Vines for the high plains landscape

Vines can serve a lot of excellent purposes in the landscape. They can soften and beautify the look of a fence and provide visual privacy. Vines can reduce loud sounds from noisy roads or neighbors. Vines create habitat for birds. They can add colorful flowers up a vertical wall or trellis. Vines can even provide food and flavor to drinks if you grow edible grapes or hops.

Most any landscape has a ready place for a vining plant. In addition, you can also easily construct a trellis on which you can grow a vine.

Hardy Perennial Vines for the High Plains

Campsis radicans – Trumpet vine    (grows 20-25’, full sun, moderate water)

This is a very showy vine with bright red tubular flowers that attract humming birds. It does best in protected, sunny locations near the southeast corner of buildings or fences. Tough growing conditions keep this perennial from becoming invasive on the High Plains.

Clematis spp. – Clematis         (grows 5-8’, full sun to part shade, moderate water)

There are many different types available, among the hardiest are the spring and early summer flowering purple “jackmanii” but there are many other good choices that sport different colors, bloom at different times and reach varying heights. No matter what variety you grow, be sure to learn the exact pruning type of your particular clematis, as some need to be cut low each season while others only need some slight topping. These are classified as “pruning types 1, 2 & 3.” You can find more information on either the nametag, from your nursery or on many gardening websites.

Humulus luplusHop vine      (grows 10-15’, full sun to part shade, moderate water)

This is a quick grower that covers a fence in no time. As with all perennials, they won’t take off until about the third year, but after that, it is a great plant with interesting cone-like flowers. The flowers are green and more interesting looking than showy. These are the same hops used in making beer.

Lathyrus latifolius – Perennial sweet pea       (grows 5-7’, full sun, moderate water)

This is a low growing vine with mid-season lavender to white flowers. Unlike annual sweet peas, they are not fragrant and a bit more wild looking than the annual sweet pea. They can tolerate low amounts of water and require little maintenance.

Lonicera caeruleaHoneysuckle honeyberry (grows 5-6’, full sun, moderate water)

This plant is new to the market and is a vining honeysuckle. It produces a tasty edible fruit later in the season, when planted in pairs. It is not particularly vigorous but over time will establish on a fence or trellis.

Lonicera reticulataKintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle (grows 7-10’, full sun to part shade, moderate water) This is a showy late spring flowering vining honeysuckle. It produces yellow flowers followed by a summer-long display of large, attractive bright silver bracts. It was originally propagated by “Ped” Kintzley at the Iowa State University in the 1880s and passed along to family members. It was recently rediscovered growing in Ft. Collins, CO by the regional well-respected horticulturist, Scott Skogerboe.

Lonicera sempervirensTrumpet honeysuckle (grows 10-12’, full sun, moderate water)

This “twining” honeysuckle looks nothing like the shrub honeysuckle. With a little help it will twine its way through a fence and provide red trumpet shaped flowers much of the summer. While the trumpet honeysuckle lacks fragrance, they do attract hummingbirds. There are less hardy Japanese species such as “Halls honeysuckle,” that have great fragrance but need to grow in a very protective place.

Parthenocissus spp.Virginia creeper (p. quinquefolia), Woodbine (P. vitacea) (grows 20-40’, full sun to part shade, moderate water)

This relative to the grape is a tough and hardy vine for screening. It grows fast and thick up fences, arbors, and even up sides of houses and trees. It sports bright red and purple leaves and small black berries in fall.. Plants often sprout most anywhere thanks to birds who love to consume the fruit in fall. Once the bird eats the fruit, the fruit’s seed goes through its digestive tract where it is primed to germinate by the bird’s stomach acid and then deposited most anywhere. The woodbine (p. vitacea) is almost identical to Virginia creeper except that it is more commonly found on the High Plains because it is hardier than Virginia Creeper. Also the woodbine readily reseeds new plants. Virginia creeper is a slightly better climber than is woodbine.

Polygonum aubertiiSilver lace vine (grows 15-20’, full sun, drought tolerant once established)

This is a great late-blooming vine. It grows fast and is very hardy. It will tolerate most soils and can take some periods of drought. The flowers are fragrant. Be sure to provide a strong fence or arbor support.

Vitis labaaruscaAmerican grape (grows 15-20’, full sun, moderate water)

Table grapes are quite hardy, even on the high plains. Table grapes are best for fresh eating rather than for wine. Wine grapes are not usually as hardy. Table grapes need good sun exposure and well-drained soil for the best fruit The trick is growing a hardy variety such as concord, valiant, reliance himrod, or swenson red. They take a few years to get established, but live for many years and can cover a lot of trellis.

Annual Vines for the High Plains

Ipomea purpureaMorning Glory (grows 5-9’, full sun, moderate water)

Morning glories provide a great late summer show if given a proper tall trellis as they can climb up to 8 feet by the end of summer. They need full sun and lots of moisture. There are many colors from which to choose. The most treasured is the “heavenly blue” variety, which produces a sky blue color rarely seen in flowers. Sow seeds directly in the ground after the soil reaches 60 degrees.

Lathyrus odoratus – Sweet pea (grows 3-8’, full sun, moderate water)

Sweet pea is among the most fragrant of flowers in the garden. It can reach up to 5 feet in height but there are also many dwarf varieties. They need a cool, but sunny spot away from warm walls and require lots of irrigation to be happy. The flowers can be cut into bouquets or enjoyed on the vine. Seeds are best soaked overnight prior to planting. Planting can occur up to three weeks prior to the last frost. Their vigor declines as the daytime heat of summer increases.