Evergreen clinging vine for shade


I’m looking for a vine, as described above, to cover a concrete block wall in Toronto. English Ivy? Any variegated ivies that would work? What about Emerald Gaiety Euonymous? Purple Wintercreeper Euonymous?

And what about a Climbing Hydrangea? Does it need to be supported? Are there pink/rose ones suitable for our zone?

*What is our zone when converted to US hardiness zones?


What a great idea, to create interest for the wall!  I’m not sure how large the wall is, but you might want to consider growing a couple of different vines to cover it.  For example, the deep green of English ivy would be a nice contrast to a variegated ivy.  A climbing hydrangea, with its lovely and long-lasting flowers, would look stunning against the dark green foliage of an English ivy – although you would have to be careful that the aggressive ivy did not strangle the hydrangea!

English ivy and climbing hydrangeas are self-clinging, so would not require support.   Self-clinging vines could leave marks on walls, if you ever want to remove the vines.  When my parents pulled the English ivy off the outside of our white stucco home near Vancouver a few decades ago, many little brown ivy “feet” were left behind, requiring painstaking removal and re-painting of the stucco.   Note that euonymus vines would need to be supported.

All the plants you mention above can be grown in at least partial (if not full) shade, in the Toronto hardiness zone.  Toronto is considered to be in Zone 6 according to the Canadian formula used to calculate hardness zones.   However, the US, which uses a different approach for its calculations, considers Toronto to be in Zone 5.   There may be pockets in the greater Toronto area that are in (Canadian)  Zone 6b or 7 or, in more exposed areas, Zone 5a or 5b.   See Ask a Master Gardener Plant hardiness zones, which discusses Canadian and US approaches to determining climate zones.

In selecting a vine, consider the following:

  • How many hours of sunlight the plant would receive.  You mention that this would be a shady area – is this partial or full shade?  This is important, as you have mentioned a few plants that do best in partial (not full) shade.  See Perennials for shade in dry or moist areas. A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide.
  • Does the soil suit the needs of the plant?
  • Is the area protected from wind?
  • Could the vine be too aggressive and possibly spread uncontrollably in your garden? (e.g., English ivies are considered invasive)
  • What do you want to see in the garden – a flowering vine (e.g., hydrangea) or one that is mainly grown for its foliage, e.g., English ivy?
  • Is the vine easy to grow? (I’m a lazy gardener, so do not want plants in my garden that take a lot of work!)
  • Will the vine grow in the Toronto climate?

English ivy (Hedera helix ‘Baltica’ and ‘Thorndale’) is considered invasive and it is generally recommended not to plant it – it is a particular problem when used as a ground cover.  See Missouri Botanical Garden’s Hedera helix.  However, if you prefer this plant to grow as a vine and will contain its spread, it may thrive in your garden without taking over.  The American Ivy Society’s Ivies  lists a number of different ivy varieties that may be of interest to you.  You may want to check out a few variegated English ivy varieties, to see if they would thrive in the conditions in your garden:  Hedera helix ‘Variegata’, H. helix ‘Caecilia’, and H. helix ‘Glacier’ — these all should do well in shady spots.

Both the euonymus species you mention do well in full sun to partial shade; if your wall is in deep shade, they may not thrive.  Emerald Gaiety Euonymus is a cultivar of Euonymus fortunei.  It is a lovely variegated plant that would need support in order to grow as a vine.  As well, often variegated euonymus will try and revert to the look of the species plant – so will set out branches with leaves that are entirely green in colour – prune these shoots to maintain the variegated look.  See Missouri Botanical Garden’s Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ .  Purple Creeper Euonymus is usually grown as a groundcover, but could be trained to be a climbing vine; it would require support.  See Missouri Botanical Garden’s Euonymus fortunei Coloratus’.

Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) can be lovely – the flowers can be white, blue, pink or purple.  These plants do well in partial shade; they likely would not thrive in fully shaded areas.  See The Spruce. Climbing hydrangea plant profile.

Here are some helpful links that might provide you with additional vine ideas:

  • Landscape Ontario. Climbing vines.  This site provides several suggestions for vines you might want to consider (besides English ivy, climbing hydrangea and euonymus).
  • Ask a Master Gardener. Climbing vines.

All the best in finding a vine that is a perfect cover for the wall!