Master Gardener: Vines Provide Vertical Accents in the Landscape

Climbing vines are highly regarded by gardeners for the versatility they bring to a landscape design. Vines can act as the primary focus of a display or be the finishing touches that tie the plantings together. They make good backdrops for garden beds by adding texture and color, as when grown on a wooden fence. The many varieties available to homeowners for purchase make vines an exciting category of plants to work with.

Privacy can be achieved quickly in a landscape when a vigorous perennial vine such as Sweet Autumn Clematis is planted on a strong structure. It will easily grow 25’ in a season and has excellent side branching that creates full coverage. A pergola support system with vines trained over the top will provide homeowners with shade and beauty. Trellis’ and arbors covered in vines offer variety to a landscape design with vertical and arching lines that can’t be achieved with other plantings.

The University of Illinois Extension has recently added a website called “Vines: Climbers and Twiners” to its Horticulture website. Greg Stack, Extension Horticulturist, authored it and recently stated, “It’s an interesting form of gardening, especially for people with less space on the ground than other homeowners. However, vines will provide an opportunity for screening, ornamentation and a layer of interest in any garden.”

“One of the most important things for the homeowner to understand when adding vines to their garden is what kind of attachment the vine has,” noted Stack. As the website explains under ‘Methods of Attachment,’ vines have varying ways of securing themselves to a support structure. “Matching the support structure and the vining structure is key. A twining plant can’t attach itself to a masonry wall.” The website breaks down the different attachment method categories and suggests what structures work best with each type.

Garden centers offer perennial vines with excellent choices in flower colors and flowering times for many growing conditions. Stack added that, “there are also quite a few annual vines which are vigorous growers that are easily started from seed. Morning Glory, Moonflower and Spanish Flag grow quickly, filling in nicely.”

To learn more about incorporating vines into your garden along with selecting and maintaining plants, visit the Extension website at

Email your home garden and lawn questions to or phone the Master Gardener Helpline at 630/955-1123. Visit our website at 

Julie Moore has been a Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Illinois Extension in DuPage County for 10 years and has a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from the University of Illinois.