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Quick-growing annual vines

By: James A. Baggett
Wouldn’t you love to pack more flowers into your garden? Grow vertically! Here are six quick-growing annual vines to add to your garden this year.

Quick-growing annual vines can cover a multitude of sins in a single season — from ugly chain-link fencing to unsightly utility boxes. But they’re also lovely in their own right, adding vertical color and interest to otherwise earthbound beds and borders. Sometimes all you really need is a temporary climber or just a single season of pageantry. Or perhaps you want to create additional shade in an outdoor room or some privacy from passersby or nosy neighbors. Or maybe you have a small garden and the only space left to garden is to grow vertically. Annual vines to the rescue!

Check out our list of vines to grow on a trellis

Quick-growing and economical

For the price of a packet of seeds, you can have vining flowers that can grow up structures and through plants or cascade down from a hanging basket. Check out our tips for growing vines from seed below, then explore six of our favorites.

Growing tips

  • Most annual vines are easy to grow from seed and can be planted directly in the ground or started indoors 4 to 6 weeks before they are needed in the garden.
  • Because many of these are tender perennials (not cold-hardy), be sure to wait until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up before planting them outside.
  • Many spring-planted annual vines will start flowering by midsummer and continue until frost.
  • Provide a structure — some twine around vertical structures; others cling to vertical surfaces.

See also Plant Guide

Cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens)

One of the most charming of all climbers, cup and saucer vine (sometimes called “missionary bells” or “cathedral bells”) is unusual in that it climbs by using foot-long tendrils that terminate in small, sharp hooks. This vigorous vine produces a long-lasting display of large, bell-shaped flowers that dangle downward and open a creamy green. As they mature they turn violet and then a striking purple with a subtle honey scent. Easy to grow from seed (best if started indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date), this native of the mountains of Mexico can reach impressive heights in a single season.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Open greenish-white and age to deep purple in midsummer to fall Light Full sun with some afternoon shade in warmer climates Soil Moist, well-drained Size 10 to 20 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11 

Morning glory (Ipomoea spp. and hybrids)

Magical morning glories, as their name implies, indeed open their trumpet-shaped blossoms every morning and twist themselves shut at the end of each day. They are easily grown from seed and are known to readily reseed themselves. Besides the traditional purple flower with a white throat, cultivars also come in pale blue, white, pink, red and magenta. All are vigorous growers. ‘Heavenly Blue’ with sky blue flowers and white throats is a beloved variety. ‘Grandpa Ott’ is an heirloom with royal purple trumpets embedded with a bright rose star and pink throats. ‘Chocolate’ produces 5-inch blooms in a curiously creamy chocolate-pink color.

Type Annual Blooms Purple or blue with white throat and white, pink, red, brown, magenta in late spring to fall Light Full sun to light shade Soil  Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 15 ft. tall, spreading 

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata)

With golden, open-faced petals usually surrounding a dark eye, this pretty climber gets its common name from its resemblance to the classic black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). This is a fast-growing vine that flowers nonstop—and it twines around anything it can (it’s sometimes called “clock vine” because it twines clockwise). Flowers are composed of five petals in shades of yellow to orange. Newer varieties bloom in shades of rose (‘Arizona Rose Sensation’), salmon (‘Spanish Eyes’), white (‘Pure White’) and blue (T. grandiflora ‘Blue Sky’). Sow outside after the soil has warmed up in spring.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Golden-yellow, white, canary-yellow or orange (also rose, salmon, white and blue) with brown-maroon centers in summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 8 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11 

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtiums are an especially easy climber to grow because they thrive on neglect. And in the world of edible flowers, nasturtiums are among the tastiest. They grow quickly from seed and—depending on the variety—can be grown on fences or trellises or as a bushy container plant. Nasturtiums come in three types: dwarf, which are compact and bushy; semi-trailing (reach 2 to 3 feet); and climbing (which send out 6- to 8-foot runners). Flowers are 2½ inches wide in shades that range from red to cream and have a spicy fragrance and flavor (as do the leaves, which are also edible). ‘Double Gleam Mix’ boasts ruffled double and semi-double petals.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Red, orange, yellow, pink or cream and bicolor from spring to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil  Poor to average, well-drained Size 1 to 10 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata (formerly Mina lobata))

Also known as “firecracker vine” and “exotic love vine,” Spanish flag is a fast-growing vine that can grow 20 feet in a matter of two months. The common name comes from how the tubular blossoms (borne in clusters called “racemes”) array themselves along one side of the floral branch like flags blowing in the wind. The blossoms nearest the end of the stems emerge fiery scarlet late in the season and fade as they enlarge and age to shades of orange and eventually to a pale cream. ‘Citronella’ is a paler form of the species, shown above. Chip seeds or soak in water for 24 hours before sowing directly in the garden once all danger of frost has passed.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Red, white and yellow in midsummer to fall Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained  Size 6 to 20 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11 

Mandevilla (Mandevilla spp. and hybrids)

With glossy leaves and striking funnel-shaped, bright pink blossoms that flare into 3- to 4-inch rounded lobes, mandevilla is an excellent choice for climbing on arbors, trellises and fences. Plant breeders have expanded the traditional color range of red, pink and white to include apricot and yellow, as well. Since mandevillas flower best in the heat, place containers near a south-facing wall. Train climbers (you can use wire or string) up teepees, trellises and fences. Mandevilla also looks great climbing up a lamppost, mailbox or pergola. In cold parts of the country, cut back the vines by one-third in fall and bring the plant indoors before a killing frost. Overwinter it as a house plant in a sunny window. It won’t bloom, but come late spring it will be ready to go back outside again for another season of nonstop blooming.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Deep pink with yellow throats; also white, red, apricot or yellow in summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 20 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11

Cup and saucer vine (Cobaea scandens)

One of the most charming of all climbers, cup and saucer vine (sometimes called “missionary bells” or “cathedral bells”) is unusual in that it climbs by using foot-long tendrils that terminate in small, sharp hooks. This vigorous vine produces a long-lasting display of large, bell-shaped flowers that dangle downward and open a creamy green. As they mature they turn violet and then a striking purple with a subtle honey scent. Easy to grow from seed (best if started indoors 8 to 10 weeks before your last frost date), this native of the mountains of Mexico can reach impressive heights in a single season.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Open greenish-white and age to deep purple in midsummer to fall Light Full sun with some afternoon shade in warmer climates Soil Moist, well-drained Size 10 to 20 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11 

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtiums are an especially easy climber to grow because they thrive on neglect. And in the world of edible flowers, nasturtiums are among the tastiest. They grow quickly from seed and—depending on the variety—can be grown on fences or trellises or as a bushy container plant. Nasturtiums come in three types: dwarf, which are compact and bushy; semi-trailing (reach 2 to 3 feet); and climbing (which send out 6- to 8-foot runners). Flowers are 2½ inches wide in shades that range from red to cream and have a spicy fragrance and flavor (as do the leaves, which are also edible). ‘Double Gleam Mix’ boasts ruffled double and semi-double petals.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Red, orange, yellow, pink or cream and bicolor from spring to frost Light Full sun to part shade Soil  Poor to average, well-drained Size 1 to 10 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11

Morning glory (Ipomoea spp. and hybrids)

Magical morning glories, as their name implies, indeed open their trumpet-shaped blossoms every morning and twist themselves shut at the end of each day. They are easily grown from seed and are known to readily reseed themselves. Besides the traditional purple flower with a white throat, cultivars also come in pale blue, white, pink, red and magenta. All are vigorous growers. ‘Heavenly Blue’ with sky blue flowers and white throats is a beloved variety. ‘Grandpa Ott’ is an heirloom with royal purple trumpets embedded with a bright rose star and pink throats. ‘Chocolate’ produces 5-inch blooms in a curiously creamy chocolate-pink color.

Type Annual Blooms Purple or blue with white throat and white, pink, red, brown, magenta in late spring to fall Light Full sun to light shade Soil  Moist, well-drained Size 6 to 15 ft. tall, spreading 

Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata (formerly Mina lobata))

Also known as “firecracker vine” and “exotic love vine,” Spanish flag is a fast-growing vine that can grow 20 feet in a matter of two months. The common name comes from how the tubular blossoms (borne in clusters called “racemes”) array themselves along one side of the floral branch like flags blowing in the wind. The blossoms nearest the end of the stems emerge fiery scarlet late in the season and fade as they enlarge and age to shades of orange and eventually to a pale cream. ‘Citronella’ is a paler form of the species, shown above. Chip seeds or soak in water for 24 hours before sowing directly in the garden once all danger of frost has passed.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Red, white and yellow in midsummer to fall Light Full sun Soil Moist, well-drained  Size 6 to 20 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11 

Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata)

With golden, open-faced petals usually surrounding a dark eye, this pretty climber gets its common name from its resemblance to the classic black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). This is a fast-growing vine that flowers nonstop—and it twines around anything it can (it’s sometimes called “clock vine” because it twines clockwise). Flowers are composed of five petals in shades of yellow to orange. Newer varieties bloom in shades of rose (‘Arizona Rose Sensation’), salmon (‘Spanish Eyes’), white (‘Pure White’) and blue (T. grandiflora ‘Blue Sky’). Sow outside after the soil has warmed up in spring.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Golden-yellow, white, canary-yellow or orange (also rose, salmon, white and blue) with brown-maroon centers in summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 8 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11 

Mandevilla (Mandevilla spp. and hybrids)

With glossy leaves and striking funnel-shaped, bright pink blossoms that flare into 3- to 4-inch rounded lobes, mandevilla is an excellent choice for climbing on arbors, trellises and fences. Plant breeders have expanded the traditional color range of red, pink and white to include apricot and yellow, as well. Since mandevillas flower best in the heat, place containers near a south-facing wall. Train climbers (you can use wire or string) up teepees, trellises and fences. Mandevilla also looks great climbing up a lamppost, mailbox or pergola. In cold parts of the country, cut back the vines by one-third in fall and bring the plant indoors before a killing frost. Overwinter it as a house plant in a sunny window. It won’t bloom, but come late spring it will be ready to go back outside again for another season of nonstop blooming.

Type Tender perennial (usually grown as an annual) Blooms Deep pink with yellow throats; also white, red, apricot or yellow in summer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Moist, well-drained Size 3 to 20 ft. tall, spreading Hardiness Cold-hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11

Published: Dec. 18, 2018
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