Top Choices for Vines and Climbing Plants

One of the hardest design elements for a new gardener is incorporating climbing vines in their flower borders. Annual vines, like Cardinal Climber and Morning Glory are easy enough to incorporate in a cottage garden, 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 new and experienced gardeners alike. Although most...MORE 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
    How to Grow and Prune Clematis
    Photo: Marie Iannotti

    Clematis 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. They don't climb so much as bob and weave their way through other plants.

    If pruning clematis has you confused,...MORE here's a primer on when to prune which clematis varieties. (USDA Zones 5 - 10, depending on variety.)

  • 02 of 06

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

    Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)
    Photo: Perry Mastrovito / Design Pics / Getty Images

    These are 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 with aerial roots. It needs solid support, like a wall, fence or even a large tree. They produce the lacy hydrangea flower heads in June. The dried flower head and peeling bark give it winter interest. Worth the investment in time. White flowers. 10 - 80' (USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 7, to 9 with afternoon shade)

  • 03 of 06

    Five Leaf Akebia, Chocolate Vine (Akebia quinata)

    Five Leaf Akebia Vine
    Photo: penboy / Getty Images

    This April bloomer produces spicy scented, brownish-purple blossoms that hang like pendents. Even after the flowers fade, the  foliage remains very attractive, with oblong leaves, usually grouped in leaflets of 5. Akebia is a very fast grower that clings by twining. Also comes in white (alba). 30 - 40' (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 8)

  • 04 of 06

    Kiwi Vine (Actinidia kolomikta)

    Actinidia kolomikta (Kiwi Vine)
    Photo: 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. The flowers 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 better variegation. 12 - 30' (USDA Hardiness Zones 4 - 8)

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06
    Passionflower, Maypop (Passiflora incarnata)
    Passionflower, Maypop (Passiflora incarnata). Photo: Courtesy of Shelby Snider. Used with Permission.
    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 freezing temperature. In fact, it is native to the southeast U.S. It's semi-woody, with large serrated leaves. It clings to supports with tendrils. Maypop is prized for its complex and exotic looking flowers. Purple and white flowers15 - 20' (USDA Hardiness Zones 7+, Can be overwintered indoors)
  • 06 of 06

    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans). Photo: © Marie Iannotti

    A native American plant much loved by the hummingbirds and butterflies. Widely adaptable to heat and cold 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.

    Since they can get quite woody, their weight requires a strong support. Mature specimens make for nice winter interest, although they do require some maintenance...MORE pruning to keep them flowering at their best. Flowering can take a few years to start. Orange, Red and Yellow Flowers. Can grow to 40' (USDA Hardiness Zones 5 - 9)