Perennial Vines Good for Shade: Pros and Cons

Northern gardeners seeking a perennial vine for shady areas should be very careful about the choice. Shady areas are naturally challenging for all plants, and so those that grow well there have adapted to be quite tenacious. They may be so tenacious, in fact, that they eventually find themselves on lists of invasive plants. In some regions, invasive vines such as kudzu pose severe problems for forests and landscapes. 

The following list gives some recommendations for both perennial vines that...MORE tolerate partial shade, as well as some to avoid due to dangers of invasiveness. And some you may want to try, but with caution. 

 

  • 01 of 10
    Boston ivy picture. A vine, Boston ivy is commonly found scaling walls.
    Boston ivy picture. The growth looks especially robust, considering the challenges posed by New Mexico's arid climate. David Beaulieu

    Boston ivy is not grown for its flowers. It is the foliage of this traditional favorite that earns it a place on this list. So-called "Ivy-League" colleges are so called because the external walls of some of the older buildings on their campuses are covered in Boston ivy.

    As this picture reveals, the leaves of Boston ivy can become a brilliant red in autumn, but they attractive in summer, too, when they are a deep glossy green. Fall color will be best when this vine receives ample...MORE sunshine, so if you are growing it in shade, you need to be content with its summer look.

  • 02 of 10
    Climbing hydrangea
    Martin Leigh/Getty Images

    As difficult as it can be to find vines to grow in shade, it is even more difficult to find specifically 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.

  • 03 of 10

    Virginia Creeper

    Virginia creeper
    Kim Sayer/Getty Images

    Although Virginia creeper makes the "good" list, it has some qualifications. ​

    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 Boston ivy, the fall foliage of Virginia creeper can be outstanding. But also as with its relative (Boston ivy and Virginia creeper both belong to the Parthenocissus genus), do not expect optimal color in fall if you grow it as a...MORE vine for shade.

  • 04 of 10
    Image of Vinca minor ground cover in bloom.
    Vinca minor offers attractive violet-blue flowers. David Beaulieu

    Periwinkle (Vinca minor) can be invasive in some circumstances, but it is relatively easy to control in the landscape. It can be one of the good plants to grow under trees—aparticularly challenging environment.

    Vinca is a drought-tolerant groundcover, so it is able to accommodate large trees consuming most all of the available water in its environs.

    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...MORE an area that would otherwise become overrun with weeds. The pretty, violet-blue flowers that it produces is another noteworthy trait.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Wisteria flowers on park bridge
    Atsuo Kurimoto / EyeEm/Getty Images

    Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) is also invasive in some regions of North America. A better choice for most American gardens is Americans to grow Wisteria frutescens, an American native. The problem with the American variety, though is that it does not flower in shade. 

    Chinese wisteria, on the other hand, flowers beautifully in shade, but gardeners risk dealing with its potential invasiveness. Are the risks worth it? Only you can answer that question.

  • 06 of 10
    Autumn clematis
    Kit Case/flickr/CC By 2.0

    Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis paniculata) is a vine that grows well, and flowers well, when planted in 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.

    if you value low-maintenance landscaping: be on notice that you will be pulling...MORE up these unwelcome volunteers for an eternity. For gardeners who don't mind weeding chores, though, it might be a perfect vine. 

  • 07 of 10
    Trumpet vines
    FLPA/Nigel Cattlin/Getty Images

    Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is another plant that is not without its merits. It will eventually produce those gorgeous orange flowers even in partial shade, and the 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. This vine is a thug that some people come to despise.

  • 08 of 10
    Emerald Gaiety
    Stefano/flickr/CC By 2.0

     '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 (as in the picture here).

    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.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    English Ivy
    Mint Images/ Paul Edmondson/Getty Images

    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.

  • 10 of 10

    Honeysuckle

    Japanese honeysuckle
    Melissa Johnson/flickr/CC By 2.0

    Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) 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.

    Incidentally, although the common name for Lonicera sempervirens is "trumpet honeysuckle," don't confuse it with trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), discussed above.