis x tagliabuana 'Mme Galen' Deep apricot flowered trumpet vine. Flowers 3 inches - long and 3 inches wide. Grows to 15-20 feet
  • Campsis radicans 'Stromboli' Dark red buds open to orange flowers. Grows to 20-30 feet

American Bittersweet

American Bittersweet - Celastrus scandens

Zone: 3-8

American bittersweet is a vigorous twining vine growing to 10-20 feet. It is preferred over the invasive oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). A full sun to light shade location is preferred. Reddish-yellow capsules open in early autumn to expose red-orange berries. Prune in late winter or early spring. Both male and female plants are needed to produce the attractive berries and many times sexed plants of the species are not available at garden centers. And since only the female plant will bear the attractive fruit, both a male and female plant needs to be in the vicinity to insure pollination and fruit production. To make sure you have one of each sex in the area, look for named cultivars such as ‘Diana’ (female) and ‘Hercules’ (male) or ‘Indian Maiden’ (female) and ‘Indian Brave’ (male). To make insuring attractive fruit even easier there are now cultivars that are self-fruitful so you need only one plant and not two for fruit production. Look for Celastrus scandens ‘Bailumn’ Autumn Revolution™ or Celastrus scandens ‘Swtazam’ Sweet Tangerine®. Berry size and production on both are extraordinarily large.


English Ivy

English Ivy - Hedera helix

Zone: 4-9

English ivy is a vigorous vine attaching by aerial roots and growing 50+ feet long. It is an evergreen to semi-evergreen depending on where it is grown, and the severity of the winter. In open locations and where it is exposed to more wind, the foliage tends to turn brown. New foliage will regrow in the spring. English ivy benefits from regular pruning in the spring to control growth which can become aggressive at times. The vine is also a good groundcover. It prefers a part to full shade location. More sun and wind exposure results in discoloration of the foliage during the winter. Cultivars to look for include 'Thorndale' with glossy, dark green foliage and 'Wilson' a small leaved form good for small space gardens. Variegated forms often need extra winter protection for survivability and their hardiness is often questionable.


Virginia Creeper

Virginia Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Zone: 3-9

Virginia Creeper is a vigorous vine growing to 50+ feet and attaching by both tendrils and holdfasts. Large five-parted leaves are purple color in the spring, and then change to a dull green during the growing season. It then turns a brilliant red in the fall. The inconspicuous flowers develop into clusters of blue-black pea-sized berries that are often eaten by birds. Virginia creeper is tolerant of drought and grows in full sun to shade locations. This vine can also be used as a groundcover or allowed to trail off of retaining walls. This vine is often mistaken for poison ivy that has three-parted leaves. Heavy pruning in the spring may be needed to keep this aggressive vine in check. 'Engelman' is a cultivar that is less vigorous, has small leaves and good for small spaces. 'Star Showers' is a variegated cultivar.


Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy - Parthenocissus tricuspidata

Zone: 3-9

Boston Ivy is a dense vine growing to 50+ feet and attaching itself by means of holdfasts (adhesive disks). This is the classic vine seen on buildings associated with "ivy league" schools. The three parted leaves are a glossy green during the growing season and change to a brilliant red-orange in the fall. It produces blue-black berries favored by birds. It grows in full sun to shade locations and will need attention to annual pruning in the spring to keep it from covering architectural features on structures. Cultivars to look for are 'Fenway Park', a golden leaved form of Boston ivy and 'Lowii' a very small leaved and slower growing form for small space gardens. 'Green Showers' offers lime-green foliage.


Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing Hydrangea - Hydrangea anomala var. petiolaris

Zone: 5-8

Climbing Hydrangea is an exceptional vine for both its foliage and flowering qualities. Foliage is glossy green with large (8-10 inches in diameter), fragrant, white, lacecap flowers produced in late June early July and are attractive to butterflies. Vine climbs by means of aerial roots and clings well to masonry. Very attractive peeling orange-brown bark for winter interest and color. Grows best in sun to light shade. May be slow to start flowering until it becomes established. Once established it is a vigorous growing vine reaching 40-50 feet. Prune in late winter to keep it under control. The cultivar 'Miranda' has attractive lime-green variegated foliage. It's flowers are smaller, and the vine also tends to be smaller.


Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle - Lonicera sp.

Zone: 3-8

As a group, honeysuckle vines are vigorous, twining vines growing from 10-20 feet tall. Most all offer fragrant flowers from June-July that are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Many also offer attractive foliage and berries. All benefit from heavy pruning in late winter to keep them from becoming overgrown and tangled and to maintain their foliage and flowering quality. Best in full sun locations but will tolerate shaded sites. It is suggested that Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) not be planted due to its invasive nature. Look for natives or interspecific hybrids as better choices. As a way to tell the Japanese honeysuckle from other honeysuckles look for the following features. With native honeysuckles flowers are borne at the tips of the stems followed by red or orange berries. The leaves are fused or united to form a "collar" around the stem. With Japanese honeysuckle flowers are borne in the leaf axils followed by purple-black berries. The leaves are not fused or united around the stem.

See more honeysuckle vines...


Perennial Sweet Pea

Perennial Sweet Pea - Lathyrus latifolius

Zone: 4-7

Perennial sweet pea is a vigorous vine growing 9-12 feet tall and attaching by tendrils. It does best in full sun and blooms July-August. It is drought tolerant and provides flowers in the heat of the summer when annual sweet peas fail. Flowers are fragrant and make good cut flowers. Perennial sweet pea will reseed and sucker freely in the garden. Prune very hard in early spring.


Kentucky Wisteria

Kentucky Wisteria - Wisteria macrostachya

Zone: 3-9

This wisteria is very similar to American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens). It is a twining vine growing to 20-25 feet and needs a very substantial support as it becomes a very large and heavy vine over time. It is less aggressive than some of the other wisteria. It produces long (8-12 inches) fragrant, pendant-like flowers in June with some rebloom late in the season. After flowering, long bean-like seed pods are produced. Prefers a sun location. Wisterias are slow to establish and even slower to start blooming. Three or more years is not uncommon. Failure to bloom is often linked to plants being too young, winter kill of flower buds, too much shade, overfertilization, or improper pruning. Pruning should be kept to a minimum, right after flowering or in late winter. Once established, plants do not like to be transplanted. ‘Blue Moon’ is a cultivar from Minnesota that has fragrant blue flowers and is extremely hardy. While American wisteria flowers are smaller (4-6 inches long) the cultivar ‘Amethyst Falls’ is a good garden selection.


Clematis

Clematis - Clematis sp.

Zone: 3-9

Clematis is perhaps the most popular and most often planted perennial vine. The success with clematis starts with picking the right location, preparing the planting site, proper planting, and proper pruning. Clematis prefers a full sun to part shade location. A site that gets 4-5 hours of sun a day is suggested. The soil should be well drained and amended with ample amounts of organic matter. Prepare a planting site that is 18” X 18” X 18” in size and work in ample amounts of organic matter such as compost. Plants should be planted lower than they are growing in the container. It is suggested that the plants be set so the first two sets of leaf nodes are underground. This will encourage the plant to send up more stems resulting in a denser plant. Newly planted clematis should be pruned back to 12 inches in the spring following planting. Again, this will encourage a denser, fuller plant. Apply a 2-4 inch layer of mulch around the plant keeping it about 4-6 inches from the stem. This helps maintain cool soil temperatures that clematis prefer for best root growth. Pruning clematis has always seemed to be a mystery. It is based upon the blooming period for the variety. Clematis are divided into three pruning groups designated as group A, B, and C or sometimes 1, 2, and 3. Every clematis is put into one of these groups. Because you need to know the name of the clematis you have in order to prune correctly, you need to make sure you save the plant label that comes with the plant and somehow keep it with the plant or record the name of the clematis in your garden diary.

Group A clematis produce flowers from the mature growth that was produced last season. Light pruning to remove any dead stems and to neaten up the plant is all that is needed. Allow the plants to finish blooming in spring before you do any heavy pruning. This will put pruning into late spring or very early summer. This will allow enough time for the plant to produce new growth that will flower next season.

Group B clematis produce flowers on both old and new growth. The first flush of bloom is in early June with a repeat later in the season. Clematis in this group don’t need major pruning. When you do prune go slowly. Prune dead or weak growth and then lightly prune after the early flush of bloom. This helps to maximize blooming later in the year.

Group C clematis tolerate the most severe pruning as they produce flowers on the current seasons growth and tend to flower mid to late summer or very early fall. Many of these clematis benefit from very severe pruning in the spring. Cut back to 8-12 inches removing the tangled mass of stems produced last season. Doing this cleans up the plant and allows for many more vigorous shoots resulting in a fuller, cleaner plant covered with flowers.

Because of the extremely large numbers of good clematis varieties to choose from here is a sample of a few to consider:

  • 'Jackmanii' - An all-time classic that is dependable and easy to take care of. Produces purple flowers in June, July with light repeat bloom through the later part of the season. Pruning group C
  • 'Comtesse de Bouchard' - Very vigorous clematis and one of the more popular pink varieties. Blooms in July-August. Pruning group C
  • 'Cardinal Wyszynski' - Large crimson flowers. Free flowering blooming in July, Aug, September. Pruning group B
  • 'Vyvyan Pennell' - Outstanding double flowering clematis. Double flowers are produced on last season's growth, single flowers produced on current season's growth. Pruning group B
  • Sweet Autumn Clematis - A dependable, vigorous late blooming clematis. Fragrant. Benefits from very severe pruning. Pruning group C
  • Clematis tangutica - Small flowered species type. Robust, heat and drought tolerant. Blooms July-October. Produces very attractive seed heads. Pruning group C
  • 'Roguchi' - Clematis with a very long flowering season blooming from June - September

Japanese Hydrangea Vine

Japanese Hydrangea Vine - Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight'

While not a true hydrangea this vine produces lacecap hydrangea-like white blooms, 6-8 inches in diameter in July. Vine grows 20-25 feet tall and climbs by means of aerial roots. The attractive heart-shaped leaves take on a silvery, pewter appearance. Best in part to full shade. This vine is slow growing and may take a few years to flower. Prune in late winter. Reddish-brown stems offer winter interest.


Hops

Hops - Humulus lupulus

A very fast growing, twining, herbaceous perennial vine growing to about 15-20 feet. This vine will die back to soil line each year so old growth needs to be pruned away prior to the start of spring growth. Produces attractive yellow-green cone shaped flower structures. Best in full sun to part shade. Hops have a tendency to produce suckers that can get into other areas of the garden. Cultivars to look for are 'Aureus' that has showy yellow foliage and 'Nugget' with very dark green foliage.