Grow colorful vines

November 10, 2012

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Vines are forgotten in fall. They provide shade and color in spring and summer, but often take a back seat to trees, shrubs and seasonal flowers in the autumn color palette. This is unfortunate since a number of vines reach their peak as cooler weather triggers their bloom, seed production or colorful foliage.

Taking advantage of vertical space is essential to developing a well-rounded landscape, particularly in small spaces. Vines provide gardeners an opportunity to add height, texture, color and interest to what might otherwise be empty spaces. They climb, twine and cling to supports or structures, rising above horizontal plantings and leading the eye upwards. Consider the following visually delightful vines:

VIRGINIA CREEPER

This beauty is native to the United States and Mexico. Cultivated as an ornamental, Virginia creeper is highly valued for its excellent fall foliage.

In autumn, its leaves turn shades of red and orange. It is an excellent covering for walls, trellises, arbors or fences. It may also be grown as a groundcover to aid in erosion control on slopes and in shady areas. Virginia creeper thrives in partial shade to full sun and although it actually prefers acidic conditions, it grows well in a wide range of soil types. It is also salt tolerant.

Virginia creeper is a fast-growing, perennial, woody vine. The plant’s leaves are compound, containing five leaflets with toothed margins. The leaflets are red when they first emerge, but turn green as they mature. Stems are purplish brown or green and have fine hairs. Virginia creeper produces inconspicuous flowers in late spring and develops small blue-black fruit in fall. The seeds drop and are dispersed by birds. New vines will sprout from the seed. Virginia creeper can also be propagated from cuttings or layering.

Once Virginia creeper is established, it grows quickly to a height and spread of 40-50 ft. adhering to surfaces by means of branched tendrils that have cup-like adhesive tips. It can grow to cover trees and shrubs and may harm the plants if the cover prevents them from getting enough sunlight. Trimming frequently will keep the vine in bounds. Also, the plant’s tendrils can be difficult to remove from structures.

Virginia creeper survives drought, but performs best with some water. It has no major pests or disease issues, although it can sustain damage from both. Often, damage is limited to the leaves; rarely is the vine killed. In other words, this is a very tough vine and so prevalent that it is sometimes confused with poison ivy. Identify Virginia creeper by its five leaflets (poison ivy has three leaflets). Images may be found at plants.usda.gov.

There is generally no danger to people who handle Virginia creeper. However, its berries are toxic to humans. (Sensitive people have experienced skin irritation when exposed to the vine’s sap.) Virginia creeper’s berries and foliage are foraged by deer, birds and other wildlife. The vine also provides cover and nesting sites.

CORAL VINE

Coral vine, considered a Texas heirloom plant, produces striking flowers in late summer through early fall. The sprays of bright pink flowers with deep pink centers are abundant on this southern native, covering the structures it adheres to in a sea of pink. White cultivars are also available.

A perennial, coral vine is evergreen in warm climates, but tends to drop its heart-shaped leaves in North Texas. It appreciates regular water in the first few growing seasons, but is quite drought tolerant when its root system is well established. It requires support, such as a trellis, fence or arbor, on which to climb. Prune coral vine in spring to control its growth.

This beautiful, fast-growing vine will twine to a height and width of 30-40 ft. When trained to grow on structures, it provides quick coverage and shade. Coral vine is a heat lover and may be grouped with other heat-tolerant species in the garden. Coral vine grows from tubers. Propagate it by division or seeds. The first hard freeze kills the top growth, but established plants return year after year.

SWEET AUTUMN CLEMATIS

This vine may reach 30 feet in height and width. It produces an impressive number of small, fragrant, white, star-shaped blossoms on long stems that will drape over boulders, fences, arbors, etc. To climb, this vine needs support. It clings by tendrils and twining stems.

This easy-to-grow bloomer is cultivated for its vanilla scent and flowers that appear late summer through fall. Grow sweet autumn clematis with its “feet” in the shade and its “head” in the sun. After planting, provide it with a deep weekly soaking the first spring and summer. Afterwards, the plant is very drought tolerant and cold hardy. Trim the plant each spring to control growth. A word of caution is needed.

Other vines for fall include hyacinth bean, grapes, Boston ivy and cypress vine.

Resources: USDA, Monrovia.com, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu

For horticulture answers, call Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County 817-579-3280 or visit hoodcountymastergardeners.org.

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Category: Horticulture Archived