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Vines: growing a living screen

Jill MacKenzie

Plants can be used to create a shady screen for a porch, deck or arbor. Vines growing on a trellis provide some of the privacy of an indoor space, outdoors. Many screening plants are highly ornamental, with attractive flowers, foliage or fruits. Once established, perennial vines and hardy climbing roses are low- maintenance additions to the home landscape, requiring only water, yearly pruning or training, and, perhaps, fertilizing. Annual vines are inexpensive and grow quickly after planting, providing an informal screen with colorful flowers.

Most vines climb by twisting around a support. Some anchor themselves by means of tendrils and still others use suction cups or root-like growths to cling to a wall or trellis. Trellises can be made of wood, fencing, wires or twine, depending on the growth habit of the vine. For vines that climb by twining, supports of any shape and size, from a single strand of wire to a three-inch wide piece of wood, can provide support. If a vine climbs by means of tendrils, finer supports are necessary. Tendrils can grip twine, wire and narrow stakes, like bamboo, but cannot hold on to larger supports. Vines that cling by means of suction cups or rootlike holdfasts can climb up a wall without any support, or cling to a wooden trellis. Ideally, a trellis for any vine would include both vertical and horizontal members for best support.

Plants on the following lists are suitable for parts or all of Minnesota.

Woody and herbaceous perennial vines

Plant bare-root or container stock in spring. The first year's growth may be small while the plant establishes its root system, but subsequent years' growth will be more vigorous. Some of these plants die back to the ground each winter in Minnesota and come up from the roots in spring; others are hardier and survive on the trellis. Prune out dead wood in early spring and train new shoots to cover the trellis. All the twining vines except honeysuckle twist up around supports from left to right. Be sure to train the vine in the direction it naturally grows or it will fall back off the support.

Features Climbing
USDA hardi-
ness zone
Dies back? Growth rate;
total height
Actinidia arguta hardy kiwi red petioles, dense screen, edible fruit after very mild winters twining 4 yes 12'-15'/year part shade

*separate male and female plants are normally required for fruiting; 'Issai' is a self fertile female

Actinidia kolomikta arctic beauty kiwi veriegated pink/white/green foliage, berry-sized edible fruits twining 3 may 10'/year part shade

*Separate male and female plants are required for fruiting.

Ampelopsis brevipedunculata porcelain berry blue inedible fruit tendrils 4 yes 15'/year sun to part shade
Aristolochia durior (A. macrophylla) Dutchman's pipe dense screen, coarse foliage twining 4 no 6'/year; up to 30' sun to part shade
Campsis radicans trumpet vine large red-orange flowers clinging 4 may 15'/year; up to 30' full sun

*May flower best in a protected site with somewhat dry, poor soil.

Celastrus scandens American bittersweet orange and yellow fruits twining 2 no 10'/year; to 30' or more sun to part shade

*Separate male and female plants are required for fruiting; 'Indian Maid' and 'Indian Brave' are varieties of known sex.

Clematis hybrids clematis large purple, white, pink or maroon flowers, delicate foliage modified petioles act as tendrils 4 yes 12'/year full sun to part shade

*Roots need to stay cool; mulch or provide shade at the base of the plants. Some clematis hybrids bloom on the previous season's growth; if these varieties die back, they will not flower. Choose varieties such as 'Jackman', 'Comtesse de Bouchard' and 'Huldine' that bloom on the current season's growth.

Clematis texensis scarlet clematis red or pink flowers, delicate foliage modified petioles act as tendrils 4 yes 12'/year full sun to part shade

*Roots need to stay cool; mulch or provide shade at the base of the plants. 'Duchess of Albany' is a popular variety.

Humulus lupulus hop vine fast growth, green flowers used to flavor beer twining 3 yes 20'-30'/year sun to part shade
Lonicera x brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet' Dropmore scarlet honeysuckle red flowers twining 3 no 6'/year; up to 20' sun to part shade

*Trellis must be sturdy to support the weight of this vine.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata Boston ivy dense screen, red fall color, clings to masonry clinging, tendrils with suction cups 2 no 10'/year; up to 50' full sun to deep shade

*Tiny suction cups are difficult to scrape off window screens, wood, metal, masonry or painted surfaces.

Vitis riparia riverbank grape dense screen, fragrant whitish flowers, sour fruits used for jelly, juice tendrils 2 no 15'/year; up to 40' sun to deep shade

*Male and female plants normally necessary for fruit, but plants of known sex are generally not available. The cultivar 'Beta', however, has both male and female flower parts and will produce fruit if planted alone.

Vitis hybrids grape dense shade, edible fruit tendrils varies may 10'-15'/year; up to 30' full sun

*See "Growing Grapes in Minnesota" for culture. For best fruiting, grapes are pruned hard, so may not make a good screen.

Wisteria macrostachya 'Aunt Dee' Aunt Dee wisteria pale purple flowers on previous season's growth twining 4 may 8'/year sun

Climbing roses

Roses have no tendrils, so they can't twine or cling; they must be tied to a trellis. These varieties need no special winter protection as far north as USDA zone 3 (zone 4 in the case of 'Seven Sisters'), so they can stay up on the trellis. Other long-caned varieties could be used as screens, but would need to be lowered and protected during winter. All grow best in full sun, and produce abundant blooms in June. Plant bare-root or container stock in spring. Use rose fertilizer regularly during the growing season for best growth and bloom.

Hardy climbing rose cultivars

Cultivar Flower characteristics Rebloom pattern Length of canes
July August/September
'John Cabot' fuchsia good excellent 5'-6'
'John Davis' pink, fragrant good good 5'-8'
'Henry Kelsey' red slight good 6'-7'
'William Baffin' pink slight good 7'-9'
'Seven Sisters' rose, pink and lilac in clusters of 7 none none 10'

Annual vines

Plant seeds of these vines at the base of the trellis as soon as soil has warmed in May or early June. Space plants fairly closely, six to eight inches apart, to provide the densest screen.

Genus species Common name Features Climbing mechanism Height
Cobaea scandens cathedral bells rose flowers tendrils to 15'
Dolichos lablab hyacinth bean purple flowers and pods twining to 15'
Ipomoea tricolor morning glory blue, purple or pink flowers twining to 10'
*Morning glory will flower sooner and produce more flowers if plants are grown for the first week or two after germination under short-day conditions: only 8 to 10 hours of light per day, and complete darkness for 14 to 16 hours each night. It's easiest to manage this indoors, so start these seeds inside in early May, then transplant out to the foot of the trellis once soil has warmed
Ipomoea alba moonflower white flowers that open at dusk twining to 10'
Ipomoea quamoclit cardinal climber red flowers, delicate foliage twining to 10'
Phaseolus coccineus scarlet runner bean red flowers, green beans edible when pods still slender twining to 10'
Thunbergia alata black-eyed susan vine yellow and orange flowers with dark centers twining to 6'

Reviewed by Chad Behrendt and Crystal Floyd 1999

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