Enhance Your Landscape by Growing Vines

When planted in the right spot and properly trained, vines can add more visual interest and enjoyment than any other plant group.

Create Shade With Window Vines

Create Shade With Window Vines

Vines are a lot like kids, laughs Paul James. "They can be richly rewarding, provided you train them well and give them all the attention they deserve."

A year ago the master gardener planted four 4-inch pots of Boston ivy along a brick wall to soften and minimize the intense reflective light of the sun bouncing off the wall. They grew quickly and now the vines almost cover the wall. Now they need some coaxing to get them to cover the bare portion of the wall. Paul gently pulls at some of the new growth to free the little tendrils that have attached themselves to the brick and repositions them to grow horizontally along the wall. He prunes the vine where he doesn't want them to grow, such as onto the window frame and onto wood surfaces. He repeats the pruning process on a regular basis throughout the growing season.

The potential problem you encounter when you allow vines to grow onto wooden surfaces is that vines allow insects to travel from the ground to the wood. If the vines were not there, most insects wouldn't attempt to crawl up the hot, exposed brick or stucco. Vines create a sheltered bridge for all kinds of critters, including termites. Some vines can also damage painted wood surfaces, which is another reason to keep them pruned.

Paul also planted ornamental Virginia creeper last year; it's beginning to take off as well, but it too needs a little training. There are all types of ways to train vines, which don't attach themselves to a surface as readily as Boston ivy. You can put screws into the mortar and run galvanized wire in the direction you want the vine to grow, training the vine along the wire.

Even easier are many different vine-holding devices such as nails that you hammer into masonry surfaces and run the vine over the nail head or through a hook. Vines can also be trained on different structures from a simple one to an elaborate arbor.

Climbing hydrangea is one of Paul's favorite ornamental vines. He's growing a few along an iron fence, and in time they will cover the entire length of the fence. Iron fences can get very cold during winter months, so he takes an extra step to protect the vines from winter damage: he insulates the vine with pieces of green florist's foam. He places a piece of foam on the section of the fence where he wants the vine to go, and secures the vine with twine, making sure that none of the vines are in direct contact with the fence.

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