Annual Vines

Audrey Hillman
Adams County Master Gardener

For versatility in the garden itís hard to beat the group of plants known as vines. I use both perennials and annuals ,with great success all over my garden in a wide range of growing conditions. Annual vines amaze me with the wide selections of color, texture, growth rate, and uses. Annual vines will climb up a trellis, arbor, fence or wall, or hang down over that same wall. They can be used in containers, or as a ground cover to hide that bare spot. I also use them to grow thru shrubs that may get a bit leggy at the bottom.

They add lushness to the garden and can provide shade. If your garden is new they can add a sense of maturity. They are easy to start from seed either indoors in spring, or sown directly into the soil after it has warmed, end of May beginning of June. They are easy to maintain because there is no pruning. They may need a bit of guidance when they are young to get them headed in the direction you want them to grow but after that stand back and watch them go. Do be mindful of how they grow so that you can provide the correct support. Most of them love heat, and will do with a moderately fertile soil. Another bonus I have found is hat many of them self sow so I can have vines for years to come. For other ideas on annual vines there is a wonderful article by Marilyn Rodgers in Garden Gate magazine # 14 April 1997.

One of my most prolific self sowers in the Morning Glory vine, Ipomoea purpurea. The flowers come in white, pink, red, violet and the classic sky blue. They are a twining vine that will grow 10 - 20 feet in a summer. The flowers open during the morning with some of the newer cultivars staying open all day. They like sun and are drought tolerant once established. If your soil is very rich you may get an abundance of foliage and not so many flowers.

Another similar vine is the Moonflower vine, Ipomoea alba. It has huge 6-8 inch white flower that opens at night and is fragrant. Again full sun, well drained soil that is not too rich. This is one that I will be trying myself for the first time this year.

For a vine with fine feathery foliage try Ipomoea quamoclit, the Cypress Vine. It has small red tubular flowers and will grow 10 - 20 feet in full sun to part shade. It is one of the plants to grow for hummingbirds.

Another favorite of hummingbirds is the Cardinal Climber, Ipomoea multifida. Itís foliage is similar to the Cypress Vine only a bit broader. It has the same red flowers and will grow 10 - 20 feet.

If you are looking for a bolder colored foliage you can try the Sweet Potato Vine, Ipomoea batatas. The cultivar ĎBlackieí has dark foliage. ĎMargaritaí is a bright chartreuse green/yellow, and ĎTricolorí is white, green, and pink. These are vines that do well hanging down in containers, or as a ground cover. They can be grown in full sun and will reach 6 feet long.

The Spanish Flag, Ipomoea lobata (a.k.a. Mina lobata) is one of my favorites. The flowers form on forked spikes and range from cream at the base to red as the spike unfurls. They like moist, fertile soil and will grow as much as 20 feet in full sun to part shade.

A plant that has several forms and is familiar to many of us as an edible plant is the Nasturtium, Trapaeolum majus. They can be bushy, trailing, or climbing. They come in a large variety of colors and require at least 4 hours of sun per day. They like cool evenings and a soil that is moist. However they can do in an infertile soil that is a bit dryer. Besides a nice addition to a summer salad they also make a wonderful cut flower.

A vine related to the Nasturtium that can do with less sun is the Canary Vine, Trapaeolum peregrinum. Itís yellow flowers can brighten up a shady north side which is where I plan to try this vine this summer. It prefers a moist soil and will grow 8 - 10 feet. And like itís cousin the Nasturtium it is also edible.

If you really want to make an impact the Purple Hyacinth Bean vine is for you. Itís Latin name is Lablab purpurea and/or Dolichos lablab. Itís a big vine, 15 - 30 feet with dense purplish green leaves. The stems and leaf stalks are purple. Itís flowers are purple, as are the pods. It loves the heat and humidity. Another plus about this vine besides itís very ornamental features, is that it is a legume which means that is fixes itís own nitrogen from the air and doesnít require a rich soil. Every year I plant this vine along the white picket in front of my house and it literally stops traffic.

The Scarlet Runner Bean is a vine that I have used to fill in spots when itís too late to try others and if didnít let me down. It grew rapidly, provided orangy red flowers that hummingbirds, and even gave me pods of seeds. It is also an edible plant.

A vine with pretty dark centered yellow, white, or orange flowers that I use a ground cover is The Black Eyed Susan vine, Thunbergia alata. It prefers sun with a rich moist soil and will grow 5 feet/ Itís best used as a trailing plant either in a basket or container, or as I have, as a ground cover.

And last but not least is another vine that prefers to scramble rather than climb is the Twining Snapdragon, or Trailing Gloxinia, Asarina scandens. It has a deep purple flower and comes in white and pink also. I have used this vine to grow up and over a Boxwood in my front yard and it enjoys this spot so much that I have volunteers come up in the same spot every year. Who could ask for more?

This is just a sample of what is available so give an annual vine a try and Iím sure youíll be back for more as you discover, as I have, what terrific and fun plants they are.

Read other articles on shrubs and vines

Read other articles by Audrey Hillman