Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS
Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Vines are useful for blocking unattractive views, for providing colorful blooms, and for attracting birds and butterflies. Many are good xeriscape plants.
Crossvine is one of the best vines for a screen. It is evergreen and forms a thick screen. Crossvine is aggressive enough to cover eight or ten feet of a six foot fence in the sun, but it does not take over the neighborhood. Crossvine has a very attractive rusty-red bloom that can cover the plant for the month of March and then has a few blooms the rest of the year. The variety ‘Tangerine Beauty’ has a more orange flower. Crossvine is a favorite hummingbird nectar source in early spring.
Butterfly vine is also evergreen and makes a good screen. It produces yellow blooms nearly all summer. The blooms are followed by green seed pods that look like butterflies. Grow butterfly vine on a fence in full sun just like crossvine.
For the shade, consider Carolina jessamine or confederate jasmine. Both have fragrant blooms in early spring. The Carolina jessamine is yellow and the confederate jasmine bloom is white. Carolina jessamine leans rather than twines or grasps so at times it may have to be tied up. Confederate jasmine is a twiny vine. Both of these vines are evergreen with shiny foliage. They are aggressive enough to form a screen, but will not usually cover more than eight feet per plant.
Queen’s crown or coral vine is making quite a show right now. The small, but numerous pink flowers (sometimes white) cover the aggressive vine. The leaves are heart-shaped. As showy as the blooms are, coral vine can become a pest because it is very drought-tolerant and can easily grow over 40 feet in a season over roofs and into trees. The only thing that saves us from being over run by coral vine is that it is very cold-sensitive. It dies back with temperatures in the mid 30’s. There is a red flowered version that is attractive and less aggressive than the pink or white blooming plants. Coral vine makes a good summer screen or ground cover. Bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies seek the blooms as a nectar source.
Trumpet creepers are also blooming now. They have large tubular red-orange flowers (Madam Galen is more orange) that are very popular with hummingbirds. Trumpet creepers are vigorous growers that can cover 30 or 40 feet. They form large grape vine like stems, but are deciduous so do not make the best screen.
Another fall blooming vine is the sky vine. It has baby blue tubular flowers that are spectacular when they cover a six to eight foot fence. Sky vine is cold-sensitive so it dies back to the roots every year like coral vine. Sky vine is not always easy to find. Jerry Parsons and the Garden Volunteers of Texas often offer it at plant sales in which they participate.
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Wisteria has beautiful lavender blooms in early spring; that is, if they bloom. Many wisteria vines get into a vegetative mode and do not seem to want to bloom. Tactics to stimulate blooming include root pruning and scarring the trunk. Root pruning is accomplished by taking a shovel and penetrating the soil to cut roots five feet around the plant base. The same effect can occur if you take a pocket knife and slice into the trunk to score the trunk. It often causes enough stress to kick the wisteria into a bloom mode.
Wisteria is a better trellis plant than a fence screen. It will grow in shade, but requires full sun for best bloom.