Many gardeners in our area are working with limited urban or suburban space and looking for ways to add visual interest — and perhaps screen fences or exterior walls.
Vines can fill this role, provided you choose the right ones and don’t allow aggressive invaders like cat’s claw vine (Dolichandra unguis-cati) or bush killer (Cayratia japonica) to take over.
Flowering vines can add a pop of color in an under-utilized area of the yard, while attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and other garden visitors and while taking advantage of vertical space. Here are five perennial flowering vines that exhibit a “well-behaved” growth habit that do well in the New Orleans area:
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens): Thriving in Zones 6-9, coral honeysuckle is a native, wispy vine that is easily trained onto a trellis or fence with some support. The trumpet-shaped, nectar-filled blossoms are a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies. Coral honeysuckle grows to 20 feet and blooms mostly in spring and early summer, with scattered flowers year round. It prefers full sun or partial shade and moderate soil moisture. Fertilizing it will encourage growth but is not necessary in fertile soil conditions. This is an excellent vine for an archway and is easy to grow.
Clematis: A cottage garden favorite, bare root Clematis or potted starter vines are usually available at garden centers in the springtime. Big, showy blooms in many colors offer something for every gardener. Clematis prefer being planted in the shade, where they can grow upward into sunlight, so this may be the perfect option for planting behind existing garden plants and shrubs, while trellising it upward onto a fence or other area. Many varieties of cultivated Clematis grow in Zones 7-10. Some that are recommended for the Deep South include Apple Blossom, Aotearoa, Arabella, Ernest Markham, Doctor Ruppel and Rouge Cardinal, but many cultivars will thrive in our area.
American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens): Not to be confused with the aggressive Chinese and Japanese wisterias (Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda, respectively), American wisteria is a more moderate grower that provides the same type of beautiful blooms without as much risk of getting out of control. These vines grow to 20-30 feet long and can be trained to go up a tree without much fear that the vine will smother it. American wisteria also makes a beautiful pergola vine, as the flowers drape downward when it blooms. Native to Zones 5-9, it is still a vigorous growing vine and will need regular pruning and training.
Mexican Flame Vine (Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides): A native of Mexico, this sunny, orange, daisy-like blooming vine does quite well in our area of Zone 9a-11b. It will die back to the ground in a freeze but tends to return the following spring. Mexican flame vine prefers well-draining locations in full sun and will bloom profusely all year long. The vines reach 10-15 feet and can be easily trained onto a trellis, tower or fence. Butterflies, bees and other insect pollinators will visit this vine. When planting, be sure to fertilize periodically to get it established. Once it is off and growing, little care other than the occasional trim and cutting it back after frost is needed. Mexican flame vine is somewhat invasive in warmer climates to the south of us but is well-behaved in New Orleans. Add one to your butterfly garden this year.
Passionflower (Passiflora species and hybrids): There are several native passionflowers in our area (P. incarnata, P. lutea) as well as many tropical and hybrid cultivars available at local nurseries. Most of them will produce edible “maypops” when cross-pollinated. Passionflower vines reach lengths of 25-30 feet and are extremely well behaved. You can train them onto just about anything. They seem to prefer shaded roots and areas where they can grow into the sunlight. Flowers bloom all spring and summer long for most varieties, with the edible fruit forming in the fall. Passionflowers also are the host plant for the Gulf Coast Fritillary butterfly, so be sure to plant enough to share. Many of the tropical cultivars are not cold hardy and may not return after a frost. Passionflowers typically come in shades of blue and purple, with white, red, green, mauve, yellow or cream colored flowers also available.
Adding color to your garden can be as simple as incorporating some of these flowering vines to the landscape. Utilize some unused vertical space this spring and create a living screen of color and visual interest.
I have a large collection of bromeliads that I have accumulated in my yard, but I’m concerned they have become a breeding ground for mosquitos. The cups of each one seem to be swarming with larvae. Help! How do I control the mosquitos without killing my collection? — Marie
Hi, Marie, mosquitos will successfully breed in as little as a tablespoon of water. There are several things you can do to prevent them from completing their life cycle in your bromeliads. First, try flushing each one out with clean water regularly when you notice larvae. This has to happen a few times a week to work. You can do this with a hose, but if you have a lot of plants, you may want to try a different system. Treating the water inside the bromeliads with a BT insecticide (made from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis), which is organic, can work well. This product is available at all garden centers, and the granular form can work well in this situation. Just sprinkle some inside each bromeliad cup. An insect growth-regulating hormone called Methoprene can also be purchased as a granule and applied to each bromeliad cup. This prevents the larvae from maturing, effectively killing them without harming your plants, yourself or pets. — Anna Timmerman
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