Gardeners who have limited space can maximize their plant palette by “growing up”—that is, using trellises, obelisks, arches, walls, fences, and various other supports for growing climbing plants. It’s easy to find vines and roses that bloom in the sun, but what about flowering vines for shade?
First, let’s define “shade”. It does not mean “in the dark”—a condition found in heavily forested woodlands. When we talk about plants that tolerate or thrive in a shady location, we’re referring to “open shade”, an area with no direct sun but consistent bright light, “dappled shade”, an area that experiences some sun through an overhead canopy of leaves, or “part shade”, an area that receives 1-3 hours of direct sun a day.
To maximize space in a shady area, here are three uncommon vines that will make you the envy of all your gardening friends:
Dactylicapnos (syn. Dicentra) scandens—climbing bleeding heart vine: Native to the Himalayas, the clusters of charming, clear-yellow, heart-shaped flowers adorn this vigorous vine all summer long. An added attraction is the finely dissected fern-like foliage. It climbs 10’-15’ high and 2’ wide and is hardy in zones 6-9. This lovely vine likes cool well-draining soil and grows in half-day sun to light shade.
Aristolochia sempervirens—Dutchman’s pipe: Plant this quirky little evergreen vine from the Mediterranean in sun to shade where you can frequently view it “up close and personal”. It’s impossible not to smile when you look at the unique 1” curved flowers that are like miniature Sherlock Holmes pipes. They are a burnished pale flesh on the outside accented by thin reddish lines. The flared pipe bowl is a perky yellow with faint lines in the back of the throat. You can plant it in a container to climb up a trellis or let it spill attractively over the sides. It blooms all summer in sun or shade, grows to 15’ high, and is hardy in zones 8-10.
Aconitum episcopale—climbing Monkshood: What could be better than copious clusters of large, deeply saturated lavender-blue hooded flowers in August through October? Plant this twining, vigorous vine in sun or shade on a trellis or let it romp through neighboring plants knitting the garden together. For major “wow” factor, let it grow through plants with chartreuse foliage such as Hydrangea ‘Little Honey’ or Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis Aurea’ (Golden Hinoki Cypress). Native to China, this vine has deeply dissected foliage, grows to 15’ high, and is hardy to zone 5.
Expand your shade garden by “growing up” with one of these beautiful, easy to grow vines—or better yet, try all three!