Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Vines

It's going to be April and time to think about the warm weather and getting your vines established into the garden.  There are a lot of vines available for Tucson gardeners.   This blog has covered Catsclaw(dependable), Algerian Ivy(tricky; but all over Tucson), Wisteria(questionable), and the Passion Vine(edible for our butterflies and a fast grower in full sun).  Of course, there are many more vines that people use around town with some being more popular than others. I have a native for our Sonoran desert along with several other exciting vines.  Before beginning this series, we need to examine the types of vines that are out there.
Morning glory twines up plant branches.

Some things we need to consider before choosing a vine are whether or not, we'd like a clinging, twining, or trained typed plant.  Vines, like other plants, come in all shapes and sizes.  Some cling to the side of buildings without support while others will spiral around string, fencing, or other structures, and some need support and training by the human hand.
This cereus nightbloomer crawls up trees like a vine.

Twining Vines. Twining vines naturally curl or spiral around anything that is close by and reasonably slender, including neighboring plants. Good choices for supports for these plants include thin pieces of wire, cord, or rope, or wooden or iron stakes or poles, and trellises.

Algerian Ivy frames these townhomes nicely in our neighborhood.

Clinging Vines. The stems of clinging vines, sometimes called holdfasts, have small tendrils with either suction disks, aerial roots, or claws that grab onto surfaces, especially those that aren’t completely smooth. Typical clinging vines include Boston ivy, Creeping Fig, and Cat's Claw. Because they cling so tenaciously, you won’t need to provide supports. However, you will need to keep an eye on them, as in the long run they can damage building materials such as wood and stucco.

Bougainvillea frames the entrances to homes at El Presidio.  Hooks, into the building,  keep these plants upright and in place.
Freestanding Vines. Some vines, such as bougainvillea, must be physically tied in place, although they may also wind their way through other plants. You can train them on a freestanding trellis or wire grid, using soft plastic ties(extremely cheap to purchase) or twine to hold the branches in place. To train freestanding vines on walls and other structures, insert eye screws into the support and tie the branches to the eye screw. Another approach is to stretch wire between eye screws and tie branches to the wires.  This approach is utilized at the El Presidio Gardens where hooks have been screwed into the building to help support our large bougainvillea. We have a lot of vines to explore and I'll share with you how they do in winter and what to expect from them in summer. Stay tuned for more from the Vine Series this next week.


  1. I have always overlooked vines, and here, few cacti that grow as vines up into trees can tolerate our cold, so seeing your site allows me to dream on that topic more!

  2. Vines can certainly add a lot to a garden. I did add a clematis last year and am hoping it grows more this year. Otherwise, I only have morning glories and gourds which are annuals. I'd never considered there could be a "vining" cactus.


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