Unfortunately for gardeners in more intemperate climates, most interesting vines are annuals, tropical or completely invasive. If you are on a search for vines that will remain robust perennials in your zone, here are 10 hardy vines you should know.
Arctic Kiwi is a hardy vine most gardeners have never heard of. It is best known for its large pink and white variegated leaves and is hardy to zone 3. This beauty will grow in many different situations from full sun to partial shade, fertile soil to dry, clay soil. Arctic Kiwi grows best on a lattice, trellis or fence and can reach over 10 feet tall.
Arctic Kiwis can also set tasty fruit, similar to the common kiwi only small and purportedly sweeter. However, Arctic Kiwis are dioecious, meaning that a male and female plant have to planted in close proximity in order to set fruit/seed. The stunning variegation shows up best in male plants and mostly in more mature leaves on plants that are several years old.
5-leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata)
Talk about a vigorous and hardy vine! Five-leaf Akebia, also known as chocolate vine, will cover whatever structure you put it on and can grow up to 40 feet. Just like the name implies, the leaves are 5-lobed and resemble miniature hands. In late spring, you can sometimes spot inconspicuous dark purple blooms that waft a spicy fragrance into the air. This deciduous vine can also be used as a ground cover and is hardy to zone 4. It will tolerate many different soils, but needs full sun to make the best show. The woody stems need to be cut back throughout the season and in the fall to keep a lush plant .
Golden Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Prized for its lime green foliage, Golden Hops Vine is a favorite for northern gardeners. Golden Hops Vine has sticky stems and maple-like leaves which grow and cover fences and structures quickly. Hardy to zone 4, it blooms inconspicuous white flowers in mid-summer followed by chartreuse whimsical, papery hops. Golden Hops requires full to partial sun and will grow best in moderately moist, fertile soil, though tolerates poorer soils. For more historical and colloquial information, visit this site on Golden Hops Vine.
Climbing Hydrangea is a beauty worth seeking out and waiting for. Though it is slower to establish than others on this list, Climbing Hydrangea is treasured for its fragrant, lacy, white bloom clusters which appear in mid summer and will grow vigorously once well-established. Even when not in bloom, the plant's glossy, heart-shaped leaves and shedding bark make is a stunner all year round.
Climbing Hydrangea does best when planted near and allowed to climb brick walls, tall trees or other sturdy structures because it attaches using aerial roots. It will do best in partial to full sun and is hardy to Zone 4.
Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Coral honeysuckle is a vigorous, deciduous vine that is hardy to zone 5. Once established, this vine doesn't need much water and can tolerate very poor soils and full sun. Because of its red trumpet-shaped blooms, Coral honeysuckle is a favorite of hummingbirds.
Other great non-invasive Honeysuckles include 'Gold Flame' Honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii) and Brown's Honeysuckle (Lonicera x brownii).
Poor Man's Ginseng (Codonopsis pilosula)
Poor Man's Ginseng is a perennial vine native to Asia. This hardy, twining vine prefers moist, loamy soil and full to partial sun. It is hardy to Zone 4 and flowers throughout the summer .
Poor Man's Ginseng is also used as an herbal remedy asthma, lethargy, and cough among other ailments . (*Please talk to your doctor before using any herbal remedies, these sources have not been checked for medical accuracy.)
For a productive and interesting hardy vine, why not give grapes a try? They are very easy to grow and can flourish in average, well draining soil. Grapes need full sun and most varieties are hardy to zone 4. Grape vines climb using tendrils which attack to trellises or arbors easily. The woody stems need a sturdy, permanent structure to climb on as grape vines are very long lived. You can find grapes in varieties meant for eating raw, making wine, or drying as raisins. Color varieties come in white, purple, blue, red, black, and green .
Cream Pea Vine (Lathyrus ochroleucus)
Also known as Common Vetchling, this beautiful vine is often found wild in woodland areas and is native to most of Canada and the northern U.S. It is a slender, climber perennial with common pea-like leaves and stems. The white blooms consist of 5-10 flowers per raceme which appear in mid summer.
Wisterias are a classic choice if you are searching for a very hardy vine. There are all sorts of rumors swirling about Wisteria: they're invasive, they are impossible to make bloom, they are impossible to make grow, etc. Depending on your climate and the particular place you put a Wisteria, any or all of these rumors could be true. Whether you love them or hate them, Wisterias can be a beautiful addition to your perennial garden. Keep in mind that there are 3 different kinds of Wisteria, each with its own merits and visual qualities.
Wisterias need a very strong support, whether it is an arbor, trellis, or wooden swing. They are vigorous growers and their arching stems can grow several feet each season. It will take a Wisteria many years to bloom if grown from seed, so starting out with a grafted or vegetatively propagated plant will give you a jump start. Wisterias prefer well-drained acid soil and once established, don't need much extra water in the summer months. No matter which Wisteria you choose, you'll surely be adding a beautiful and romantic spot in your garden.
A favorite among perennial vines, clematis offer a wide range of colors and growing habits. Most clematis are hardy to zone 3, making them a beautiful and resilient vine for difficult climates. Clematis can be intimidating because of the different pruning groups and sometimes picky growing conditions. However, they are actually much easier to keep than most people think. You just have to know a few certain tricks. Give them shaded roots and obey the rules of their individual pruning groups and you will have a flourishing, floriferous vine. Check out these articles for further information on pruning groups and cultivars.
Don't be discouraged by cold, ruthless winters. There are plenty of beautiful vines out there that you can grow in colder climates. We don't end up sacrificing attractiveness or interesting foliage on account of hardiness. Dig in!
I garden in beautiful Colorado Springs, half a mile from Garden of the Gods. Since we bought our first house two years ago, I have been busy revamping my 1/4 acre of ignored decomposed granite.
My garden passions include water gardening, vines, super-hardy perennials, and native xerics. By day, I am a high school ceramics teacher as well as a ceramicist and painter.