Homegrown: Versatile Vines

Jackmanii clematis (photo/Jackie Hadenfeldt MacLaren)
Jackmanii clematis (photo/Jackie Hadenfeldt MacLaren)

I'm looking forward to seeing my Heavenly Blue morning glory in bloom this fall.  Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, Linn County Master Gardener, Jackie Hadenfeldt MacLaren, points out a variety of other vines to add interest to your landscape:


Think up, not out – and add a little vertical interest to your landscape with vines! Most vines are low-maintenance; fast growing and can even add shade to a sunny spot.

When choosing vines for your landscape, remember that they will need support. Depending on your selection, that may be anything from a piece of string to a hefty arbor.  There are vines with striking foliage, some with lovely scent, and others with vibrant color. Consider what job you want a vine to do in your landscape and get growing! Here is a six-pack of ideas to jumpstart your creative landscaping juices.



Five-Leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata)

The Five-Leaf Akebia vine has lovely, airy foliage – each leaf delicately divided into five blue-green leaflets, giving the plant a soft texture. Spring brings a shower of fragrant purple/brown chocolaty-scented flowers, which is why it is sometimes called chocolate vine. Prefers at least partial shade. Akebia is reportedly a fast grower, reaching up to 15 feet in a single year. It’s never been that vigorous in my garden, but keep it well-pruned or it can become invasive and a nuisance to your neighbors!



Who doesn’t love a clematis – and there are so many to choose from! You can find clematis that bloom early spring to late fall in a multitude of bloom sizes, flower colors, and bloom times. Clematis like to have their feet in the shade and their heads in the sun, so keep roots cool and try for about 6 hours of sunlight for best results. Some bloom on old wood, some on new, and some on both! If you don’t know where to start, pick up the traditional purple Jackmanii variety. Find a bounty of clematis information on the Iowa State University Extension website at


Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris)

This under-used vine is a triple winner: glossy green foliage, bright white flowers and “shaggy” brown bark for winter interest. Climbing hydrangea is a vigorous vine, but slow to get going (1-2 years) so you must be patient. Prefers partial to full shade and something sturdy to climb on as mature vines can reach 50’ in length with a thick, woody stem. White lace-cap type flowers (similar to Queen Anne’s lace in my opinion) bloom above large, heart-shaped leaves.






Moonflower (Ipomoea alba)


Moonflowers bear fragrant bright white bell-shaped flowers that open at night so they can be pollinated by night-flying moths. Moonflowers are cousins of the morning glory family and climb 15 feet or more in full sun. Tan-colored seeds about the size of a pea should be nicked with a file and then soaked overnight before planting to hasten germination. Be sure to plant near a bench or entryway where you can enjoy their lovely scent.


Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus)

The hyacinth bean is a fast-growing vine, with a profusion of purple flowers followed by striking purple seed pods. I think the flowers look sort of like sweet peas. The beautiful, fragrant flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Seeds are easy to collect and store for next season. Plant it in a sunny spot, stand back and watch it grow!


Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata)The Black-eyed Susan vine is the cheeriest of annual vines. Its bright, clear yellow blooms sport five simple petals around a distinctive dark center. Black-eyed Susan vine can grow 6 feet or more and grows best in full sun. It’s a great choice for a trellised container with a lush, but never unkempt appearance. Enjoys a little fertilizer now and then to encourage continued bloom. 

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