Few plants are lovelier in the spring than a well-trellised, purple flowering vine. Fortunately for lovers of the lavender hue, most nurseries offer a wide selection of vines with purple blooms in varying shades. Native plant enthusiasts also have several options. However, the preponderance of purple flowering vines are non-native, and some of these are considered to be aggressive. When selecting a vine for your garden or yard, carefully consider the growing environment and whether you'll be up to the task of keeping a vigorous vine under control.
Types of Purple Flowering Vines
Virtually all types of readily available purple-flowered vines on the market are perennials, meaning they regenerate in the spring from year to year. Most vines are herbaceous, meaning the entire vine dies back to the ground in the winter and puts out entirely new vines, leaves and flowers each year. One exception is the wisteria vine, which is woody and very vigorous. New growth turns woody by the end of the growing season, and in the spring the plant resumes growth on old wood.
Wisteria and Clematis
The most easily recognized vines with purple or lilac-colored blossoms include wisteria, a heavy-wooded, fast-growing vine, and clematis, a deciduous perennial vine that goes dormant in the winter months.
The native North American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is somewhat better-behaved than its more popular Asian cousin (Wisteria sinensis), though with consistent pruning either type will stay under control. White varieties are also available. Wisteria is a spring-blooming vine, producing a profusion of long, clustered flowers that resemble bunches of grapes.
Clematis is available in almost any color, but one of the most popular and striking flower colors is on the Jackman clematis (Clematis x hybrida 'Jackmanii'). The plant produces deep violet blooms all throughout the summer and easily climbs almost any type of trellis or fencepost.
With its showy, complex blossoms, the native passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata) not only produces abundant purple flowers but also edible fruit. Commercial nurseries frequently offer many other species of non-native passionflowers, whose flowers range in color from yellow to red. Passionflower dies back completely at the end of each growing season but is a vigorous grower and will quickly and completely grow out again in the spring. It is an excellent alternative to English ivy for use as a groundcover, and its fruit are beloved of many animals and humans alike.
Other Types of Purple Flowering Vines
Other purple-flowered vines include the morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea), beloved for its early blooms. The vine can easily escape cultivation, so site the plant carefully. Purple trumpet vine (Clytostoma callistegioides), royal purple bougainvillea (Bougainvillea buttiana) and blue trumpet vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) round out the list of readily available purple-flowered plants on the market.
Most flowering vines require abundant amounts of sunlight in order to bloom. While the plants will tolerate some shade, too much shade will inhibit flower production. Asian wisteria is especially notorious for inconsistent bloom production if the plant is poorly situated. Most vines tolerate moderately moist, fertile soils, though the native passionflower and wisteria will perform well in somewhat dry, poor soils.
A Warning on Wisteria
Wisteria requires an especially sturdy growing support. Over time, the vine becomes thick and heavy enough to pull down anything but the strongest pergola; a chain-link fence or lightweight trellis will not provide enough support. Wisteria can also damage bricks and mortar, so do not plant this vine near any structures unless you can commit to heavy and consistent pruning each year throughout the growing season.