Vines for a Shady Trellis

Selecting vines for the shade

By: Sandy Feather 2007
Penn State Extension

Q. Can you suggest some vines - not roses - we can trellis on a shady arbor?

A. There are some very nice perennial vines that perform well in shade, including Dutchman's-pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla), sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora), climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata), and Japanese hydrangea vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides).

Clematis trellis over a garden gate
Clematis on a trellis over a garden gate

Dutchman's-pipe grows 20 to 30 feet long, with large, heart-shaped green leaves, and blooms June - July with unique flowers that gave rise to its common name. They are greenish-yellow inside and purplish outside. This species is native to the eastern United States, despite its tropical appearance. Sweet autumn clematis grows vigorously 15 to 30 feet long. It blooms with fragrant white flowers in late summer. Climbing hydrangea is an exquisite vine, with glossy deep green foliage and mildly fragrant white flowers that bloom in June. The flowers are typical lace-cap hydrangea blooms. Climbing hydrangeas can grow 60 - 80 feet long, but they are slow to get going and will not achieve that size for many, many years. Exfoliating bark on their stems gives climbing hydrangea four seasons of interest in the garden.


Virginia Creeper

Virginia creeper is also native to the United States, and grows 30 to 50 feet long. Although the flowers are not showy - they can easily be overlooked - Virginia creeper is prized for its crimson fall foliage and ease of growth. The related Boston ivy is similar, but has large three-lobed leaves rather than three to five leaflets that comprise Virginia creeper's leaves. Japanese hydrangea vine is another outstanding perennial vine for shaded sites, and very similar to climbing hydrangea, It grows 20 - 30 feet long. Yellow fall foliage and reddish-brown stems create winter interest that give Japanese hydrangea vine four-season appeal. The cultivar 'Moonlight' has silvery-toned leaves with green veins for added summer interest when not in bloom.


Pruning Clematis Vines

Planting in the Shade

Artillery Fungus


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