Vines in the Landscape

Vines can be gorgeous super heroes in a well landscaped garden; providing food for pollinators and birds, highlighting arbors, creating shade across walkways, camouflaging ugly structures, and flowering non-stop. They can also be villains that destroy buildings, fences, and trees. The secret with a vine is to understand its growing nature and place it on structures that are strong enough to support the weight of the vine. A wonderful advantage of a vine is that vines take up very little ground space, so they are particularly suited to urban gardens and landscapes where there is little ground space working in both utilitarian and ornamental situations.

Planting Vines is All About Location, Location, Location

Perennial vines are long term investments in your landscape design. They will thrive for years climbing up a wall or arbor and can be an excellent source of color and life. However, what if you need to paint the wood structure the vine is clinging to? Vines can make this process extremely difficult. Clematis climbs by winding petioles around supports. Other vines latch on to things with adhesive-like suction cups, burrowing vine tendrils, and rootlets. These built-in tools of the self-supporting vine often have the strength to crack cement, dig into brick, and pull-down shutters. The suction cup-like adhesion marks are nearly impossible to get off siding. Planning ahead for the long term with the location you place the vine in is absolutely critical.

Keep in mind that some vines are trailers, while others are powerful climbers. Vines can reach out their arms and find shrubs, perennials, and other trees to latch on to, which should be understood before you plant a vine in order to keep the vine within the landscape plan you originally envisioned.

How to Care for Vines in the Landscape

Once you have planned the proper location for your vine, prepare the soil based on your soil testing results, adding at least four inches of organic matter. Be sure to place the proper support for your vine; lightweight for an annual vine, extremely sturdy for a perennial vine. Make sure the support is securely mounted. Dig an appropriate hole for your plant between six and twelve inches out from the support. Vines can be quite thick and you want to access the base of a plant to water and fertilize in the future. Plant the vine, water in, and mulch well. Fertilize annually with an organic fertilizer.

Once planted, training a vine up a support is quite easy to do while it’s in an active growth phase. Use rubber ties, insulated wire, or loose zip ties to support and train heavier vines. For lighter weight vines, train with loose zip ties, twine, twist-ties, or old panty-hose. Be sure to check the ties several times in a year to make sure that you are not girdling the stems of the vine.

Pruning a vine is critical to its care, both to keep it from overtaking its support and also to keep it looking attractive. Vines need regular pruning to stimulate growth and are dependent upon the individual vine. Often vines look better at the top and not as attractive at the base of the plant. This happens more often when a gardener trims the top heavily, stimulating the top growth more, then the bottom is left unattended. Pruning can help improve the overall look of the vine and balance out the top and bottom views. Most typically, vines that bloom on new growth will need cutting back in early spring before growth appears. Vines that bloom on old growth should be pruned back immediately after they flower.

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