Vines for the valley

Several times in recent weeks the subject of vining plants and their use in the landscape has come up. I thought this might be an appropriate time to discuss vines and the specific conditions they require to flourish in the Rogue Valley. It seems as though many people would love to grow vines, but haven't a clue about what to plant where and how to care for them.

Vines fall into two categories, as do most plants. They are either evergreen or deciduous. That means they either retain their leaves through the winter or they don't. I am most frequently asked to recommend evergreen vines that will grow here, and more specifically, flowering evergreen vines. To be honest, the list of evergreen vines that will tolerate our winter climate is a short one. With all the hybridization of plants in recent years, it seems that one void that is difficult to fill is that of a hardy evergreen flowering vine.

Vines support themselves in two ways:

Twining — the main stem or tendrils twine around supporting structures

Clinging — aerial rootlets or adhesive disks attach to supporting structures.

Climbing roses, although not true vines, are sometimes treated as such when their long canes are tied to supports. Twining vines can be grown easily on trellises and fences. Clinging vines can be used on masonry or stone walls. Do not grow clinging vines on buildings with wooden siding because the siding will rot when the vine's foliage traps moisture and prevents air circulation.

Vines can be used solely for their ornamental value, such as highlighting an attractive trellis, or for spectacular flowers or interesting foliage. They can be used for more utilitarian purposes also, such as a screen to help provide privacy, to block undesirable views, or to conceal less-than-attractive fencing. They take up less room than most other plants when grown this way and are particularly useful for small-space landscaping. They can provide shade when grown on such structures as arbors and pergolas. I especially like them when planted in containers or grown as groundcover. For years, in a large pot, I grew an evergreen vine that was allowed to sprawl along a fence where the ground was too soggy for the plant to otherwise flourish.

Hardiness zone, soil conditions, moisture level and exposure are key factors in site analysis when selecting any plant for your yard, but are crucial for success with vines. It is impossible to generalize when it comes to these plants and each vine must be analyzed for its suitability for a specific location. Because many vines are rampant, almost invasive growers, one must assess one's ability and desire to keep the plant within reasonable bounds. Some wonderful landscape vines only look and perform best when pruned frequently. Consider grapes, for example. There are horror stories of old wisterias and trumpet vines pulling over structures, including buildings, on which they were trained. English ivy has spread so far beyond the bounds of the urban landscape in Portland that it has spawned its own anti-ivy society — and rightfully so — that holds parties to rip it off trees where it is smothering much forested, native habitat. It is not as problematic in our naturally drought-prone climate.

Many vines provide more than one point or season of interest. In addition to the spectacular flowers of the clematis, their dried seed heads add interest to flower arrangements. Many vines produce colorful berries or drupes as an added bonus to their flowers. Members of the Parthenocissus group, like Virginia creeper and Boston ivy, have spectacular fall foliage color to brag about. These fast-growing, dense vines provide cover and nesting sites for many city birds. They rank among the most popular and most widely planted vines in the world.

Next week I'll recommend some specific vines for our locale and extol their attributes and the cultural conditions they require. You have enough time until then to start building that trellis you're going to need!

Stan Mapolski, aka The Rogue Gardener, can be heard from 9-11 a.m. Sunday mornings on KMED 1440 AM and seen in periodic gardening segments for KTVL Channel 10 News. Reach him at

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