Perennial Vines for Iowa

Care and How To

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.

Types of Vines

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 aerial roots or root-like structures called holdfasts 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.

Common Perennial Vines for Iowa

Listed by means of support, followed by exposure.

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

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.


Updated from an article that originally appeared in the June 11, 1999 issue of Horticulture and Home Pest News, pp. 73-74.

Last Reviewed: 
May, 2022