Shade-Tolerant Perennial Vines
Perennial vines are a permanent fixture in a garden, returning spring after spring to cascade down fences, hide less-than-perfect structures or just present a point of interest in the garden. A large number of vines prefer full-sun conditions, but some attractive flowering and foliage vines thrive in partial to full shade.
Flowering vines can be found in a variety of flower forms and colors. They prefer light shade or dappled sun over dense shade. Most of the following bloom once per year in spring or summer:
- Tricolor or variegated kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta 'Arctic Beauty') has white and pink variegation on large, oval, green leaves. White flowers appear in May, followed by gooseberry-like fruit. Variegated kiwi is best grown in light shade, because stronger light dulls its variegated foliage. This vine is hardy in U. S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8.
- Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia durior) can grow to lengths of 25 to 30 feet and thrives in shade or full sun. Round, dark green leaves often conceal the purplish pipe-shaped flowers. Dutchman's pipe is a vigorous grower and should be pruned in late winter to control its growth. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8.
- Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) envelopes the garden with the sweet, strong odor produced by its fragrant, star-shaped flowers. Blooms appear in late spring into early summer. Star jasmine prefers light shade to full sun and is hardy in USDA zones 8 through 11
The listed hardiness zone number should be equal to or smaller than the hardiness zone of your intended growing area.
These perennial foliage vines tolerate more shade than flowering vines:
- Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) grows in full shade or dappled light. It is often seen covering brick walls, especially those of "Ivy League" colleges. It adheres to surfaces with aerial rootlets called holdfasts. Its glossy, green, three-lobed leaves turn a brilliant orange and red in the fall. A vigorous grower, it is considered invasive in the northeastern United States. Prune in early spring to control its growth. Boston ivy is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9.
- English ivy (Hedera helix) is a rapidly growing vine that often becomes the bane of those that adore it. Able to reach lengths of 50 feet or more, English ivy prefers full to light shade and is considered invasive in areas where it has escaped its intended space. Annual spring pruning is a must to keep this evergreen vine in control. In areas where it is exposed to winter cold and wind, leaves may turn brown and drop off. English ivy is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9.
- Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) is an evergreen vine with tiny, leathery leaves. It is hardy in USDA zones 9 through 11 and prefers light shade. It is a vigorous grower and rapidly covers any surface it is trained to. Maximum lengths can reach 25 to 30 feet. It also tolerates drier conditions.
Fall and Winter Color
These shade vines provide color in the winter, as well as summer:
- Japanese or Chinese hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight') is not a true hydrangea. It is deciduous, dropping yellow, heart-shaped leaves in the fall to reveal reddish stems. In summer, the white, flat-topped blooms resemble hydrangea flowers and the leaves are a silvery green. It prefers light shade and is a vigorous grower but takes several years to establish. It is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9.
- Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is native to the eastern half of the United States and Canada. Noted for its brilliant red foliage in the fall, Virginia creeper is hardy in USDA zones 3 9. Full-shade or full-sun locations are suitable for this vine, which is also drought tolerant.
Hummingbird and Butterfly Magnets
A plus to these shade vines is their ability to attract hummingbirds and butterflies to their flowers:
- Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) produces orange, trumpet-shaped flowers in summer that hummingbirds love. Preferring partial shade, it is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 and is native to eastern Canada, California, Oregon and most of the mid- and eastern United States. This deciduous vine reaches lengths of 40 feet and requires annual pruning to keep it in control.
- Red Rhapsody Chinese hydrangea vine (Schizophragma ellipitifolium 'MonLaBaHe') is a rare vine but well worth the effort to find it. Large heads of flowers attract butterflies, while vivid red new growth and stems are a visual treat. It grows in full to light shade and is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9.
- University of Illinois Extension: Vines
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Plants for Shade
- Monrovia: Star Jasmine
- Invasive Plant Atlas: Boston Ivy
- Invasive Plant Atlas: English Ivy
- Monrovia: Creeping Fig
- Monrovia: Moonlight Chinese Hydrangea Vine
- Monrovia: Trumpet Creeper
- Monrovia: Red Rhapsody Chinese Hydrangea Vine
Kathy Imbriani's love of gardening grew from a childhood spent on the family farm. She is the co-author of two gardening books and numerous articles on science and gardening subjects. Imbriani holds a Bachelor of Science in horticulture from North Carolina State University.