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Sunday - June 05, 2011

From: Brooklyn, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Fast-growing vine for shade in Brooklyn
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am looking for a flowering vine that is fast growing and will be able to flower this season if I plant it within next couple weeks (in June) here in Brooklyn. I want something that will grow up a piece of twine (tied tightly) or if need be I can install a guide wire alongside an old brick wall. The spot gets a lot of sun from about 11am to 3pm. The base of the plant would be located behind a row of evergreen hedge (area behind hedge is about 3 feet wide 3 ft deep and 5 ft high), and the wall extends up to 25 ft high. So the base would be shaded about half the time that the part of the vine higher than 5' would be getting full sun. I can either plant in the ground or in a container, depending on what will work best for the plant. I know nothing about the ground soil as I am new to this space. I am looking for pretty flowers that bloom for a longish time, and/or a fragrant bloom that once gone will leave visual interest. Prefer perennial but if annual is the only way to get something flowering this season I will prefer that. Fast growing is a must. Prefer something that won't stray too wide (not more than about 5ft from wire if at all). So far I've come up with red trumpet honeysuckle vine as a possibility, but I cannot tell if the simple twine/wire support will be enough. Suggestions? Thank you very much,


We hate to disappoint gardeners, but sometimes the garden in their heads gets in the way of the garden that's possible.  We have been delaying answering your question because it seemed so complex, but it really isn't. If we may, we want to condense your question into some specific areas we can address one at a time.

1. You want a vine that will grow in what we consider sun (6 hours or more of sun a day) to part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun).

2. You want something that will bloom quickly and profusely, possibly for a summer event?

3. You want something that will grow up (and we assume, beautify,) a very tall wall.

4. The question that you did not ask, but which we always do is: What plants will grow in your USDA Hardiness Zone of 5b?

We have to begin with the fourth question first, because the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. The Hardiness Zone is important because many plants you might be able to purchase will be native farther south or even be tropicals or sub-tropicals. Unless you want to plant a new plant every year, you are going to have to find something that will survive your winters. It might die back to the ground, in any case, but if it will come back up from the roots, it will persist. We will go to our Native Plant Database and do a Combination Search on New York, selecting on "vine" under General Appearance,  "sun," or  "part shade" on Light Requirement and "perennial" under Duration. We are happy to say the results gave us 24 vines to choose from, so we are going to list the likeliest candidates for your space. Be sure and follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant, as well as extra links we may give you, to learn the growing needs of that plant.

Aristolochia tomentosa (Common dutchmanspipe) - blooms yellow, purple, green March to May, attracts butterflies. More information.

Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) - blooms red, orange, yellow June to September, attracts hummingbirds. Can be invasive in the South, but your winters will probably control it.

Decumaria barbara (Decumaria) - blooms white May to October, climbs by rootlets

Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) - blooms red, yellow March to June, attracts birds, hummingbirds, butterflies

Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria) - blooms white, pink, blue, purple, violet May and June, attracts butterflies

Of these, the Dutchman's Pipe will have already finished its blooming for this year and the Coral Honeysuckle will be nearly done, while the Trumpet Creeper and Decumaria will bloom into early Fall.

So, we answered No. 1 with a "yes" on fast-growing vines that will bloom in the summer, but only a "maybe" on their blooming this summer.

Question 2, we have to say "questionable." Your best chance to get something attractive and blooming is to buy a good-sized container of the selected plant. We have seen vines sold that were already trained up mini-trellises and were blooming. Your best bet with that is to leave it in the container, which will give it some additional height, and the container will probably be hidden by the shrubs in front of the wall. Then, in  the Fall, when the vines are about to go dormant anyway, it can be moved into the soil, and you can make whatever arrangements will be necessary for the chosen plant to climb up the wall when it begins to grow again next year.

If you read all of the information on each webpage, you will see that they all will climb as high as your wall. Some of them are twining and some have "stick-tights" that will hold them to the wall. You need to factor that into your decision-which growing technique can you work with in your space?

From Our Native Plant Database:

Aristolochia tomentosa

Campsis radicans

Decumaria barbara

Lonicera sempervirens

Wisteria frutescens




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