The Q&A Archives: Hardy Vines for Northern Exposure

Question: I have a latice fence on the north side of my house. It is a mostly shaded area, recieving only about 2 hours of sun or so per day. I would like to plant a flowering vine that would cover the fence. Have had no luck with clematis, but have heard there is a shade tolerant variety. The soil is not the greatest, and I believe a fair amount of clay. What would you suggest?

Answer: That's a tough location with so little sun. Most flowering vines are tropical in origin, prefer more sun, and will have trouble surviving your winters. Here are some possibilities that can tolerate some shade and are rated to withstand the winter. You might also want to check with a full-service nursery to see what they offer. They usually know what will survive in their areas.

Aristolochia durior (also sold as A. macrophylla) or Dutchman's pipe. Deciduous (will lose leaves in fall). Covers 15 x 20 in one growing season. Large, kidney shaped leaves are deep glossy green. Blooms late spring to early summer. Unsual flower is yellowish green, curved tube shape that flares into brownish purple lobes. Takes full sun to heavy shade, needs plenty of water.

Most honeysuckle varieties aren't rated for cold winters, but you could consider Lonicera brownii, which is deciduous, grows to 9-10 feet, with scarlet tubular flowers that can bloom from early summer to frost. Takes full sun or light shade and moderate water. There are many honeysuckle varieties, so check with your nursery for others.

Most clematis like their roots to be cool, with their tops in the sun. Clematis alpina, C. jackmanii, and C. recta are several rated for cold.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia or Virginia creeper is a vigorous grower (30-50 feet) that takes sun or shade and regular water. Leaves turn bright to dull red in fall, but there is no flowering.

You might also consider trying an annual vine, such as sweet pea or scarlet runner bean, since you may want any light possible to come into the house during winter. Another possibility is a hardy climbing rose, assuming that thorns are not a problem in that location.

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