Amazing Annual Vines

By National Gardening Association Editors

Black-eyed Susan Vine

Jack's beanstalk isn't the only show-stopping vine. In the real world, you'll find a host of annual vines that grow almost as rapidly as Jack's climber, and cover themselves with gorgeous flowers to boot.

Would you like to cloak a summer porch in cooling shade? Hide an eyesore such as a chain-link fence? Dress up an arbor? Today, the popularity of annual vines is on the rise. Annual vines are perfect for gardeners who want to create the popular "cottage garden" look.

If you've been growing common vines like morning glory and sweet peas, consider trying something new this year. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia): Brilliant orange blossoms with striking black throats cover the vigorous vines from summer into fall.
  • Ruby Star Mandevilla: This tropical vine produces large, showy, exotic-looking flowers, creating a lovely display from early summer into fall.
  • Purple Parachutes: Dense foliage blankets trellises and arbors and provides a perfect backdrop for the exquisite fuchsia-pink flowers.
  • Pink Chiffon Bougainvillea: Luminescent bracts form double flowers, cloaking the plant in a cascade of pink; blooms from May to October.

Landscape Problem-Solvers

Annual vines are great problem-solvers. They can quickly conceal things you don't want to look at, or play up ones you do. And they're so easy to grow, they're ideal plants to introduce children to the magic of gardening.

Because they grow so fast and are temporary, annual vines lend themselves to experimentation. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make a bamboo or twig tepee for your kids, and cover it with an annual vine.
  • Plant vines next to a tree 10 to 14 feet tall, and let them scramble up the trunk and into the limbs for a blooming tree until frost.
  • Use them to blanket a problem slope or fill a new flower bed in a hurry.
  • For instant charm and color, frame a door or window with a vine climbing a string trellis.
  • Plant shorter growers (4 to 6 feet) in containers and baskets.

Even tiny courtyard gardens or apartment balconies have room for annual vines; most have relatively limited root systems and grow happily in a large pot.

How to Grow Annual Vines

In general, annual vines, like so many plants, like full sun and well-drained, good-quality soil. However, if planted in too-rich soil or fertilized with too much nitrogen, they tend to produce excessive foliage and not enough flowers. If you want to fertilize, work a little compost into the soil, or at most an all-purpose fertilizer, such as a 5-10-5, according to label directions. The best time to fertilize is just as plants begin to bloom.

It's important to provide support at planting time. Most vines climb by twining, so provide a pole or stake and they'll twine right up (though it never hurts to give them a guiding hand every few days until they've begun twining on their own). On a building or other smooth, flat surface, construct a trellis of wood, string, or even monofilament fishing line, which creates a nearly invisible support. Unlike perennial vines, even vigorous annual ones are fairly lightweight and seldom topple their supports.

Once these vines are established, few pests or diseases bother them. Their height allows good ventilation, and because they're annuals, diseases seldom overwinter.

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