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 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 the vines is an important consideration and often a daunting one for both new and experienced gardeners alike. Most gardeners enjoy copying English gardens and feel comfortable interplanting clematis with roses and just about everything else.

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. Take a look at some favorites to consider for your garden.

  • 01 of 06


    Clematis flowers

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    Clematis vines are a classic pairing with roses, and there is a lot of variety in the genus, including some that remain short and bushy. It is the climbers that have captured the most 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 it takes hold it will be able to handle things on its own. The vines do not climb so much as bob and weave their way through other plants.

  • 02 of 06

    Climbing Hydrangea

    House covered in climbing Hydrangea

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    Unlike their bushy cousins, climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) 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.

    It produces lacy hydrangea flower heads in June. The dried flower head and peeling bark give it winter interest. These plants are worth the investment in time. It grows 10 to 80 feet in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 to 7, up to 9 with afternoon shade.

  • 03 of 06

    Five-Leaf Akebia or Chocolate Vine

    Five-leaf akebia vine
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    Akebia quinata is an April bloomer that 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 five.

    Akebia is a very fast grower that clings by twining. Five-leaf akebia also comes in a white flowering variety (Akebia quinata "Alba"). It grows 30 to 40 feet in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8.

  • 04 of 06

    Kiwi Vine (Actinidia kolomikta)

    Kiwi vine flowers
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    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. It grows 12 to 30 feet in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8.

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  • 05 of 06

    Passionflower, Maypop (Passiflora incarnata)

    Passion flower with fruits

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    There are over 400 varieties of passion flower, 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. It grows 15 to 20 feet in USDA hardiness zones 7 and up and can be overwintered indoors.

  • 06 of 06

    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

    Trumpet vine flowers

    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 it can easily become an aggressive grower, spreading by rhizomes and popping up in the lawn and nearby garden beds. In some areas, it is considered invasive, so check before planting.

    Since trumpet vine can get quite woody, its weight requires 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. It features orange, red, and yellow flowers. It can grow to 40 feet in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9.