GARDENING: Vines Make for A Colorful Landscape

Benge-Frost is the certified CEA-Horticulturist with the Texas Cooperative Extension and serves Ector and Midland Counties

Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

Many vines have been great summer survivors despite the past twelve months of weather extremes. While the following list is all annuals or tender tropicals, they are all worthy of consideration for local landscapes because of their unique beauty and tenacity.

If you like blue, this fall bloomer sports big blue or lavender three inch diameter flowers. This big beauty is called Blue Sky Vine or Bengal Clock Vine (Thunbergia grandiflora), related to its smaller, yellow and black cousin, Black Eyed Susan vine (T. alata). Sky blue vine is a tender perennial in our climate and survives best if protected with a hefty layer of mulch before the first hard freeze. It survived last winter, so it may be a little tougher than the literature says. This large growing vine has medium to large size leaves and needs something big and sturdy to grow on. Because it dies to the ground in winter, the flowers don’t show up until fall but they are very beautiful when they arrive. Find this plant in mail order suppliers. The literature also says to keep the soil evenly moist, but how could that have happened this year? The winter nor the summer seems to have affected our trial vine one tiny bit…it is prettier than ever.

Another blue beauty is double flowering butterfly pea vine (Clitoria ternatea) a tender tropical that is best grown as an annual. The flower color ranges from deep cobalt blue to blue-violet. The leaves are a beautiful dark to medium green and compound. The vine climbs by twining stems that grow to a modest 10 to 12 feet. The flowers grow all summer and fall and set lots of seeds. The deep blue color doesn’t always come back true from seeds, so some growers offer a cutting grown clone to maintain the deep blue color. This easy and fuss-free vine is a must have plant for the blue flower collector.

Yellow Butterfly Vine (Mascagnia macroptera or Stigmaphyllon ciliatum ) is a Zone 8 plant but survives our Zone 7b climate with just a little additional mulch or warm exposure. It has outstanding heat tolerance and is happy in hot, sunny exposures. The tops generally die to the ground in winter so this delays blooms until late summer or fall. The leaves are attractive and dark green and the stems climb by twining. The vine is well behaved size growing to about 10 to 12 feet. The one inch wide flowers are a bright yellow and grow in clusters. Following flowering, the cool seedpods appear as soft green butterfly shapes which eventually turn a burnished brown. This vine gets by on very little care and is fun to grow.

Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is another Zone 8 plant but a hot exposure and a protective layer of mulch must be applied before the first hard freeze will help this plant overwinter. Coral vine is a big, vigorous grower so give it something large to grow on like an arbor or fence. While it has delicate stems, leaves and flower clusters, you’ll want to keep it pruned off your other plants. Coral vine blooms late summer through October with beautiful delicate clusters of pink flowers. There are some selections with red and white flowers. Plant Coral vine as soon as you can find the plants in the spring or early summer in a location that is hot and full sun. It has good drought tolerance once it is established. It is a magnet for bees and butterflies.

Take advantage of the vertical spaces in your garden by trying some of these vines….next spring.

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