The Q&A Archives: Need Recommendation

Question: Have ugly brick on my Tudor style house in Portland OR. Would like to grow a dark green evergreen vine to cover the brick and make the house look older than its 1980's style. Need something fast growing. If it needs to be an ivy, which one. Plant will get full afternoon sun. Would star jasmine work? Thank you.

Answer: Star jasmine would work, as will any of the following vines: (not all are evergreen, but all would provide seasonal interest and soften the look of the brick)

American bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculata).

The American bittersweet is a vigorous vine that grows 10 to 20 feet tall and climbs by means of twining stems. It will thrive in almost any soil or exposure except a wet, boggy situation.

Bittersweet is planted mainly for its attractive fruit, a favorite in dried arrangements. Reddish-yellow fruit capsules open in early autumn to expose red-orange berries. The fruits are grouped in terminal clusters, which make them conspicuous before the leaves fall.

Oriental bittersweet is similar to the American type, but grows more vigorously. Vines often grow 30 to 40 feet tall. Fruit is similar in appearance but is borne in lateral clusters that are smaller than the American type. It is colorful as a garden plant, but the small clusters are less desirable for dried arrangements. Another type, the Chinese or Loesener bittersweet, is less hardy but grown because of its prolific fruiting habit.

Bittersweet produces male and female flowers on separate plants. Male and female plants must be grown to ensure fruit set. Male plants are more vigorous growers and usually must be pruned harder than female plants to prevent the berry-producing plants from being crowded out. One male plant should be used for each five female plants.

Boston ivy or Japanese creeper (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)

Boston ivy or Japanese creeper is one of the best vines for covering large masonry buildings quickly. It is a fast-growing, close-clinging vine that climbs by means of adhesive disks.

The vine is tolerant to many soil types and grows in full sunlight or in shade.

Boston ivy grows to a height of 50 to 60 feet. Its green leaves stand out and overlap on long stalks. Leaves turn rich tones of scarlet, orange or purple in the fall. The new growth in spring is reddish bronze. The flowers are inconspicuous but attract a large number of bees. Fruit is fairly showy in the fall after the leaves are gone. The bluish-black berries are attached to the vine in grapelike clusters and persist after the leaves have fallen.

The vine is well adapted to city conditions. When given free rein, the vine will cover windows, doors or other objects in its path. It requires annual pruning.

Boston ivy is easily transplanted. Start with 2-year-old plants.


Clematis are among the most decorative and spectacular of all the flowering vines. A wide range of color and flower shapes may be found in the many varieties and species offered for sale.

The large-flowered clematis hybrids are the most widely used. These hybrids are deciduous vines that climb by twining stems, which act as tendrils (see Figure 5). They attain a height of 8 to 10 feet. Flowering time varies according to variety but may be from late spring until frost.

The Sweet Autumn Clematis is a more vigorous species that grows to 20 to 30 feet. It is an easy vine to grow and is popular for the masses of fragrant white flowers produced in late August and September.

Clematis prefer a light, loamy, well-drained soil with a pH between 6.5 and 7. Lime should be added if the soil pH is below pH 6.5. They require constant soil moisture.

Clematis grow well in full sun or partial shade. Preferably, the foliage should be exposed to full sun and the soil kept cool and shaded by low groundcover plants or mulch. Vines grow well on the east side of a wall but not on the north. Protection from strong winds is also desirable.

Proper pruning time depends on variety. Those that bloom on previous year's wood should be pruned immediately after flowering. Most types of clematis bloom on growth made during the current year and should be pruned in early spring before new growth starts. Pruning usually is not necessary during the first two years after planting.

English ivy (Hedera helix)

English ivy is a handsome evergreen vine, climbing by attaching itself to rough surfaces by very short aerial rootlets. It may attain a height of 20 to 50 feet.

The rich, leathery, dark shiny leaves hold their color all winter if protected from winter sun and wind. North- or east-facing walls are the most satisfactory locations.

English ivy prefers a shady location with a fairly moist soil well supplied with organic matter.

The flowers are greenish and small followed by 1/4-inch, blue-black fruit in large clusters that persist for several months. They are only produced, however, on old vines that have reached maturity.

The landscape uses of English ivy are many, both indoors and outdoors. As a groundcover in the shade or under trees and shrubs, it is an excellent broadleaved evergreen. Interesting patterns are formed on vertical, flat masonry or brick surfaces during its first few years of growth.

Several English ivy varieties have shown greater winter hardiness and less browning during winter months. The best of the winter-durable varieties include 'Baltica,' 'Bulgaria' and 'Thorndale.'

Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.)

Hall's honeysuckle is a semievergreen vine with wiry stems that climb 20 to 30 feet by twining, or that form a groundcover by rooting at the joints. It is a rampant vine that easily grows out of bounds, and becomes a pest unless it is carefully controlled. Flowers open white and turn pale yellow. They are produced from June to September. Black berries are produced in the fall, but are of little ornamental value. It is considered by some to be an invasive plant because birds can spread seeds to natural areas. It should not be placed where it can climb on other plants or trees. It needs annual pruning to keep it in bounds.

The trumpet honeysuckle is a loose-growing vine with twining stems and semievergreen bluish-green leaves. Scarlet trumpet-shaped flowers are produced from May to August at the ends of the branches. A yellow-flowered form is also available. Red fruits attract the birds in early fall. It will grow 15 to 20 feet high.

Everblooming honeysuckle is a semishrubby vine that climbs up to 15 feet by twining. It is somewhat spreading with blue-green leaves and bright carmine flower buds that open to show deep yellow inside the trumpet. It is slow growing and can either be grown on a trellis or trained as a shrub. Its flowers are produced from June until September.

The climbing honeysuckles are among the easiest plants to grow in the garden. They will thrive in either sun or shade. Although they perform best in good garden soil, they will tolerate poor soils. Well-drained soils are best, however, as they do not tolerate wet, boggy conditions.

Honeysuckles stand severe pruning and can be cut back to 6 to 8 inches if they have grown out of bounds or need rejuvenation.

Silver fleece flower (Polygonum aubertii)

This vine, which is sometimes called silver-lace vine, produces clusters of small white to greenish-white flowers in August and September. The small white flowers turn pinkish at maturity and remain effective for a long time.

The vine is a rank grower and suitable for city conditions. It is adaptable to many soil types but needs a sunny location.

Silver fleece flower can be used for a quick screen and, once established, may grow as much as 20 feet in a single season. The foliage is dense and bright green. It will require severe pruning each spring to keep it within bounds.

Trumpet-creeper (Campsis radicans)

Common trumpet-creeper is a deciduous, robust vine that climbs by both aerial rootlets and twining stems. Growing to a height of 25 to 30 feet, this vine is useful for rustic effects on fence posts, walls, poles or rockwork.

Brilliant orange and scarlet, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inches long, trumpet-shaped flowers are very showy from July through September (see Figure 8). The dark green leaves present a bold, tropical appearance. Long cigarlike fruits on bright tan stems may be considered decorative during the winter months. Common trumpet-creeper grows well in partial shade. However, a full sun exposure is required for maximum flower production. It will tolerate both wet and dry soils.

Virginia creeper or Woodbine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Virginia creeper is a native, deciduous vine that climbs both by means of tendrils with adhesive disks which adhere to brick, stone or tree trunks, and by aerial rootlets which attach only to rough surfaces. It grows 30 to 50 feet tall and has a loose, open growth pattern.

The leaves of Virginia creeper are five-parted and stand out on slender, drooping side branches. They open as a purplish color in the spring, remain dull, deep green throughout the summer and turn brilliant scarlet or crimson before dropping in the fall months.

Virginia creeper is one of the first of all woody plants to display fall color. Its conspicuous greenish flowers develop into clusters of bluish-black, pea-sized berries in September and October. The berries either fall before winter or are eaten by birds after the leaves drop.

Virginia creeper will grow in a variety of soils. It is considered to be a very drought-resistant plant. It will thrive in either a sunny or shady exposure.

Hope this information is helpful!

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