10 Perennial Vines for Shady Areas

Create a shady bower

english ivy

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Climbing vines can create leafy bowers, but not all are suitable for the shade. This collection of vines includes some that love shade and others that tolerate it. It's important to know, however, that most climbing vines can overwhelm your trees, garden structures, or home. In addition, many are considered invasive species and should be avoided.

Warning

Many invasive vines, such as kudzu, pose severe problems for forests and landscapes. This list gives some recommendations for both perennial vines that tolerate partial shade, as well as some to avoid due to dangers of invasiveness.

  • 01 of 10

    Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)

    Boston ivy vine with dark-green leaves climbing brick wall

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Boston ivy is not grown for its flowers. It is the foliage of this traditional favorite that earns it a place on this list. "Ivy League" colleges are so named because the external walls of some of the older buildings on their campuses are covered in Boston ivy. The leaves of Boston ivy can become a brilliant red in autumn and is attractive in summer, too, when it is a deep glossy green. Fall color is best when this vine receives ample sunshine, so if you are growing it in the shade, you need to be content with its summer look.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil
  • 02 of 10

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris)

    Climbing hydrangea vines with lacy white flower clusters in between ribbed leaves

    The Spruce / Loren Probish

    As difficult as it can be to find vines to grow in the shade, it is even more difficult to find flowering vines that bloom well under shady conditions and that are hardy in the northern states of the U.S. (as well as some parts of Canada). Because climbing hydrangea meets these requirements, it is one of the most valuable plants at the landscaper's disposal.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White, blue, pink, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic soil
  • 03 of 10

    Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

    Virginia creeper vines with small leaflets covering white wooden fence

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Although Virginia creeper makes the "good" list, it has some qualifications. As a vigorous grower, it is not suitable for growing in small spaces. Plant developers have produced somewhat tamer cultivars for homeowners to grow, such as 'Red Wall.'  Like its relative, Boston ivy, the fall foliage of Virginia creeper can be outstanding. (Boston ivy and Virginia creeper are both members of the Parthenocissus genus). Do not expect optimal color in fall if you grow it as a vine for shade.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Greenish white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, clay, loamy
  • 04 of 10

    Vinca Minor (Vinca minor)

    Vinca minor plant with small purple flowers between leaves in sunlight

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Periwinkle can be invasive in some circumstances, but it is relatively easy to control in the landscape and produces pretty violet-blue flowers. It can be a good plant to grow under trees—a particularly challenging environment. Vinca is a drought-tolerant groundcover, which means it can accommodate large trees consuming most all of the available water. Unlike the other plants listed here, periwinkle is not a climber. But those who do not mind its aggressiveness will appreciate its ability to fill in an area that would otherwise become overrun with weeds.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue, lavender, purple, white
    • Sun Exposure: Partial sun to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Normal, sandy, or clay
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  • 05 of 10

    Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata, Clematis terniflora)

    Sweet autumn clematis vine with small white flowers and fuzzy seed heads closeup

    The Spruce / Autumn Wood

    Sweet autumn clematis is a vine that grows well, and flowers well, when planted in the shade. But reviews on this plant are mixed. Some people love sweet autumn clematis and the delightful scent that it emits during the evening. But others are annoyed that the plentiful flowers, so beautiful to many, are the source of equally numerous seeds that will germinate all over the garden to produce seedlings. For gardeners who do not mind weeding chores, it might be a perfect vine. 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 06 of 10

    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

    Trumpet vine flowers with orange trumpet-shaped petals closeup

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Trumpet vine is another plant that is not without its merits. It will eventually produce its gorgeous orange flowers even in partial shade, and hummingbirds adore it. But unwanted "children" from the parent plant will pop up everywhere, and they are much harder to pull up than sweet autumn clematis plants.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, red
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 07 of 10

    Emerald Gaiety Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei)

    Emerald gaiety euonymus vines climbing dark wood fence with small green and white leaves

     The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    'Emerald Gaiety' euonymus is a foliage plant that can take the form either of a vine or a shrub. Consequently, it can be grown either as a groundcover or as a hedge plant (pictured). It is easy to pick out Emerald Gaiety. It has variegated leaves in a green and white pattern. Shade does not bother it much, but its potential for invasiveness might prove to be a bother for you.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Any well-drained soil
  • 08 of 10

    Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

    Chinese wisteria twisted vines with large drooping purple flower clusters

     The Spruce / Loren Probish

    Chinese wisteria is also invasive in some regions of North America. A better choice for most American gardens is Wisteria frutescens, an American native. The problem with the American variety is that it does not flower in the shade. Chinese wisteria, on the other hand, flowers beautifully in the shade, but gardeners risk dealing with its potential invasiveness.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    English Ivy (Hedera helix)

    English ivy vines climbing brick fence

     The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    For some gardeners, English ivy competes with Oriental bittersweet and kudzu for the title of the most hated vine in North America, due to its invasiveness. This vine is not recommended, even though it grows very well in the shade. However, west of the Mississippi river, it is not known to be invasive.

  • 10 of 10

    Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

    Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

     The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

    Japanese honeysuckle is an attractive perennial vine for shade—but the rampant invasive nature of this exotic makes it a plant to avoid at all costs. The honeysuckle variety native to the eastern U.S., Lonicera sempervirens, is, unfortunately, not a vine for shade. Although the common name for Lonicera sempervirens is "trumpet honeysuckle," do not confuse it with trumpet vine (Campsis radicans). It is known to occur and be invasive in the east from Maine to Florida and westward to Wisconsin and Texas. There are scattered occurrences in the Southwest.

Article Sources
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  1. Harron, Paulina et al. Predicting Kudzu (Pueraria montana) spread and its economic impacts in timber industry: A case study from OklahomaPloS one vol. 15,3 e0229835. 16 Mar. 2020, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0229835