Growing climbing vines or ivy over doorways, on trellises, on arbors or even on a wall is a great way to add color and texture to a shade garden. The following are a few of the easiest shade tolerant vines to grow.
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a shade tolerant, deciduous
climbing vine which can reach the height of 60’. It can also grow as a
groundcover. Virginia creeper is a vigorous vine and can grow 10’ over the
course of one growing season. Opposite from the leaves, are branched tendrils
that often terminate into flattened pads. These pads can cling to tree bark,
wooden fences, brick walls, and other rough surfaces. During the fall, the
foliage becomes colorful, varying from burgundy to brilliant scarlet. May require a
pruning more than once per season.
Zones 3 to 9
Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subspecies petiolaris), a native to Japan
and coastal China, grows well in both sun and shade. This attractive deciduous vine, boasts large (6-10” across) lace-cap like white flowers in midsummer. Its
glossy heart-shaped leaves and colorful stems are stunning a summer long. Its exfoliating bark, however, it what makes the climbing hydrangea a
plant with year-round interest. This particular variety of hydrangea produces roots on stems which hold the plant to vertical surfaces such
as stone or brick walls and trees. Though not a particularly fast grower,
climbing hydrangea can reach 50’ in height with adequate support. It can,
however, easily be pruned to fit your garden. The addition of organic matter
such as compost, aged manure or peat moss will improve plant growth.
Zones 4 to 8
Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is also a vigorous grower, though a
bit less so than the Virginia creeper. Boston ivy can tolerate partial shade
and, with support, grows to about 50’ tall. Boston Ivy climbs vertical surfaces
such as fences, trees and brick or stone walls with ease. Boston ivy produces
stems that have suckers at their tips which cling to vertical surfaces. It will
grow as a groundcover if there is nothing available to grow up. Both are
self-clinging climbing vines for shade with suction cup holdfasts. Of these two
climbers, Boston ivy is the less rampant grower, but Virginia creeper is hardier
in cold weather regions. The foliage is medium to dark green and will turn orange
in the fall. Frequent pruning is required to limit its growth.
Zones 4 to 8
Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) is a versatile, fast-growing, shade tolerant evergreen shrub/vine. It is effective when planted on a slope as a groundcover or is easily trained to grow on a trellis or wall. Wintercreeper will naturally climb up stone or brick walls. Their ivy like aerial roots attach the plant to tree trunks and other vertical surfaces. It can sprawl and scramble 50 ft or more. As a groundcover, wintercreeper forms a mound up to 2 ft tall and grows outward indefinitely. Flowers are small and insignificant, but the fruits are showy which persist well into the winter.
English ivy (Hedera helix) is an extremely vigorous (actually quite invasive) evergreen vine which grows well in the shade. Though not advisable to plant due to its invasiveness, English ivy has attractive foliage and can provide shelter for wildlife. English ivy can completely cover walls, buildings, roofs, and trees. Just as vigorous as a groundcover, English ivy grows very dense. Must be pruned frequently to control its growth.