Top 6 Choices for Vines and Climbing Plants

Five Leaf Akebia Vine
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One of the hardest design elements for a new gardener to master is incorporating climbing vines in their flower borders. Annual vines, like cardinal climber and morning glory, are easy enough to work into a cottage garden design because they are only in place for a single season. Perennial vines are in your garden for decades and will get larger and fuller each year. Deciding where to place them is an important consideration and often a daunting one, for both new and experienced gardeners alike. Although most gardeners enjoy copying English gardens and feel comfortable interplanting clematis with roses (and just about everything else), after that we are stumped.

For the adventurous, there are some truly stunning perennial vines that can be trained over doorways, up trees or even left to dangle from hanging pots. Here are some favorites to consider for your garden.

  • 01 of 06

    Clematis (species and hybrids)

    Clematis var. ascotiensis and Clematis var. etoile violette

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    Clematis vines are a classic pairing with roses, but there is a lot of variety in the genus, including some that remain short and bushy. It's the climbers that have captured our attention, whether the large-flowered hybrids, like the popular "'Jackmanii" and "Nelly Moser", the dainty bells of "Betty Corning" or the engulfing "Sweet Autumn" clematis.

    You may need to help your clematis begin to climb, but once they take hold they will be able to handle things on their own. The vines don't climb so much as bob and weave their way through other plants.

  • 02 of 06

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

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    Unlike their bushy cousins, climbing hydrangea is extremely slow to get started, but there is nothing to beat the sight of a mature specimen in bloom. Climbing Hydrangea is a deciduous vine that clings by means of aerial roots. It needs solid support, like a wall, fence or even a large tree.

    They produce their lacy hydrangea flower heads in June. The dried flower head and peeling bark give it winter interest. Worth the investment in time. They grow 10 - 80 feet. (USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 7, to 9 with afternoon shade.)

  • 03 of 06

    Five Leaf Akebia, Chocolate Vine (Akebia quinata)

    Five Leaf Akebia Vine
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    This April bloomer produces spicy scented, brownish-purple blossoms that hang like pendants. Even after the flowers fade, the foliage of the Akebia vine remains very attractive, with lush, oblong leaves, usually grouped in leaflets of 5.

    Akebia is a very fast grower that clings by twining. Five Leaf Akebia also comes in a white flowering variety  (Akebia quinata 'Alba'). They grow 30 - 40 feet. (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 8.)

  • 04 of 06

    Kiwi Vine (Actinidia kolomikta)

    Actinidia kolomikta (Kiwi Vine)
    Ming Tang-Evans / Getty Images

    Kiwi vine is grown for its distinctive, colorful, heart-shaped foliage. The new growth is purple and matures to various degrees of variegation highlighted with splashes of pink.

    This vine is grown for its flashy foliage. The flowers of kiwi vine are tiny and inconspicuous, although they do have a slight scent. Female plants produce grape-like berries in the fall, but male plants reportedly have more colorful variegation. They grow 12 - 30 feet (USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 8).

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Passionflower, Maypop (Passiflora incarnata)

    passion flower with fruits
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    There are over 400 varieties of passionflower, most of which are tender tropical evergreens. Passiflora incarnata is a deciduous species that can actually survive a bit of time in freezing temperatures. In fact, it is native to the southeast U.S.

    Passionflower is semi-woody, with large serrated leaves. It clings to supports with tendrils. These vines are prized for their complex and exotic looking flowers, of which there are many, in a wide variety of colors and combination. They grow 15 - 20 feet (USDA Hardiness Zones 7+, and can be overwintered indoors).

  • 06 of 06

    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

    Marie Iannotti

    Trumpet vine is a native American plant much loved by hummingbirds and butterflies. This vine is widely adaptable to both heat and cold extremes. Trumpet vine has been an especially popular choice as a perennial vine for Northern gardeners; however, be forewarned they can easily become aggressive growers, spreading by rhizomes and popping up in the lawn and nearby garden beds. In some areas, they are considered invasive, so check before planting.

    Since trumpet vine can get quite woody, their weight requires a strong support. Mature specimens make for nice winter interest, although they do require some maintenance pruning to keep them flowering at their best. Flowering can take a few years to start. They bear orange, red and yellow flowers. They can grow to 40 feet (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 9).