Control Vine Growth

Use these tips to grow eye-catching vines outside your home.
By: Maureen Gilmer


Lavender trumpet vine produces a waterfall of beautiful flowers. (SHNS photo by Maureen Gilmer / Do It Yourself - DIY)

If you love them, don't set them free.

Stick with the golden rule of vertical gardening: Never allow a vine to grow beyond the reach of your ladder.

Vines in general get a bad reputation from deadbeat parents who allow their plants to grow wild, engulfing houses and trees and threatening to invade the neighbor's yard.

Continuous pruning is the key to keeping rampant growers in line. These include wisteria, honeysuckles and morning glory, which can put on a startling amount of growth in a single season. To keep these bad boys within the reach of your ladder means you'll be trimming them monthly.

Civilized vines with gorgeous flowers and demure growth rates are more deserving of a place in small yards. These plants are great problem-solvers for vertical gardening in narrow side yards. They're perfect to tie up on big bare walls to turn buildings into leafy artwork. Train them over doorways, gates, porch steps and windows to add a really beautiful cottage-garden look.



Small vines that are easy to manage help make ambiguous entries stand out. (SHNS photo by Maureen Gilmer / Do It Yourself - DIY)

Everybody talks about popular, well-known vines like clematis and jasmine. Yet lesser known fellows are equally beautiful, offering some really useful qualities that make them adaptable, carefree and super easy to grow.

Out of the low country of the East Coast comes Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Zone 7. It's one of the few vines that offers a really bright, clear yellow flower. Two-inch blooms are trumpet shaped, cloaking the entire plant in gold for a few weeks in spring. The rest of the year this vine produces really outstanding, shiny evergreen or semi-deciduous foliage. Something about its growth habit makes this vine weave a tidy emerald sheath over chain link and woven wire fences. Once covered, there's little need to prune for shape.

The beauty of this southeastern native is that it retains the resiliency of a wild plant. Pest-resistant and tolerant of drought, heat and humidity, this chameleon can cloak banks and fences and climb over arbors and arches. For sites with serious drainage problems, use its cousin, swamp jessamine (Gelsemium rankinii).

Lavender trumpet vine may be one of the most exquisite vines for residential landscapes in warmer regions. Originating in Argentina, Clytostoma callistegioides is hardy to Zone 10 but will die back and re-grow in winters of Zone 9. The large trumpet flowers are four inches long, striped in lavender and purple. When blooming, the vine is engulfed in color for weeks in spring but may produce occasional flowers through the rest of the growing season, too.



Lavender trumpet vines allowed to fan out produce an open, lacy look. (SHNS photo by Maureen Gilmer / Do It Yourself - DIY)

What makes this vine so appealing is its modest size and lacy look. Foliage is sparser than the jessamines, which makes it a popular subject for spider web espalier with invisible anchors on colored stucco walls. Its heavy bloom production has made it a favorite for draping over the tops of walls and fences for a virtual waterfall of purple spilling down the front. Moderate growth makes this vine slower to become established, but once it feels at home there is virtually no pruning or special care required.

Consider these warm-region vines as well-behaved alternatives to more finicky clematis or mandevilla and more controllable than larger trumpet creeper, honeysuckle or passionflower.

Exploit their variable looks with careful training. Spiral stainless steel wire up a column and train the vine to it. Splay it fan-shaped on a wall, or weave runners through a wood or iron wall trellis. Solve problems of ugly wire fencing in one fell swoop. There's nothing like a vine to call attention to ambiguous entries.



Train lavender trumpet vine to precise roof lines for a cottage-garden effect. (SHNS photo by Maureen Gilmer / Do It Yourself - DIY)

No matter how well-behaved these trumpet vines may seem, like kids they need consistent tough love. With the first hint of trouble, get out that ladder. If that doesn't work, threaten them with pruning shears the moment they step out of line.

(Maureen Gilmer is a horticulturist and host of "Weekend Gardening" on DIY-Do It Yourself Network. E-mail her at For more information, visit: or Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)

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