Gardeners often use vines in their gardens simply for their beautiful flowers. But vines have a functional purpose as well. They can be used to hide the ‘uglies’ that every garden seems to have, whether it’s an old shed, fence or view into the neighbor’s yard. And since many vines grow quickly, they can give a mature, established look to a young garden in no time.
Vines can be used to soften the lines of garden structures such as pergolas and arbors, as vertical accents in perennial gardens, to define the walls of an outdoor room, screen less than desirable views and also brighten up a long expanse of fence or wall.
The problem with some vines, especially those grown for their flowers, is that they require full sun to perform their best. And not every garden has the ideal spot for a vine that also happens to get a full day’s sun. However, there are a few noteworthy exceptions to this rule. If you are looking for a flowering vine that grows and flowers well in the shade, you might want to try one of the following:
- Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) – Zones 4 – 9. Can grow up to 60 feet and tolerates full sun to almost full shade. Great for growing up tree trunks, walls and meandering over stone walls and boulders.
- Sweet Autumn clematis (Clematis ternifora) – Zones 5 – 9. This clematis tolerates more shade than your typical clematis. Highly fragrant white flowers cover this vine in August and September. Grows to 20 feet and can be used as a ground cover if allowed to grow without support. I have my Sweet Autumn clematis growing in my climbing hydrangea. The clematis flowers open just as the hydrangea flowers are looking old and tired.
- Woodbine honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) – Zones 4 – 9. Can grow up to 30 feet with support and tolerates full sun to partial shade. Use honeysuckle to clamber over bushes and fences.
If you’re looking for a vine to grow in a shady spot and you’re more interested in colorful foliage than flowers, you might want to consider one of these vines:
- Variegated Virginia creeper ( Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Variegata’) – Zones 4 – 9. The variegated version of the old stand-by Virginia creeper is a real show-stopper. A hardy grower, that, like it’s all-green cousin, can become invasive if not sited properly. Fall color is spectacular.
- Marbled Dragon ivy ( Hedera helix ‘Marbled Dragon’) - Zones 5 – 9. A new variation on the old ivy standard. Large leaves have a light green marbled variegation along the leaf veins. Grows in partial to full shade.
- Variegated wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei var. radicans ‘Harlequin’ ) – Zones 5 – 9. Grows in full sun to full shade and spreads about 7 feet. Harlequin has speckled green and white leaves but there are a wide variety of wintercreeper cultivars in a range of colors. The leaves of Harlequin are more delicate than the more common Emerald Gaiety, making it a good choice for a smaller garden.
Whenever you are choosing a vine for your garden, it is best to match the mature size of the vine with the space you are growing it in. If you only need to cover a small section of a 5 foot tall fence, then a climbing hydrangea may not be your best choice. Just as you would match the mature size of a perennial or shrub to it’s location in your garden, you should try to do the same with a vine.