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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Cardinal climber on 9-17-12
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Annual Climbing Plants

Climbing plants are gaining in popularity in the garden. In this article, Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, focuses on climbing plants that are annuals – growing only one season in the garden.

Ferree says, "Don't be tricked by their short life". "Annual climbers reach great heights in just one summer and usually produce outstanding blossom display almost all summer". They work well in a spot where you want quick cover for one season or just need some height in the garden.

Rhonda always includes some annual climbers in her yard. Although there are many more from which to choose, here are some top performers for Rhonda.

Annual Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus) is a very old climbing plant. "I remember my Grandma planting it next to her front porch". "The fragrant blooms welcomed you to her cozy home". Sweet pea comes in a variety of flower colors including pink, red, purple, white, yellow, and blue. This tendril climber will grow 4 to 8 feet.

Another old standard is the Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea). "My other Grandma was always so proud of her large blue morning glories". Morning glories are one of the easiest plants to grow and will easily twine around to reach 8 to 10 feet or more in a summer. Flowers are a 2 to 3 inch long trumpet-shape and may be purple, blue, pink, or white. As their name implies, these bloom in the morning and often close their flowers in the afternoon.

"For a showstopper vine, try Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus)". This plant produces colorful purple stems, flowers, and pods throughout the summer. The bean-like pods are NOT edible, but are quite beautiful. This twining plant will grow to 10 feet and does well as a pole plant.

Finally, Rhonda has had great success with the Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata). Also called Clock Vine, this twining plant will climb 3 to 6 feet in a summer. This vine blooms all summer with 1 to 2 inch tubular blooms in shades of yellow and orange with black eyes. Unfortunately, this plant sometimes doesn't like our hot summers, and therefore produces its best flower display in late summer or early fall.

All these vines do best in full sun. Do not fertilize too much or you could get more leaves than flowers. Also, check the seed package carefully for instructions. Some of these seeds must be soaked at least overnight or they will not germinate properly. Their seed coats are so thick that it must be softened first.

"Try a couple of different vines in your yard this summer". Since vines grow upright and don't take much space, you can probably find a spot for them. To learn more annual vines to consider, go to University of Illinois Extension's website at h/

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