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Shade Plants That Grow on a Trellis

Shade gardening can be a challenge, but many types of vines that are suitable for trellising thrive in a shady environment because their native habitat is growing up trees in a woodland understory. Trellis-growing vines for your shade garden include ornamental flower varieties, thick-growing foliage plants, and even a few edibles.

Flowering Vines

Flowering shade-tolerant trellised vines include annuals and perennials with varied flowering times.

For a fast-growing annual covered in brilliant flowers by mid-summer, grow black-eyed susan vine (thunbergia alata). Star jasmine (Jasminum multiflorum) and the night-blooming Moonflower (Ipomoea alba) may also be grown as summer-flowering annuals in cold climates. Silver lace vine (Polygonu, albertii) is a tender perennial with subtle masses of fall flowers which fill the air with a heady perfume scent.

Hardier perennial flowering options for shady trellises include: Trumpet creeper, trumpet honeysuckle, Japenese hydrangea, and clematis. Nelly Moser and C. armandii are particularly shade-tolerant clematis varieties.

Moonseed and Nightshade are twining shade vines with beautiful flowers, but their striking berries are poisonous, so avoid planting these where children may be tempted by the fruit.

American bittersweet has nondescript flowers, but its brilliant orange and red berries bring unexpected color to the late-autumn shade garden.

Leafy Vines

Trellised masses of green shade-tolerant foliage can help hide an unattractive wall, insert privacy between two close-spaced buildings, or enhance a shade-garden oasis.

Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) and its relative Virginia Creeper (P. quinquafolia) are native North American shade vines with loose-lobed foliage which turns brilliant red in autumn. English Ivy (Hedera helix) has tidier, more formal-looking pointed leaves but does not present an autumn color show.


Grapes are somewhat shade tolerant, with the varieties closest to wild grapes being more productive in shade than the more particular field-grown wine types. Climbing fig (Ficus pumila) and the chocolate vine (Akebia quinata) may flower and fruit in full shade under ideal growing conditions.

Hyacinth beans (Lablab purpureous) have purplish leaves and showy orchid-colored blooms. Scarlet runner beans (Phaseolos coccineus) come in red and peach-blooming varieties. Both types of beans attract hummingbirds. The fresh, raw pods of hyacinth beans or scarlet runner beans may cause skin irritation or gastric distress, but they have been eaten cooked, either as green or dried beans, for hundreds of years as the potentially distressing substance dissipates when heated.

Natal plum and other fig varieties (besides the climbing fig) are not natural climbers, but can be grown in the shade on a trellis as an espalier. Trim the branches which are not growing parallel to the trellis, and fasten the main trunk and parallel branches to the trellis with soft ties as the plant grows, training it flat against the trellis bars.

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