Perennial Vines

Vines add interest to all gardens. They offer a wide variety of leaf forms, textures, and colors as well as attractive flowers or fruit. Perennial vines do not need replanting every year and can be used as a screen and to provide shade, fragrance, or fruit. They are often incorporated into gardens along walls, fences, trellises, arbors, or in containers to add height quickly in a limited space.

Vines are often categorized by their means of support. There are several ways vines climb or attach themselves to a structure. Some vines like Wisteria literally wrap themselves or twine around a structure. Other vines like grapes use modified leaves or tendrils to attach and pull themselves up a structure. Still others like Virginia creeper or English ivy use their roots or root-like structures to adhere like cement to a wall or structure as they climb. The type of vine planted will determine the necessity for a support structure. A twining-type vine will require a structure and possibly some attachment to grow vertically. A vine with root-like holdfasts will often climb a wall easily without any additional support.

Please see the following pages for a list of several common perennial vines.

Name Means of Support Exposure Comments
Actinidia kolomikta
Kolomikta Actinidia
Twining Sun to Partial Shade Dark green leaves tipped in white or pink; hardiest of the Actinidia; fragrant white flowers in spring; edible small fruit
Akebia quinata
Five-leaf Akebia
Twining Sun to Partial Shade Aggressive vine with five shiny medium green leaflets per leaf; inconspicuous flowers; produces fleshy, purple 2 to 3 inch long pods
Ampelopsis brevipeduniculata
Porcelain Vine
Tendrils Sun to Partial Shade Showy multi-colored blue, cream, or purple berries in late summer; variegated leaf forms available; can be invasive
Aristolochia durior
Dutchman's Pipe
Twining Partial Shade/ Shade Aggressive vine used as screens in shady sites; inconspicuous white to brownish-purple, pipe-shaped flowers in spring; fragrance considered unpleasant
Campsis radicans
Trumpet Creeper
Roots Sun Bright orange, scarlet, or yellow trumpet-shaped flowers in summer; attracts hummingbirds; may need strong support; suckers profusely and can become invasive
Celastrus scandens
American Bittersweet
Twining Sun to Partial Shade Bright orange and yellow berries in fall; grows rapidly; male and female plant needed for fruit set
Clematis spp.
Twining Sun to Partial Shade Large, showy flowers available in many colors; numerous varieties to choose from; Summer blooming; Long-blooming
Euonymus fortunei
Roots Sun to Partial Shade Semi-evergreen vine often used as groundcover; 'Purpurea' a green leaf form that changes to purple in winter is popular
Hedera helix
English Ivy
Roots Partial Shade to Shade Semi-evergreen, dark green leaves that require winter protection; often used as a groundcover in shady sites; many cultivars are available; 'Thorndale' and Bulgaria' are two of the hardiest
Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris
Climbing Hydrangea
Roots Partial Shade to Shade Large, flat white flowers on top of dark green leaves in summer; works well when planted against tree trunks; slow to establish
Lathyrus latifolius
Perennial Pea
Twining Sun White, rose, or magenta flowers beginning in summer and continuing to fall; little or no fragrance
Lonicera x heckrottii
Goldflame Honeysuckle
Twining Sun to Partial Shade Clusters of red and orange tubular flowers with yellow throats that bloom throughout the summer; attracts hummingbirds
Lonicera 'Dropmore Scarlet'
Dropmore Scarlet Honeysuckle
Twining Sun / Partial Shade Clusters of bright red tubular flowers throughout summer and into fall; attracts hummingbirds
Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Virginia Creeper
Roots Sun to Shade The emerging leaves are bronze-green changing to dark green by summer; five leaflets per leaf; brilliant red or burgundy fall color; climbs brick or stone walls easily
Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Boston Ivy
Roots Sun to Shade Large three-lobed dark green leaves that turn a brilliant yellow, orange, or scarlet in fall; climbs brick or stone walls easily
Polygonum aubertii
Silver Fleece Vine
Roots Sun Bright green leaves that have red tips when young; large clusters or creamy white flowers appear in late summer or early fall; aggressive climber or groundcover
Vitis spp.
Tendrils Sun Dark green leaves that are often three or five-lobed; edible purple, red, or white fruits in late summer or early fall
Wisteria spp.
Twining Sun Fragrant white, pink, lavender, or violet pea-shaped flowers borne on long clusters in late spring or early summer; blooms inconsistently in Iowa

Vines with root-like holdfasts like Virginia creeper can cause damage to the sides of buildings especially wood siding. It is best to grow these types of vines on another structure a few inches in front of the siding to allow adequate air circulation and thus discouraging damage.

This article originally appeared in the June 11, 1999 issue, pp. 73-74.


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Horticulture and Home Pest News, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on June 11, 1999. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.