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Saturday - September 19, 2009

From: Wynantskill, NY
Region: Select Region
Topic: Vines
Title: Attractive Native Vines to Cover a Chain Link Fence in Upstate New York
Answered by: Janice Kvale


Hello Mr. Smarty Plants. I live in Upstate NY (Albany) and my yard is bordered by an old chain link fence. I would like to cover the fence with a natural looking plant (I assume Ivy). What do you recommend I use? I am obviously looking for something that will stay year round, grow quickly, and cover thick. Most of the yard gets 1/2 day of direct sun but there are some shady spots.


The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is devoted to the preservation and cultivation of North American native plant species. Exotic species that have been introduced to the United States from elsewhere in the world may be so invasive as to wipe out native species. We also find indigenous plants less difficult to maintain in their native habitat. By ivy, I assume you mean the commonly seen English ivy, which is not a native plant. You may want to read more about its invasive nature on this Invasive Plant site.  

Luckily, there are a number of vines native to your area thriving in full or partial sun that should provide an attractive cover for your chain link fence. One of the most popular, Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle), is widely available. Its delicate orange blossoms that attract hummingbirds appear early through mid-summer. A similar appearing species, Campsis radicans (trumpet creeper) produces dense foliage and, from June through September, brilliant orange blossoms particularly attractive to hummingbirds. This is an aggressive vine that will need discouragement from inserting itself in a lawn (just mow it), climbing a near-by tree, or visiting the neighbors. However, spring pruning may increase its density on the fence, where you most want it.  Celastrus scandens (American bittersweet) is more known for its bright orange berries than its blossoms. The vines with berries attached are commonly used for fall decoration. Take care you do not purchase a commercially sold, invasive Asian exotic described at this hot link Oriental bittersweet. A form of legume,  Clitoria mariana (Atlantic pigeonwings) produces blue or pink blossoms from June through August. Clematis virginiana (devil's darning needles) has beautiful white blossoms from July to September, but keep in mind that all parts of this plant are toxic. Another popular landscape native, Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria), also has imported Asian varieties you want to avoid. The lovely fragrant purple flowers appear in May and June. One of these vines should nicely cover your chain link fence. The Federal Highway Administration also has a complete list of native plants for New York State, including vines.

Check our supplier list for a native plant nursery near you in Upstate New York. When you have your fence planting well established, send Mr. Smarty Plants a picture so we can see how it turned out!

Lonicera sempervirens

Campsis radicans

Celastrus scandens

Clitoria mariana

Clematis virginiana

Wisteria frutescens



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