Vertical spaces in a landscape are often underused. Vines are perfect for these areas and can turn a bare wall or fence into something decorative. Vines fulfill many roles besides adding beauty, including screening walls or ugly views, providing food or accenting structures.
Vines are often thought of in three categories depending on how they climb. Some vines, such as ivy, have sucker-like structures or tendrils with suckers on the end that cling to a wall or fence. They are best used on stone surfaces to prevent damage to the vertical surface. Others, such as grapes, need a wire or trellis on which they can wind tendrils. Wisteria climbs by wrapping its branches around whatever is supporting it.
A consideration about vines with suckers versus vines that twine is that you can remove twining vines from a building, wall or fence to paint underneath, but you cannot easily remove those with suckers. And, once a woody vine such as wisteria has wound its way around a pergola, it is very difficult to remove it, short of cutting it down.
Another concern with vines in Northern Nevada is the fire hazard associated with having plants taller than 2 feet up against a building. Vines and the dead leaves that can accumulate behind them become places where flying embers can land and ignite, catching a house on fire. Honeysuckle is an example of a vine that collects a lot of litter inside of it. It is not a good choice next to a house in our fire-prone area.
Which vine you select depends on what purpose you want the vine to serve, how fast you want it to grow, what you want it to look like and what means of support you plan to give it. If you are trying to hide a fence, you might select a fast-growing vine and plant one every 5 feet. Faster-growing vines, such as Virginia creeper, may need regular pruning to keep them under control. For a neater appearance, you might choose a slower-growing vine such as clematis.
Of course, for a vine to succeed, it needs to be suitable for the area in which you want to plant it. Some vines require shade and would be unsuitable for a south-facing aspect. Some need fast-draining or rich soil. Some might not be wind-tolerant. Do your homework before purchasing plants.
Look around your yard. Where might a vine augment your landscape?
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-887-2252.