By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Gardening with Stephanie Tames
Vines to avoid and vines to love
Crossvine’s yellow and red trumpets are a familiar sight in the coastal plain. - photo by Special
    It started out innocently. I always dreamed of having a garden enclosed by ivy-covered walls, like the pictures I had seen of English country cottages. The naked cinder block wall in my back yard cried out for cover. Here was my chance to begin the garden I always wanted. With a small piece of rooted English ivy (Hedera helix) from a friend, I began my long-dreamed-of ivy covered walls.
    That was more than 10 years ago. Now, when I go into the back yard I take a hatchet to chop the vines I had so eagerly planted as I try to stop the ivy’s steady progression up trees, over the wall, down the alley, and through the fence to my neighbor’s yard. My beautiful English ivy has turned into a killer and is slowly choking out all living things in its path.
    Unfortunately, that story has been repeated across the country. English ivy is not only invasive in gardens but has escaped into forested areas as well. And despite being classified as an invasive plant, landscapers still recommend it as an easy-care ground cover. Properly managed, ivy can be useful; however, it is such a vigorous grower and has such a well-developed climbing strategy (it has root-like fasteners that exude a sticky substance) that it is almost impossible to keep in check. Those fasteners also damage whatever they touch, including that lovely brick wall or the bark of a tree. It’s best not to plant it at all.
    I love vines, though, and I’m not willing to give up on my cottage garden look. Fortunately, the Southeastern Coastal Plain has many native vines that can give me the look I want without the worry. Just by their nature, however, vines do like to travel, so whatever you plant should be pruned to limit growth. You can find vines for almost all soil and sun conditions, although most like moist, well-drained soil.
    Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is a familiar vine in the coastal plain. Often seen climbing high into trees and around telephone poles and cascading over fences, Carolina jessamine has small yellow trumpet-shaped flowers that appear in early spring (many are blooming now). Its evergreen leaves make it a nice choice for a spot where you want green year-round. It is sometimes confused with Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), also an evergreen vine, that produces intoxicatingly sweet white pinwheel-shaped flowers in April and May. Confederate jasmine is not a native and is not a true jasmine, which is part of the genus Jasminum.
      Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) works as a climber or a ground cover. It doesn’t damage what it climbs on and doesn’t even need a trellis or support wires. Crossvine’s flowers are big (2-inch) red and yellow trumpets. Its leaves are evergreen. Crossvine, along with coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), are also familiar coastal plain vines. Unlike its Japanese cousin, coral honeysuckle is not invasive. Its blooms are clusters of beautiful, bright scarlet (or yellow) narrow trumpets with yellow tips that appear from mid-spring and throughout the growing season. Its flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds, and the fruit feeds a wide variety of wildlife.
    Growing in ditches and fields, passionvine (Passiflora incarnate), is another favorite. It has large lavender, intricately layered flowers. Gulf fritillary butterflies lay eggs on passionvine. This vine dies back every winter so you don’t have to worry about it traveling too far.  
    Wisteria is another vine that you need to approach with caution. The beautiful, extremely fragrant lavender flowers are a harbinger of spring but the Japanese vine (Wisteria floribunda) is a damaging invasive. If you want the look and fragrance of wisteria, try the native, Wisteria frutescens, which gives you the same lavender flower clusters and a wonderful scent. Unlike the Japanese wisteria, the flowers of the native vine bloom after leaves appear.
    There are other native, and non-native vines that do well in our area that are not invasive. But remember that any vine should be kept in check. Here are some other vines to consider:
    Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), native, green in spring and summer and red in the fall.
Decumaria (climbing hydrangea) (Decumaria Barbara), white flowers in late spring, must climb to bloom.
Large flowered clematis (Clematis hybrida), Likes sun, many colors and patterns to choose from
Fiveleaf Akebia (Akebia quinata), small purple flowers and light scent, evergreen.
Climbing fig (Ficus repens), heart shaped leaves, clings to walls
Moon vine (Ipomoea alba) fragrant, large white flowers that open in the evening
    Garden Section Editor: Stephanie Tames, Georgia Southern Botanical Garden.
If you are interested in contributing a gardening article or have ideas for articles, contact Stephanie Tames at or 871-1149.
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter