Vine Plants: 10 Best Choices

Selections for Flowers and Foliage, Sun and Shade, North and South

Your idea of the best vine plants to grow may not be somebody else's, so in the list of top picks that follows I have striven to provide a variety of selections. There's something here for everybody, including vines that:

To increase the variety further, I've even furnished one example of a vine plant...MORE that's an annual (the others are perennial), as well as an example of one that is a classic for hot climates (the others are cold-hardy to at least growing zone 5).

  • 01 of 10
    Male arctic kiwi vines (image) have three colors on their leaves. This pic is from spring.
    Male arctic kiwi vines can have leaves with three colors. David Beaulieu

    In my first two selections, the diversity I mentioned above is on full display. The fact that Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty' is quite cold-hardy is reflected both in its cultivar name ('Arctic Beauty') and its nickname, "hardy kiwi." This relatively uncommon vine plant is grown for its foliage, which is at its best in spring.

    For those who wish to research hardy kiwi further, I offer a full article on this fascinating vine plant. To reach that article, simply click on...MORE the link near the picture. In the same manner, you can access a more detailed treatment of any of the picks on my list.

  • 02 of 10
    Arid-region standout variegated bougainvillea has nice leaves, as my picture shows.
    Picture: variegated bougainvillea. David Beaulieu

    The contrast between hardy kiwi (above) and bougainvillea is stark. The latter is not very hardy at all: Northerners may never see it unless they travel south. This is a specimen for courtyard walls in California, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean or somewhere else where it stays relatively warm year-round.

    Unlike hardy kiwi, bougainvillea is grown primarily for its gorgeous flowers, although the type I captured in my image happens to have variegated foliage, giving it additional beauty.

  • 03 of 10

    Jackman Clematis

    Photo shows Jackman's clematis flower. It's a deep purple.
    Among the plants with purple flowers, those on Jackman's clematis boast some of the deepest color. David Beaulieu

    Clematis are among the most popular flowering vine plants. The wide variety of selections available justifies including two different kinds on my list. I'll use Jackman's clematis (perhaps the most popular of them all) to represent the purple-flowered types.

  • 04 of 10
    Image shows Dr. Ruppel with its pink clematis flowers. It's a large-flowered kind.
    Picture: the pink clematis flower of the Dr. Ruppel cultivar supplies your landscaping with striking color. David Beaulieu

    Dr. Ruppel clematis isn't nearly as well-known as Jackman's (see above). But as you can see from my picture, it produces pink flowers -- a trait that may fit into your landscape color scheme better than the ever-so-dark Jackman's.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Photo of a golden hops leaf. The leaves grow on a branches that are prickly.
    Image: a golden hops leaf. David Beaulieu
    Many specimens grown for their lovely leaves furnish you with great fall foliage, first and foremost (see below). Less commonly, you'll come across a vine plant that supplies most of its spectacular leaf color in spring (see hardy kiwi, above). Golden hops doesn't fall into either of those camps. While its foliage may be at its most golden in spring, its leaves continue to be attractive through the summer and autumn, making it a top performer across three seasons.
  • 06 of 10
    Blue morning glory picture.
    Blue morning glory picture. David Beaulieu
    Morning glory is my example of an annual vine plant. Annuals are inexpensive, thereby giving you a nice option for injecting extra color into the landscape. You can feel free to experiment with the placement of annuals, since you know they won't be around next year (unless they reseed). That can be a relief to gardeners on-the-go who worry that they might not have time to transplant a plant that doesn't work out in the spot they initially chose for it. Although they do come in other...MORE flower colors, I prefer the blue ones, such as the 'Heavenly Blue' in the photo.
  • 07 of 10
    Wisteria (image) is very popular. The vines are widely used in North America.
    Wisteria is one of the most popular vines in North America. David Beaulieu

    Wisteria becomes a very large vine plant at maturity, so make sure that the support you provide for it is robust. This is a magnificent specimen to drape over a pergola, where its abundant racemes of flowers can be shown off to optimal effect. I recommend that North Americans grow the American kind (Wisteria frutescens), and I relate why in my article (click the link near the image).

  • 08 of 10
    Virginia creeper (image) is at its best in fall. The red contrasts well with green leaves.
    Fall is prime time for Virginia creeper. David Beaulieu
    This North American native furnishes your autumn landscaping with vibrant fall foliage. Enhance the effect further by growing something with chartreuse, golden (for example, golden hops; see above) or light green leaves next to it to create a contrast. While Virginia creeper will tolerate some shade, the color of its autumn leaves will be richer if you grow this vine plant in full sun.
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Boston ivy (image) is known for its use on old brick walls. Ivy League colleges, anyone?
    Boston ivy is best known as a vine used to decorate old brick walls. David Beaulieu

    That last point is also true of Virginia creeper's relative, Boston ivy: that is, it's flexible about sun-shade requirements, but its foliage color will, nonetheless, be influenced by light levels (more being better). But if you simply wish to cover a partially-shaded wall with green leaves during the summertime, Boston ivy will still fit the bill. By all means consider its fall color potential as just a bonus if fall foliage is not your main objective.

  • 10 of 10
    Climbing hydrangea (image) is a perennial flowering vine. It grows in shade in the North.
    Climbing hydrangea is one of your few choice for a perennial flowering vine for shade in the North. David Beaulieu

    There are many kinds of flowering vines, but it is difficult for Northern gardeners to find one that will meet all the following criteria:

    • It flowers prolifically
    • It's not invasive
    • It's perennial
    • It tolerates shade
    • It is sufficiently cold-hardy

    That's what makes climbing hydrangea so special: it meets all these criteria and more.

    Want to research plants not listed above? Browse my List of Plants in Alphabetical Order.