Top 5: Annual Vines

Most annual vines can be started by seed four to six weeks before the last frost, but I like to buy them in 4- inch pots or larger; pre-started in the greenhouse.

There are many annual vines that do well on the prairies.  We are all familiar with the ‘usual suspects’ such as sweet peas, scarlet runner bean and morning glories.   This spring broaden your horizons when it comes to planting annual vines.  Try something new on that arbor, trellis or chain link fence!  Plant two different vines beside each other or add one to that large planter recipe as a feature plant on an obelisk or grapevine support.   Some annual vines can even be used as groundcover or over rocks and rock walls.  A flowering vine cascading down the rocks beside a pond’s waterfall is a beautiful addition to your landscape.

Most annual vines can be started by seed four to six weeks before the last frost, but I like to buy them in 4- inch pots or larger; pre-started in the greenhouse.

Here are the top 5 ‘not-so-usual annual vine suspects’ that will give your garden (and you!) a visual lift this spring and summer.

5 - Black-eyed Susan Vine - (Thunbergia alata)

Black-eyed Susan vine is the perfect vine for containers, short vertical accents and hanging baskets.

In our climate the vine will usually reach a mature height of 3 ft. in a container and sometimes longer if planted as a groundcover.  The spread can reach 2 ft. or more in a long warm season.

Thunbergia leaves are elongated and heart shaped.  The blooms are tubular, 5 petaled and come in various colors of orange, yellow, white, and pink with very dark centers.  If root or pot bound, they will bloom profusely from June to the first frost.  A bonus is that they do not need to be dead headed!

You can get a head start on the season by starting seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the first frost.  Soak the seeds for two days before planting.  Use peat pots to avoid disturbing the roots when repotting.   Plant the seedlings peat pot and all.

The containers or planters you use should have excellent drainage.  To reduce pot/soil weight, just cover the drainage holes with coffee filters.

Amend a quality planter box mix with compost to create a rich soil.   Mix in a pelleted slow-release fertilizer for flowering plants.   A good quality planter box soil will contain some fertilizer but a small handful of slow-release fertilizer in the mix will not hurt. 

Thunbergia will do well in part- shade to full sun (6 hours plus per day). If you are planting   them as a ground or rock cover, mulch the soil around the root system immediately after planting to keep the roots cool and moist.  An excellent mulch is compost which provides protection and nutrients.

If you your soil mix does not contain a fertilizer, feed once a month with an all-purpose flowering plant fertilizer at half the recommended strength. 

Thunbergia are often used as a central focal point in large containers on a short trellis or climbing an obelisk.  The orange and yellow varieties look especially striking with other annuals that are purple, blue or red.    

I have never tried this, but apparently you can bring them inside for the winter, put them in lots of sun and keep the room temps above 16 degrees C.  Keep in mind that you may be bringing unwanted insects into your home as well.

Black-eyed Susan Vine is non-toxic.  It attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.


4 - Canary Creeper (Canary Bird Vine) - Tropaeolum peregrinum

Picture:  Mr. Fothergills seeds .co.uk

Canary Creeper was first found on the Canary Islands.  The yellow flowers resemble a yellow bird in flight. The deeply divided leaves give the vine a lacy look.  This is another vine that looks great with pink, purple, blue or red companion plants. The Canary Creeper blooms from mid-summer into fall. 

In previous years, I have grown this annual vine on a trellis attached to a fence.  I direct sowed it into the soil below the trellis.  It grew quite fast, climbing up the six- foot fence and went over the other side (much to my neighbor’s delight!).  Before planting, soak seeds overnight in water.  Water black-eyed susan vine regularly throughout the season.

I would try this vine by itself in a hanging basket (12 in diameter or larger) .   It is more than likely to climb up the hanger supports as well as hang down.  It is especially effective planted along a chain-link fence, providing good coverage.  If you are planting a row along a chain link fence, thin the plants out to one foot apart when they are approximately 5 inches tall. 

All parts of the Canary Creeper Vine are edible.  Flowers, leaves and seeds have a distinct tangy flavor.

This plant is a relative of the nastursium so the soil requirements are much the same.  The soil does not have to be rich at all.  In fact, the poorer the soil the better.  If you use a rich soil or fertilize you will have more leaves than flowers.  Do not fertilize. 

3 - Moonflower - Ipomoea alba

Moonflower is a large-leafed annual vine that produces large white beautiful blooms that open at dusk and only bloom through the night.   The blooms are highly fragrant so plant this vine in a large container on your deck or under the kitchen window.  The blooms only last one night, then are gone.  People often plant this vine with morning glories which are in the same genus (Ipomoea).  Morning glories only open during the day so make the ideal companion plant for the evening blooming moonflower.  Cardinal climber vine also looks great planted alongside the moonflower vine.

Moonflower is a twining vine that can rapidly grow from 10 to 20 feet in a season in a sunny location. Provide it a good quality, moist, well-drained soil.  Amend the planting soil with compost.    It needs 6 hours plus sun per day. Fertilizer is not necessary as it produces more leaves than blooms.

Moonflower vine can be started in peat pots indoors about four weeks before the last frost in your area.  Use peat pots as moonflower does not like root disturbance when replanting.

Soak the seed in water for a day before planting indoors or out.  You can also scarify the seed with a nail clipper. 

When the danger of frost is past, harden off your moon vine seedlings for a week before planting outdoors.

If planting into a container, make sure the pot is a large one as moonflower can become quite heavy and tall.  The trellis or arbor should be strong and secure. 

Dead-head  the spent flower as this plant self-seeds readily.  All parts of this plant are toxic, including the seeds.  

2 - Cardinal Climber - (Ipomola x multifida)

Cardinal Climber is a hybrid annual vine that is highly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.  It blooms all summer long in a full sun location.  The red tubular flowers are full of nectar and do not need deadheading!  The leaves are very lacy and fern-like. 

It does not form a solid wall on a trellis but a fine, lacy partial screen. 

As with the previous vines, it can be used on chain-link fences, arbors, gazebos and trellis.  It is very good at climbing on its own and can reach heights of 6 to 12 feet with a 9-12 inch spread.  It is often planted with shorter annuals in a large planter with a background trellis.

While best directly planted, Cardinal climber vine can be started inside about four weeks before the last frost date.  I would not start this vine too early. It can become entangled with other pre-started plants.  Err on the side of better started late than never. 

Whether planting inside or out, you will need to scarify each seed and soak in warm water for 24 hours before planting.  

Use 4-inch peat pots as this vine does not like having its roots being disturbed.  The seed is extremely toxic to humans and pets so store any seed securely.

Cardinal climber is not particular as to soil.  In a container planting though I would still use planter box mix.  It grows best with regular deep watering as it does not like prolonged periods of dryness.   Lightly fertilize once a month with half strength all-purpose flowering plant fertilizer.  Cardinal Climber is toxic to humans and pets.

1 - Potato Vine - (Ipomoea batatas)

Potato vine is known for its colorful foliage and varying leaf shapes.  Over the recent years, new leaf colors have been introduced.  They can be a bright chartreuse, gold, bronze, brown, red, purple, or nearly black.  Some are even mottled in appearance!   It is a vigorous, fast growing vine if placed in a full sun location (at least 6 hours per day) where it can get lots of heat.  The larger varieties can reach up to 10 ft. long and approximately 3 ft. wide.  Mature height and spread vary with each variety - check the plant pot tags!  They are grown in hanging baskets, large containers as a ‘spiller’ plant, window boxes and trained up trellis and obelisks.  The flowers are insignificant and are small, pink and trumpet shaped. Potato vine are sporadic in setting seed. 

Potato Vine is usually sold as a 4- inch pot annual and by itself in hanging baskets.  Keep in mind that the larger varieties may overtake the other plants in a mixed basket. 

Repot Sweet Potato Vine in a rich potting soil and mix in some slow-release fertilizer before planting.  If you use a water- soluble fertilizer such as 20-20-20; apply once per month beginning about two weeks after planting. 

The main stem of the potato vine is delicate so take care when repotting.  Gently loosen the roots and position the root ball at the same level as in its original container. Cover with new soil and water well.

During the growing season keep the plants moist but never soggy.  Do not let them dry out.

Be diligent about checking hanging baskets as they can go from wet to dry very quickly. 

Potato vine is deer and rabbit resistant.  Pair them with sun tolerant coleus to create a striking display of foliage and texture. 

When you are cleaning out your pots in fall, you may notice tubers in the soil.  These tubers can be cleaned off and stored in a cool, dry location in your home over the winter.   Place the tubers in dry vermiculite or dry peat moss. They should not touch each other.  When they begin to sprout in spring you can plant the whole tuber or cut the tuber into pieces. Each piece must have an ‘eye’ or sprout.  Allow any cut pieces to scab over before planting by leaving them out to dry for two days or three days.

You can also bring sweet potato vine in for the winter and treat as a houseplant.  I tend to shy away from doing this as it may also bring in bugs.  You can replant the tubers in new soil after cleaning them off.  Use a new pot with new soil and grow indoors in a sunny spot over the winter as well.

Finally, you can take 10 in. cuttings from your sweet potato vines in the fall before the first frost.  Wash the cuttings off, strip off the lower leaves and place in a vase filled with warm water. Remove any remaining leaves that are in the water.   Change the water often.  After roots form, you can pot the cuttings up and put them in a sunny window.  Do not fertilize in the winter.  Resume fertilization when you see new growth in the spring. 

Sweet potato vine is toxic to dogs and cats. 

This blog is for educational purposes only.  Seed and plant inventory at Floral Acres may vary from day to day during the spring season. 

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