Some of the most spectacular and popular plants are flowering vines. Climbing, vining plants can grow to cover a vast area, taking up very little ground space. As a result, this makes them the perfect choice for high blocks of color where space is limited.
There’s a large range of climbing plants available for planting in every garden site and aspect. These provide an expansive collection of leaf shapes, colors and textures, in addition to flower and fruit interest throughout the seasons.
Benefits of Flowering Vines
In addition to their obvious aesthetic appeal, flowering vines are useful for covering walls, fences and unsightly home and garden areas. Their growth habit is easily manipulated, creating an attractive “green” floral screen. This is ideal for shielding waste areas and home fuel tanks from view.
Many of us grow flowering vines to cover trellis, arbours and archways, training them into their free-standing supports as they grow. This adds height, color and focal points to the garden.
Climbing vines also look great growing through or over larger trees and shrubs. I have found that growing two plants together in this way can enhance their period of appeal. As a result, this provides far more seasonal interest than when planted alone.
Flowering vines also make great ground cover plants, being especially useful for banked areas and those with poor soil. Take Cotoneasters for example. These are vigorous, evergreen shrubs with flower and fruiting interest. Furthermore, these supply a plentiful source of food for garden wildlife.
As you can see, there are many ways to use flowering vines for pretty much every outdoor space. I especially want to concentrate on areas of the garden renowned as being difficult to plant in, such as shade, high-acid soils and heavy clay soils.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most popular flowering climbers for all areas of the garden.
So be gone with your naked fences and unsightly areas! Let’s look further into flowering vines and add a little more color into your garden or outside space.
Perennial Flowering Vines
These are an invaluable asset in every garden, allowing us to create height and floral interest throughout most of the summer months. A great percentage of vines are deciduous, (meaning they lose their leaves). These die back above ground throughout the late autumn and winter months, only to return with zest the following Spring.
Others, however, are of the evergreen variety and keep their foliage all year long. Their leaves and stems are more tolerant of cold and wet winters, providing year-long interest in the garden. All bear colorful flowers and fruit throughout the summer season.
Some of the Best Shade Tolerant Perennial Flowering Vines
1. Hydrangea anomala “Petiolaris”
One of the best self-supporting climbing vines is this deciduous hydrangea. It has a vigorous growth habit, easily reaching a height of 15 meters once established. This shade-loving vine with ovate to heart-shaped mid-green leaves, bears delicate white, lace-cap flowers through the summer months. It thrives in moist, fertile soil and needs a good spring prune.
2. Pileostegia viburnoides
Another substantial climbing hydrangea. This particular cultivar, however, is more of a slow-grower than our previous species. It’s an evergreen, and native to India and Eastern Asia. Three words sum up this climbing vine: lush, green, and exotic.
It’s a must-have for every shady corner, with slender dark green, leathery leaves and delicate and exotic creamy-white flower panicles. It’ll reach a mature height of about 6 meters and a spread of over 2 meters. In my professional opinion, this is a true gem and highly underrated.
3. Lonicera japonica “Halleana”
This is a favorite of the honeysuckle plant family, commonly referred to as the “Japanese honeysuckle”. Its semi-evergreen form produces mounds of glossy, tapered, dark green leaves and abundant intensely fragrant, pure white tubular flowers from April through till August.
Flowers age to yellow as they mature, creating a two-tone color combination in one vigorous climbing vine.
It performs best in fertile, moist, well-drained soils and reaches a mature height of around 10 meters.
4. Lonicera henryii – “Evergreen Honeysuckle”
Also known as “Henry’s honeysuckle”, this popular climbing cultivar has glossy, tapered ovate leaves. Its charming, yellow-throated, purple-red tubular-shaped flowers bloom throughout the summer months. The blooms are slightly fragrant and subsequently followed by black, round berries in the Autumn.
This cultivar is ideal for dual color plus year-round foliage interest. It can grow to a height of 8 meters, and prefers moist, well-drained soils to USDA zones 4b.
5. Clematis diversifolia “Arabella”
There are a remarkable number of shade-tolerant clematis plants available. This particular cultivar is a perennial herbaceous, scrambling variety, suitable for all planting aspects. Its real charm is its lovely mauve-blue flowers that have a rose-pink hue in infancy. This early flowering variety initially blooms around May and again in September, with a mature height of around 1.8 meters.
6. Clematis Andromeda
The Andromeda cultivar is an early flowering, deciduous vine with flowers that resemble Raspberry Ripple ice cream. A real showy clematis whose semi-double blooms initially open through May and June, with lovely large single blooms later in the season. Suitable for all aspects—apart from full-sun—and growa to a maximum 8 feet tall.
7. Clematis “Guernsey Cream”
Though not the largest of the clematis cultivars, this is one of my favorites for shaded beds. Its linear, dark green foliage reaches a mature height of around 8 feet tall, with large early seasonal blooms. Flowers are large, each 5–6 inches across, rounded and creamy white with a primrose yellow bar when young. Expect a floriferous delight throughout most of the summer season.
8. Clematis “Fair Rosamond”
This heirloom cultivar won its first garden award back in 1873 and is still acknowledged as one of the finest early flowering varieties. Its large, white, star-shaped flowers are borne initially in May, then again from June right through to September.
Each bloom is 5–6 inches in diameter with a deep pink bar down the center of each tepal and a striking crown of deep purple-red stamens. “Fair Rosamond” reaches around 8 feet in height and is suitable for planting in all aspects.
9. Clematis Ascotiensis
My final clematis choice is another celebrated heirloom cultivar from the 1800’s. It’s a late-flowering variety with large mauve-blue blooms, and flowers freely from July until September. Each bloom reaches up to 6 inches in diameter, while covering an area of up to 10 feet overall. An easy-growing variety perfect for late summer color.
10. Wisteria sinensis – Chinese Wisteria
When looking for one of the most prolific flowering vines, wisteria has to be near the top of your wish list. Few flowering vines are able to compete with the beauty and quantity of its flowers, easily covering a vast space in relatively little time.
Most cultivars prefer a sunny site, apart from this Chinese species which is happy to grow in a semi-shaded position. These are not self-supporting vines, so they’ll need a framework of wires or supports to grow up.
I guarantee the results will be breath taking.
11. Trachelospurnum jasminoides – Star Jasmine
This popular and vigorous evergreen, woody climber is native to Eastern and South Eastern Asia. Star jasmine is a highly fragrant plant choice, perfect for a semi-shaded position, and will comfortably reach a height of 8 meters tall.
Its deep, glossy-green leaves are ovate in shape, often with a red tinge towards the end of the summer. The sweet-smelling, delicate, star-shaped white flowers are produced in dense clusters throughout the summer months, later turning to creamy-white. These exotic climbing vines are not self-supporting, but once established, happily thrive in all soils.
Annual Flowering Vines
Some of my favorite flowering climbers are annuals, completing their life cycle within one season.
These tend to be less frost-hardy than the perennial cultivars, but this doesn’t dampen their appeal or flowering ability. Plants in this category include my all-time favorites: Sweet Peas, Thumbergia (the Suzie hybrids), Ipomoea (morning glory) and Cobaea scandens (cathedral bells plant). There are many more to choose from, of course. I tend to grow a selection from seed every year and subsequently repeat my most successful growers.
Climbing plants suitable for Acid Soils
12. Tropaeolum speciosum – Flame Flower
This hardy perennial climber grows vigorously in areas with cool summers and high rainfall. Its slender stems produce mid-green, clover-like leaves and a mass of vivid, trumpet shaped flowers from early summer till Autumn. The flame flower reaches a mature height of around 3 meters, flowering continuously over the entire summer season. Bright blue ornamental berries develop soon after flowering.
13. Tropaeolum peregrinum – Canary Creeper
The canary creeper is a frost-tender climber with deeply divided palmate leaves and pretty, canary-yellow frilly flowers. Blooms often have red spots at the base of the tepals. This ornamental climber is Native to Peru and Western South America, and brings a ray of sunshine to any outdoor space.
14. Exochorda x macrantha “The Bride”
Not strictly a climber, but a superb, bushy shrub easily trained to wires or trellis work. Also known as the “pearl bush” for its stunning racemes of open, cup-shaped pure white flowers. If left to its original habit, its long and arching branches make it rather straggly. When trained, however, you can display its long-lasting and abundant blooms for all to see.
15. Berberidopsis carollina – Coral Plant
This frost-tender, evergreen climber is most at home in mild and humid climates. Once given shade and shelter, it grows perfectly happily, easily trained to trellis work or similar supports. Its fresh green, holly-like leaves cover an area up to 12 feet. Come midsummer, rich red globular flowers dangle elegantly amidst the foliage until early autumn.
Flowering Climbers suitable for Heavy Clay Soils and Atmospheric Pollution
Clay soils can be rather testing when it comes to choosing plants. They dry out quickly in hot weather and easily become waterlogged in rain. Both these factors can cause major problems for plants.
When planting in heavy soils, it’s imperative to make a large sized planting hole, and incorporate generous amounts of organic matter into the existing soil. This helps your plant’s roots to penetrate the soil, aid in its stability and provide beneficial plant nutrients.
16. Chanomeles – Ornamental Quince
Though the Chanomeles genera aren’t specifically climbers, they’re hardy, woody stemmed, spiny wall shrubs that look superb trained onto wires and trellis work. Their blooms bring a welcome addition to the all-too bleak winter garden. Below are some of my favorite cultivars, all bearing an abundant, clustering display of pretty cup-shaped flowers.
17. Chanomeles speciosa “Geisha Girl”
A particularly glorious cultivar, covered in flowers from March to May, long before its dark green leaves appear. Deep-apricot pink, cup-shaped, double flowers adorn bare branches, later followed by aromatic, green-yellow fruits. Vigorously growing to a height of around 2.5 meters makes this slightly smaller than alternative varieties.
18. Chanomeles speciosa “Yukigoten”
A large and vigorous cultivar with elegant, double-white, cup-shaped flowers appearing from early spring on bare branches. An ideal choice to grow against a sunny wall or trellis. Will reach 3 meters in height.
19. Chanomeles speciosa “Umbilicata”
Reaching a height of 2.5 metres, this vigorous suckering shrub bears single bold, dark-pink flowers, followed by dark green oval leaves. Ornamental yellow fruits appear later in the season amidst the foliage. Chanomeles “Umbilicata” adds a spectacular splash of color in all seasons.
20./21. Pyracantha and Cotoneaster
Also well-known as the “firethorn plant”, Pyracantha’s are thorny, frost-hardy evergreen shrubs especially tolerant of heavy clay soils. Although more of a woody shrub than vine, their branching habit is easily trained against walls, trellis work and as screening. Their relative is the similar-looking Cotoneaster plant family. These are one of the low, spreading species commonly seen as ground cover plants on banked areas of poor soil.
Once established, both of the above shrubs have a moderate growth rate and are self-supporting. Expect glossy foliage, pretty tubular flowers and brightly colored fruits. Furthermore, all fruits are a valuable food source for resident wildlife.
Here are my top tips for planting climbers
- Make a large enough planting hole and incorporate soil improvers
- Tie in your climbers as they grow and not when they’ve outgrown the space
- Prune them at the correct time of year for their species
- Wear gloves when handling thorny climbers
- Always choose a climbing plant suitable for both your soil and your space
My selection of plants should set you in good stead for planning and planting more challenging areas of the garden. However, you’ll find that there are many well-known, reliable plants that can tolerate and thrive in these imperfect sites.