Tips for Ground Covers and Vines

Ideas for Using Vines in Your Garden

Vines add vertical detail to your garden layout.

Vines add a stunning vertical focus to your garden. Whether it's with beautiful foliage or colorful flowers and fruit, vines are a must-have in your garden. The following ideas will help you get inspired to incorporate these plants into your garden design.

  • Create summer shade on a porch with a string trellis covered with vines. String trellises, available from garden centers or mail-order garden catalogues, can be hung from a roof or held upright with posts. Set the trellis to the south or west side of the porch to block the most sun.
  • Use a wire trellis and vines to cover a blank, dull wall or a utility pipe. A trellis-covered wall comes to life with greenery. Just make sure the trellis is far enough away from the wall; a trellis snug against a wall is not good for either the building or the vines. If you are screening a utility pipe, be sure to leave access openings for maintenance.
  • Pin perennial vines like climbing hydrangea to the wall to help them get started. Check a complete garden supply catalog or garden center for various hooks and loops that can be set into your wall to start vines out. In the beginning, climbing hydrangea might set off in any direction, so guiding it in the right direction is worthwhile. Once it has started, climbing hydrangea ascends by clinging and is well able to scale solid walls or tree trunks.
  • Use vines to cover a chain-link fence or other backyard eyesores. They can screen off your garage from view (or your neighbor's garage), make a hidden alcove for your garbage cans, or cover a barren-trunked tree or a fenced dog run. Remember to plant vines that twine or have tendrils on open supports like chain-link fencing and vines that climb on solid supports like walls.
  • Use vines to make a dead tree disappear into a mass of blooms. Just as grapevines in the woods can cover trees and turn them into a dripping mass of green vines, an old stump can become a garden pillar.
  • In mild climates, evergreen vines can provide reliable cover year-round. In cold climates, some evergreen vines can be more prone to dieback when temperatures really drop. Look for extra-hardy vines for this job.
  • Plant vines on an open pergola frame to create a cool, shaded retreat. A pergola is an arborlike structure with an overhead trellis that forms a garden roof. It can make a shady place to sit outside in summer and give the garden elegant architecture at the same time. To fill out the roof with foliage and flowers, try planting vines that have abundant growth, so they will be well able to go the distance needed. Some possibilities are wisteria, silver fleece vine, kiwi vine, hops, and grapes.
  • Try an extra-easy way to support annual vines with a trellis made from biodegradable twine. Set two 4-foot-high posts about 4 feet apart, pounding their bases about 10 inches deep into the ground. Run the twine between the posts, knotting it around the posts occasionally to keep the twine from slipping down. You may want to make vertical webbing by working the twine up and down between horizontal strands, which helps some vines climb more efficiently.
  • Plant annual vines such as sweet peas, cardinal climbers, or black-eyed Susan vines beneath the new trellis, and allow them to grow and cover it. When frost arrives or the vines begin to look shabby, simply cut off the twine trellis and throw it, vines and all, in the compost pile.

In the next section, we'll give you some great tips for working with ground coverings.

Want more gardening tips? Try:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.