Annual Vines For Shade: Learn About Shade Tolerant Annual Vines
By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Annual vines in the landscape allow for fast foliage and quick color as they soften fences and liven up boring blank walls. A row of climbing annuals for shady gardens can block an unpleasant view, whether it be in your own yard or your neighbors.
Shade tolerant annual vines grow in several types with a variety of bountiful blooms. Coordinate them with other flowers in your landscape to quickly improve your curb appeal. As annual plants complete their lifespan within the same year, we don’t have to wait until next year for blooms as we must with many perennials.
Some of the vines are warm season perennials but grow as annuals because of locations where they won’t survive the winter.
Annual Vines for Shade in the Afternoon
While many annual vines are shade tolerant, the best situation for many of them is to grow in a few hours of morning sun with afternoon shade. This is especially true when growing these vines in the southern part of the country. Hot afternoon sun will sometimes burn the foliage and cause some plants to perform poorly.
Dappled shade, with some sun reaching the plants, is ideal for some specimens. Whatever the sun and shade situation in your landscape, there is likely an annual vine that will thrive and help beautify the area. Some of these include:
- Canary Creeper: Long lasting yellow blooms begin in spring and last through the summer. The flowers look like canary wings; however, the common name results from its discovery on the Canary Islands. These expand through the season and possibly climb to a height of 10 feet (3 m.). Adequate water helps promote growth, adding colorful height and texture to your garden. The delicate vine of canary creeper is related to the nasturtium.
- Black-Eyed Susan Vine: Like the flower of the same name, this vine has golden yellow petals and brown centers. This rapidly growing shade tolerant annual vine needs a cooler location in the garden to protect it from summer heat. Growing to 8 feet (2.4 m.), well-draining soil and regular water help blooms continue through summer. Black-eyed Susan vine is great in a hanging basket too.
- Sweet Pea: Sweet pea is a delicate flower that blooms in cooler weather. Some varieties are fragrant. Plant in dappled sun or light shade to make the blooms last longer, as they often decline in summer’s heat.
- Cypress Vine: A favorite shade tolerant annual vine, cypress vine is related to the morning glory. Frilly foliage is especially attractive, as are the red blooms that attract hummingbirds. Watch them flock to the bountiful blooms before they die back from frost.
- Hyacinth Bean Vine: This plant is an unusual vine. In addition to colorful green or purple foliage and brilliant pink and white blooms, hyacinth bean produces purple bean pods appear after flowers fade. Careful, though, as beans are poisonous. Keep them away from curious children and pets.
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10 Best Annual Flowering Vines for Your Garden
Yukari Ochiai / amana images / Getty Images
Flowering vines add height to a garden, act as filler plants, and can bloom for months in most growing zones. While it takes time for most perennial vines to become established and flower, that's not a problem with annual vines. Many spring-planted annual vines start flowering by midsummer and continue right until frost. But despite their advantages, many gardeners don't think to use annual vines. Even garden centers tend to downplay them because the vines can become a tangled mess in stores. But these plants are easy and inexpensive to start from seed, and they require little maintenance for the beauty they provide.
Here are the 10 best flowering vines for your garden.
3 | Native Climbing Hydrangea or Woodvamp (Hydrangea barbara)
Native climbing Hydrangea by Ciftonia (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Zones: 5 to 10
Light: Part shade to shade
Bloom Time: Summer
Height: 30′ to 40′
Spread: 30′ to 40′
Are you sensing a trend here? The different versions of Climbing Hydrangeas are very popular shade vines!
This climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea barbara, previously known as Decumaria barbara), also known as Woodvamp, is native to the Southeastern United States and is another beautiful flowering vine for the shade.
Its flowers are not as large as the cultivated climbing hydrangeas but they still put on a show. And the butterflies love it!
However, it will only bloom when climbing, so don’t use it as a groundcover if you want it to produce flowers.
Brighten up tricky shaded areas in the garden with these spring-flowering plants
Take a tip from nature and use these four beautiful flowers to add some colour under trees
Make way anemones! Move aside ye brightening primulas! Even, dare I say it, move aside bluebells (heresy!): spring cometh to the wood in shades yet more beautiful.
Last year, in an act of general horticultural enquiry, I trialled a number of early-flowering perennials in pots within the Garden Museum’s courtyard, interested to explore attractive alternatives to spring’s usual suspects.
The enquiry was inspired in equal measure by two jaunts I’d taken the previous year hiking a European beech forest underlit by curious petals, and a tramp through Beth Chatto’s woodland garden, which visitors explore during the early part of the year as a glittering cavern of strange jewels.
The majority of my guinea-pig plants were therefore almost all forest fancies, dwellers of the damp understorey with flowers that have evolved to shine in that rejuvenating window between the last frosts and the unfurling canopy above: dicentra, vancouveria and maianthemum cardamines and corydalis.
I chose the shady end of the courtyard overhung by a dark mulberry, perching pots atop the even platform of an elevated ledger-stone for its uniform background grey.
To maintain impartiality, plants were potted into the unassuming terracotta of three- and four-litre “long tom” containers, mixing woodchip into the potting mix for improved water retention. Loosely gathered and let be, my artificial woodland would soon awaken.
First to impress was pink, tubular Corydalis solida, which I have written about in this column before an early-rising and electric species among the many varieties of fumewort.
This was followed by graceful, arching cream-white blooms belonging to Dicentra formosa ‘Aurora’, a fern-leafed ‘bleeding heart’ faintly blushing at the flower tip. Both being members of the poppy family, the foliage offered as much interest as the flowers: airy, tiered and with a glaucous tint.
Yet another welcome surprise was Vancouveria hexandra, a Pacific Northwestener named after Captain George Vancouver of HMS Discovery, who gained his namesake navigating up the Georgia Strait in the late 18th century.
He is buried close to a garden I once maintained, and I used to pass his grave on lunch breaks in the quiet churchyard at Petersham, Richmond (a stone’s throw from Petersham Nurseries – also a lunchtime haunt), and wonder how so accomplished an adventurer landed such a diminutive grave.
Diminutive might also describe Vancouveria hexandra, although this would be playing the plant down. Its squared-off, ivy-like leaves are enchanting for a start by mid April last year they were spreading low and feathery, rivalling the fronds of maidenhair fern for daintiness and almost any epimedium – its better known Berberidaceae cousin – for freshness of spring foliage (picture the floaty leaves of a horizontal thalictrum).
The flowers, too, are understated yet captivating: sprays of white stars with petals acutely reflexed, much like an erythronium or cyclamen, leading to the common name “inside-out flower”.
Grown en masse, I can well imagine, these flowers collect into a fantastic ground-cover foam, in addition to providing an effective weed suppressant.
All plants mentioned are united in their foolhardy constitution and shade tolerance. They suit deep pots – particularly beneath sheltering deciduous shrubs like a compact viburnum, hydrangea or Philadelphus coronarius – equally well as a damp and dappled corner of the garden.
But the very best among last year’s trialled woodlanders, offering height, foliage, poise and colour, was a new shady favourite: Uvularia grandiflora, or ‘merrybells’ as it is referred to throughout its native eastern North America.
With slender stems and soft, willowy leaves texturally reminiscent of Solomon’s seal, uvularias dangle delicate handkerchiefs of luminous yellow petals that look, quite simply, like nothing else. The drooping habit is mirrored in the foliage to present a fountain paused in motion, and in a few weeks’ time their moment will come again – I cannot wait.
Proven victorious in their “clinical” setting, the uvularias have now graduated to the field, elevated in stature to a prestigious spot within the courtyard planting itself.
The spot, as it happens, lies in the shadow of another renowned, somewhat tempestuous seafarer, Captain William Bligh of HMS Bounty fame, who is entombed within the garden (occupying a far grander grave than Vancouver’s, it might be noted). I added five more clumps to this patch, forming a scattered little group for better effect.
For those of the belief that yellow in the garden belongs solely with the daffodils, there is a paler variety of U. grandiflora softened to a hue more akin to ivory.
U. grandiflora var. pallida is almost as widely available as the truer form, although, having grown both side by side, in my view the former is slightly lacking – the prominent contrast of sunny yellow on gentle green is what makes merrybells so striking.
Lighter still is the species U. sessilifolia, whose elongated cream-white petals remain bound like an upturned tulip, rather than freely splayed. At around six inches tall it is half the height of the grandifloras, but worth tracking down if woodland curiosities are your thing (I’d be interested to hear if any readers have tried growing it, or better yet, would part with a small clump…).
I wouldn’t have imagined last year, as our uvularias opened to a museum emptied of visitors, that their performance would go unsung for a second spring.
Under the guidance for lockdown liftings set out by the government in February, it seems museums and non-commercial galleries – where social distancing is arguably as easily maintained as in gyms and retail outlets – must remain shut a while longer.
International travel, of course, also remains off the cards: no spiriting away to those fabulous European beech woods where wild aquilegias, tall white helleborine orchids and, as I encountered beside a little subalpine Italian stream, bright and big-leafed cardamines crouch.
Instead, I will make do with bringing these plants to the garden, emulating, with plenty of organic matter and a mulching of woodchip, conditions befitting their arboreal heritage.
Now is the time to buy these plants – while they are “in the green”. Once flowered, woodlanders will very often vanish below ground, dormant without trace until the following spring. This is in fact one of their signature charms, and allows later-flowering plants to share the space.
A final floral surprise of 2020 was a plant neither potted nor planted. It showed up unannounced in the museum’s front garden, running lilac pink between the ledgers and ferns. To my delight the runner was a cardamine – a rogue bittercress or ‘cuckoo flower’, Cardamine quinquefolia. So many mysterious blooms stalk our garden, a former medieval churchyard, that I tend not to query their arrival much.
Four-petalled, like mustard, these flowers remained for close to a month, each stem opening florets in a procession towards its centre. Serendipitous though the cardamine might have been, I’m counting it among the trial’s successes – if you’re looking to lighten deepest shade, this one is a winner.
Of course, I wouldn’t really pit merrybells, the fern-leaf bleeding heart or even cuckoo flower against the noble bluebell, but, to rephrase the nursery rhyme, if I’m going down to the woods (one day), I want to be sure of a big surprise.