There's something warm and charming about the sight of a brick wall covered by rambling vines. Vines can add beauty and interest to a brick wall while hiding flaws, but they can also damage the bricks if you choose the wrong types. On the other hand, some vines aren't suitable for bricks at all. If you want to let a vine clamber up your brick wall, choose wisely.
Twining, Tendrils or Roots
Vines are loosely divided into three categories based on how they climb. Twining vines climb by wrapping their stems around support structures. Tendrils are small, slender offshoots that also wrap around support structures. For a brick wall, it's the third type of vine -- those that climb -- that work best without a support structure. Some climbing vines have tiny "suction cups" that will firmly stick themselves to any surface. Others have aerial roots and creep and cling to rough, cracked surfaces like bricks.
Choosing Climbing Vines
Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is the classic adhesive climber. This showy vine clings to brick walls with sucker disks at the ends of tendrils. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, it grows to heights of 50 feet or more and has dramatic fall color. If you prefer an evergreen vine, English ivy (Hedera helix) is another traditional choice. English ivy grows in USDA zones 4 through 9, climbs with aerial roots and tolerates even heavy shade. Although neither of these plants need any kind of support structure other than the bricks, they are both fast-growing vines and need to be pruned often. They are also invasive plants in some areas. Both of these vines can also damage brick walls over time. For these reasons, you may prefer a vine that needs a support structure.
Choosing Twining Vines
Twining vines need a support structure secured in the ground next to the brick wall or attached to the wall. This could be a wooden or wire trellis. And although providing a support structure may add a little bit of work, the result is well worth the effort: Many twining vines feature beautiful flowers, and most are not invasive. Consider sun-loving American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), which grows in USDA zones 5 through 9. This vine features fragrant flowers that bloom in spring or summer. Or try a climbing clematis variety (Clematis spp.) which feature flowers in pinks, purples and whites and grow in USDA zones 4 through 9, depending on the species and cultivar. Clematis, which thrive in full sun or part shade, are a good choice for shorter brick walls, as they grow to about 12 feet tall.
Considering the Characteristics
Resist the temptation to choose a fast-growing vine to quickly cover your brick wall, unless you want to prune it every year. Also consider if you want a deciduous vine or an evergreen vine. The former might turn lovely colors in the fall, but when the leaves drop, your wall will be bare. Finally, plant your vine so it will grow up the middle and not around the edges of the wall. The edges are more easily damaged, especially if the wall was framed with wood, which can rot in the rich, moist atmosphere underneath the vine.
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