We would like to plant an evergreen climbing vine up the side and top of our south-facing front porch that gets full sun most of the day. Ideally we would love something that has a flower and stays green all winter. I have been looking at some of the evergreen clematis varieties but are not sure if they will survive the winter or hold their leaves? Are there any other vine options you would recommend? We are on the west side of Toronto close to High Park and have sandy soil.
Hello – I’ve been looking at two lists of vines in order to come up with a short list for you to consider. Links to both lists are included below. The first is a list of climbing vines from Landscape Ontario, the professional association for the horticultural trades in Ontario. Their web site contains lots of good gardening information for home owners. The second, called ‘Growing Vertical with Native Vines’ is from the Wild Seed Project, a non-profit organization in Maine that collects and sells wild seed to encourage native plant conservation and horticulture.
First, some disappointing information. Of the 24 vines in the Landscape Ontario list only one, English Ivy is evergreen and another Five Leaved Akebia is noted as possibly evergreen in protected conditions. Further, English Ivy is proving to be a problematic invasive and as such we do not recommend it. There will be no evergreen climbing vines in the short list
The short list contains only two vines with significant flowers. I did not include wisteria or trumpet creeper which both have lovely flowers but are vigorous growers requiring very sturdy supports. You may want to consider them if this factor is not a consideration.
All of the vines listed below are suitable for a full sun location, winter hardy in Toronto and tolerant of the sandy soils in the High Park area.
- You mentioned Clematis and it can work in your situation. Clematis like full sun as long as their roots are mulched to keep them cool or shaded by other plants. There are many to choose from. The large flowered hybrids are the ‘typical’ clematis. The different cultivars can vary a lot in height. If this is your choice, you might want to include two varieties, either to compliment each other or to extend the blooming period by selecting cultivars that bloom at different times. I also suggest you consider the species clematis, Golden Clematis (Clematis tangutica) which has small yellow, bell-like flowers, grows vigorously to 20 ft (6 m) in a season and is very hardy. Note that there are 3 different pruning methods depending on the species and/or cultivar. Be sure to keep your plant tag so you know which method to use.
- Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is from the Wild Seed Project and has attractive coral, tubular flowers with a long bloom time beginning in May. While the European honeysuckles are considered invasive and not recommended, Trumpet Honeysuckle is native to the southeastern US. It grows to a height of 15 ft (5 m) and requires minimal pruning. The orange-red fruits in the fall are loved by birds.
- Kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta) has very attractive foliage blotched with pink and white. It’s white flowers are inconspicuous and often hidden by the foliage. It grows to 20 ft (6 m). It’s vigorous growth makes it a good choice for covering an overhead structure. Prune to control growth if necessary. This species has both male and female plants. If you are growing for it’s ornamental value only, consider selecting a male plant for better leaf variegation.
- Engelman’s Ivy (Parthenocissus quinquefolia‘Engelmannii’) is a cultivar of the native Virginia Creeper. It has smaller leaves and is slightly slower growing than the species – a good thing. It grows 30 to 50 ft (9-15 m) . The scarlet fall leaves are outstanding and the attractive black berries are enjoyed by birds. (The native Virginia Creeper is included in the Wild Seed Project list.)
- Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia durior) is often used to screen porches as it’s rapid growth and large, heart-shaped leaves provide fast cover. It grows to a height of 25 ft (7.5 m) and can be cut back to control growth. It has greenish flowers that look like pipes.
I hope there is something on this list which appeals to you and meets your needs. Enjoy making your selection.