6 Best Perennial Flowering Vines and Climbers

Five-leaf akebia vine

penboy / Getty Images

One of the hardest skills for a new gardener to master is incorporating climbing vines into a landscape. Annual vines such as 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; you can discontinue them if they don't work the way you want. But 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. 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 six favorite perennial flowering vines that will work well in your garden.

Plant Selection Tip

Vines that climb do so by means of one of several evolved methods. Twining vines climb a trellis, fence, or other structure by branches that grow in a circling fashion, twisting themselves around a trellis or other structure as they grow. A modified form of twining is the use of tendrils—small twining shoots that reach out and anchor themselves to a supporting structure as permanent branches become established. Both twining and tendril-forming vines are relatively easy to control and are good choices for most landscape uses.


Other vines use aerial roots or suckering disks that literally attach themselves to a supporting structure, such as a trellis, wall, fence, or tree. These vines can cause damage to the structure they attach to, and are best avoided unless you are willing to time controlling their growth, especially if the plant is fast-growing.

  • 01 of 06

    Clematis (Clematis spp.)

    Clematis flowers

    Photolibrary / Getty Images

    The Clematis genus includes roughly 300 species of woody-stemmed, profusely blooming plants, and those most frequently used in landscaping are hybrid cultivars rather than species types. Most are climbing vines, but there are also short and bushy types. It is the climbers that have captured the most attention, whether the dramatic hybrids, like the popular 'Jackmanii 'and 'Nelly Moser', the dainty bells of 'Betty Corning', or the engulfing species vine, sweet autumn clematis.

    You may need to help your clematis by wiring it to a trellis as it begins to climb, but once it takes hold, these twining plants will handle things on their own. The vines do not climb so much as bob and weave their way through trellises and the branches other plants. Clematis is a classic pairing with roses.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9 (varies depending on species and variety)
    • Color Variations: White, pink, purple, and b-icolors
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade; flowers best in full sun, but with roots shaded
    • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained soil
  • 02 of 06

    Climbing Hydrangea Hydrangia anomala subsp. petiolaris)

    House covered in climbing Hydrangea

    Design Pics / Getty Images

    Unlike their bushy cousins, Hydrangea anomala is extremely slow to get started, but there is nothing to beat the sight of a mature specimen in bloom. The variety most common in landscape use is the petiolars subspecies of H. anomala. It can grow as long as 50 feet if it has a wall, fence, or large tree for its aerial roots to cling to. Unlike other aerial-rooting plants, climbing hydrangea grows slowly enough that controlling it is not very difficult. This is a good plant for shady locations; it will tolerate full sun only if the soil is kept very moist. The flowers bear a resemblance to those of shrub hydrangeas, and the dried flower heads and peeling bark give the plant good winter interest.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Variations: White
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil
  • 03 of 06

    Chocolate Vine (Akebea quinata)

    Five-leaf akebia vine
    penboy / Getty Images

    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. The other common name for this plant is five-leaf akebia.

    Chocolate vine quickly grows to 30 to 50 feet, clinging to any support by twining. Investigate before planting it, because chocolate vine grows quite fast and is considered a noxious weed in some areas of the Midwest, where it has naturalized uncontrollably. Chocolate vine also comes in a white flowering variety (Akebia quinata 'Alba'). 

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Variations: Brown/purple, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained sandy loam
  • 04 of 06

    Hardy Kiwi Vine (Actinidia arguta or A. kolomikta)

    Kiwi vine flowers
    Ming Tang-Evans / Getty Images

    A cold-hardy relative of the plant that produces supermarket kiwi fruit, hardy kiwi vine is grown for its distinctive foliage. There are two species that are known as hardy kiwi: A. kolomikta is the species with variegated foliage, while A. arguta produces edible fruit and is a less vigorous grower. The flowers of kiwi vine are tiny and inconspicuous, although they do have a slight scent. A. kolomikta can grow 30 feet or more, while A. arguta generally stays to 20 feet or less. These plants grow by means of a twining growth habit.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Variations: Green foliage; purple and pink highlights on A. kolomikta
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium-moisture, well-drained loam
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Purple Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

    Passion flower with fruits

    Neil Holmes / Getty Images

    There are over 400 species of passion flower in the genus, most of which are tender tropical evergreens. Passiflora incarnata is a deciduous species native to the Southeast U.S, and it can actually survive a bit of time in freezing temperatures. Purple passionflower is a semi-woody vine with large serrated leaves. It clings to supports with tendrils. These vines are prized for their complex and exotic-looking flowers; many cultivars are available in a wide variety of colors. It grows 15 to 20 feet, and is sometimes grown in pots in order to overwinter the plants indoors.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Variations: White with purple crowns; pink and red cultivars also available
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil
  • 06 of 06

    Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)

    Campsis radicans

     

    www.victoriawlaka.com / Getty Images

    Trumpet vine is a native North American plant much loved by hummingbirds and butterflies. It is widely adaptable to both heat and cold extremes, and it has been been an especially popular choice for northern gardeners. But 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. It climbs by means of aerial rootlets.

    Since trumpet vine can get quite woody and can grow to as much as 40 feet, 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 and to control their spread. Flowering can take a few years to start.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Variations: Orange, red, or yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Any well-draining soil