Perennial Vines for Sun

10 of the Best Climbers to Grow in the Sunshine

The ten perennial vines for sun featured below offer variety in abundance. Six are flowering vines (i.e., they are grown more for their blooms than for their leaves), three are foliage plants, and one is grown for its berries. Two are spring standouts, and one enters its prime time during the fall season. While most are cold-hardy to at least zone 5, one is a classic for regions with hot weather and will have to be treated as an annual by Northern gardeners.

  • 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

    What I love about arctic kiwi vines is that they give me another "foliage season" to which to look forward. We all know about leaf peeping in the autumn, and no other time of year will match fall in this regard. But on a small scale, this ornamental kiwi grants me a spring foliage season. Although it can take some shade, the color will be better when it receives healthy doses of sunlight.

    If you want to learn more about growing this ornamental kiwi, you can read a full article on the...MORE topic by clicking on the image (the same goes for all of the examples on this list).

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

    I associate these perennial vines for sun with my travels in California, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. They're old-time favorites in sunny courtyards. Back home in New England, we have to treat them as annuals. The type of  Bougainvillea in the picture is variegated.

  • 03 of 10

    Jackman's 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
    This entry and the one that follows both belong to that widely-grown genus, Clematis. The Jackman type (image) may be the most popular of all. While it can stand a little more shade than some other kinds, I still consider it a vine for sun.
  • 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

    As popular as Jackman's clematis is, not everyone is looking for a dark-colored flower. Dr. Ruppel gives you another option in a clematis while furnishing an alternative in color: pink. If you're going for a pink-themed garden, you may also wish to browse my gallery of pictures of pink flowers for more ideas.

    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

    You may think "beer" when you hear "hops," but the plant pictured at left is grown for its golden leaves. While it also produces so-called "strobiles" for added interest, as I explain in my full article (click on the photo to access it), I value it primarily as a foliage plant. The problem with this plant is that it is high-maintenance: it pops up all over, meaning you will be constantly pulling it out (unless you actually want it to spread).

  • 06 of 10
    Picture of winter jasmine plants. Winter jasmine can bloom during the coldest months of the year.
    Picture of winter jasmine plants. David Beaulieu

    There are a number of kinds of jasmine, some of which are fragrant and growable only in warm climates. Neither is true of the type featured here, namely, winter jasmine. I value it mainly for the fact that it's one of my earliest bloomers, sometimes beating the Spring Equinox to the punch. This plant is shrubby by nature, but it can be trained so as to grow as a vine.

  • 07 of 10
    Image of Dutchman's pipe. This vine can keep a porch shady in summertime.
    Dutchman's pipe vine is a traditional choice for keeping a porch shady in summer. David Beaulieu

    If you had never seen Dutchman's pipe vine and knew only that it derives its name from its uniquely-shaped flower, you might attach more significance to the bloom than is really there. I admit that the curious flower may serve nicely as a conversation piece, but the traditional use for this plant is as a living privacy screen for porches (to which it brings welcome shade in the summertime, as well). So like arctic kiwi and hops (above), it falls into the foliage plant class. The flowers are...MORE too small to be very noticeable.

  • 08 of 10
    Sweet pea (image) is clearly a pea family member. The flowers tell you immediately.
    If you know the pea family well at all, then you can't miss sweet pea's membership upon seeing its flowers. David Beaulieu

    The sweet pea that is a perennial vine for sun is Lathyrus latifolius (as opposed to L. odoratus, which is an annual). Even if it didn't have "pea" in its common name, one look at the flowers (photo) would convince plant geeks of its membership in the pea family. Its heritage notwithstanding, this vine is grown as an ornamental, not for food.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 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

    Like the prior entry, wisteria is in the pea family (or "legume" family). There are three types commonly grown:

    1. American (Wisteria frutescens)
    2. Chinese (Wisteria sinensis)
    3. Japanese (Wisteria floribunda)

    I mention all three in my article, although the piece deals mainly with the Chinese type.

    If you live in North America, I recommend growing Wisteria frutescens, not only because the other two are invasive, but also because it may very well bloom sooner for you.

  • 10 of 10
    American bittersweet (image) is non-invasive. This native is called Celastrus scandens.
    This image is of the non-invasive bittersweet, Celastrus scandens or "American" bittersweet. David Beaulieu

    Just as I specify American wisteria (above) as the preferred choice for North American landscaping, so I must distinguish between American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) and the invasive kind, namely Oriental bittersweet Celastrus orbiculatus). The latter is omnipresent along the roadsides of New England; just hope that it doesn't invade your yard, because removing Oriental bittersweet entirely is quite a challenge. This is one freebie you'll regret taking! You'll be much happier...MORE in the long run buying American bittersweet from a (reputable) garden center.

    Bittersweet is grown for the highly ornamental berries the vines bear in fall. It's commonly used in fall crafts (in wreaths, etc.). Another vine useful for fall crafts is the type that bears the hardshell gourds folks decorate.

    Perhaps the perennial vines for sun listed above look great to you, but you feel that you just don't have a sunny enough spot in which to grow them? If so, have a look at my list of perennial vines for shade.