How to Grow Vines on Walls

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Vines are low-maintenance and versatile plants. Based on their aesthetic attributes, they provide one or more services. Thick vines with coarse foliage are useful to cover unsightly walls that need paint or repairs. Slow-growing vines with delicate foliage add texture and interest to plain stone walls. Flowering vines offer beauty and color while attracting bees and hummingbirds. Growing vines is a long-term commitment. So carefully match the right type of vines with your type of walls.

Selecting Types of Vines

Three kinds of vines grow on walls: twining, tendril and clinging. Twining and tendril vines require wood or metal walls with structural elements that allow for the wrapping of the vine tendrils or stems. Copper and aluminum walls stay rust-free and are well-suited for growing vines. Cedar, cypress, redwood and treated lumber are the best wood materials for walls hosting vines because they hold up to wear and weather.

Clinging vines produce aerial rootlets with adhesive tips that attach to crevices of rough-textured walls such as those made of stone, brick or concrete block. Clinging vines damage wood walls by holding moisture that leads to rot.

Researching and Preparing

Choose vines that are winter-hardy in the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone in which you live. Determine whether they are twining, tendril-type or clinging and whether their attributes are compatible with your walls. Ensure that the vines' sunlight or shade requirements match the lighting that falls on the walls.

Test the soil by each wall to ensure it has the proper pH level for your chosen vines. If the soil is heavy and clay or claylike, then mix 3 to 4 inches of mature compost with the top 8 inches of soil. Compost adds nutrients and improves heavy soil by converting it to a loamy, well-draining consistency.

Wait until the last average annual spring frost date has passed for your region before planting your vines.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden gloves
  • Shovel
  • Watering can or hose

Step 1: Dig Planting Holes

With garden gloves on, dig a planting hole for each vine. Place the holes 12 to 18 inches from the wall. If the wall has footings or anchors below ground, then position the planting holes to allow the vines' root balls clearance of at least 12 inches in all directions. Use the planting distances recommended on the vines' nursery containers or tag labels to determine how far apart to put the holes. Make each hole 2 inches deeper and 2 inches wider than its respective vine's root ball.

Step 2: Plant the Vines

Carefully remove a vine from its nursery container. Place the vine's root ball in the middle of the planting hole, and add or remove soil as needed to position the plant at the same soil depth as the one at which it grew in its nursery container. Spread all lateral roots, and fill the remainder of the hole with soil. Tamp the soil to secure the root ball. Repeat the planting procedure for each vine.

Step 3: Provide Water

Water the top 4 to 6 inches of soil by using a watering can or hose. If drainage is a problem, mound soil around each vine, and dig a 3-inch-deep circular furrow or trench around each plant. The makeshift moats can hold extra water.

Training the Vines

Encourage the vines to grow in the pattern or direction you prefer by using thin strips of soft cloth to tie the plants' new stems and branches to the walls. For stone, brick or concrete walls, use a hammer and two masonry nails to secure each side of a cloth strip holding a stem. A vine with sparse foliage at its bottom and robust foliage at its top requires immediate pruning. By hand, pinch off the terminal bud at the end of each stem you want to be bushier. A terminal bud is the last bud at the top of any main stem where new growth occurs; it aligns with the stem and does not face horizontally. Removing a terminal bud forces the vine to grow more lateral stems and foliage.

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