Vines – By Mark Govan, Host “Florida Gardening”

Flowering and fruiting foliage vines can add a wonderful buffer in the landscape but if you do not know the growth habits of the vine, the flowering habits, or whether or not they may produce an edible fruit, then picking out the right vine may be difficult. Most of us just want to cover a trellis with something green but we do not want the inconvenience of perpetual trimming or maintenance that some vines demand. This week I want to touch on a few vines that I believe will add color and fragrance to your landscape without the maintenance issues I mentioned above. I also want to mention some of the vines that you should stay away from unless you are equipped to manage them.


 
          Stephanotis is a flowering vine used in many small gardens. This small slow growing vine blooms with thick gardenia scented flowers in the spring and summer. I planted one of my vines in part shade and one vine in full sun. The vine in partial sun did not grow as well as the vine in direct sun. Unfortunately, the leaves were sparse and the vine tended to grow long and spindly. The vine in the full sun did much better and produced copious amounts of flowers. If you grow this vine on a small trellis you may have to help the vine to wrap on the trellis by taking the elongated growth and twisting them into the frame of your trellis. Once the flowers emerge you can pick them and display them in the home. Their lovely scent will fill a moderate sized room for several days before you will need to replace them. This plant is a good choice for people with limited space.    

          

            Passion Vines are another good choice for medium sized arbors or even a fence line. With several varieties to choose from and multiple colors, passion vines can add beautiful colors and as a bonus, fruit. There are varieties that only flower and do not produce fruit so if you want a fruiting variety, be sure to choose the passion flower family called Passiflora edulis just to be sure you are getting a fruiting variety. I like to plant two vines, one on each side of the trellis, just to make sure you get proper pollination. Some of the improved varieties are sterile clones and need the flowering of another vine to cross-pollinate. After the flowers form, the fruit will not be far behind.

            Passion fruit start out small and green but eventually grow to the size of a tennis ball. Do not pick the fruit at this stage; rather wait until the fruit has turned yellow or light brown. This is when the pulp of the passion fruit will taste the best. Just cut the fruit in half and scoop out the pulp which surrounds the seeds. Eat the seeds and pulp together and enjoy. Some people will puncture the ripe fruit then suck out the juice and seeds together. Either way, you will enjoy this tropical delight. If you are looking for a manageable vine, do not choose the Passiflora quadriglandulosa as this vine is a rampant grower and will cover large fence lines. The fruit from this cultivar is larger than most cultivars and is very tasty but the vine will die in cool weather so only choose this cultivar if you have the room.    

            Purple Wisteria is another vine I find to be excellent in covering unsightly fences or small pergolas. Because this vine is a slow grower, you will not have to worry about it getting out of hand. If you are planting this vine on a pergola, choose several small plants from the nursery and plant one at each end to give you good coverage. Make sure you find the purple varieties which grow and flower in Central Florida. Many of the Chinese varieties will grow here and produce copious amounts of foliage but no flowers. The purple wisteria may be hard to find but I know several nursery’s that now carry this variety and they bloom regularly. Just fertilize wisteria with light applications of fertilizer every 2-3 months. Too much fertilizer can limit blooming so be careful! The photos I have below show the beautiful colors form this wonderful plant. I hope you will like it as much as I do.

             During the late summer to early fall, wisteria loses its leaves and seed pods will appear. These pods resemble legumes and you will clearly see why this is a member of the pea family. Seeds from these pods can be planted early in the spring giving you additional plants to share with friends or neighbors. I suggest that homeowners who grow wisteria to put some winter flowering plants in front of your wisteria plants to add color during the dormant season. 

            Not all vines behave themselves and grow slowly so we can manage them. There are some truly invasive vines I need to tell you about. Thunbergia grandiflora is also known as the blue skyflower. I believe this vine is called the skyflower because in about a year you will think the plant is going to reach the sky. With gorgeous blue flowers and contrasting dark green foliage, many of you may be tempted into purchasing this plant. However, before long you will have a real menace on your hands. Once planted, this vine seeks out other foliage, trees, wires, or even your house to climb up on. Do yourself a favor and leave this vine at the garden center.  


           
Two other cultivars of this plant are also available. Thunbergia fragrans is a smaller version of the plant above with fragrant white flowers. Unfortunately, they produce a seed which is spread throughout your landscape and you will work forever to rid yourself of these vines popping out of every plant on your property. The second cousin to the plant above is the Thunbergia alataor Black Eyed Susan. Some of you may have planted this plant from seed or grown this vine in a hanging basket. The yellow or orange flowers and small black throat make this plant quite attractive.

            There are many more invasive vines than there are small flowering vines but do not be discouraged. You will find one vine to suit your needs. I hope you enjoyed this article on vines and remember, withoutplants we would not be here!

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