By: Liz Baessler
Finding good climbing plants for cold climates can be tricky. Sometimes it feels like all the best and brightest vines are native to the tropics and can’t tolerate a frost, let alone a long cold winter. While this is true in a lot of cases, there are plenty of perennial vines for zone 4 conditions, if you just know where to look. Keep reading to learn more about cold hardy vines, in particular zone 4 vine plants.
Ivy – Especially popular in New England, where these cold hardy vines climb up the buildings to give the Ivy League schools their name, Boston ivy, Engleman ivy, Virginia creeper, and English ivy are all hardy to zone 4.
Grapes – A huge number of grapevine varieties are hardy to zone 4. Before planting grapes, ask yourself what you want to do with them. Do you want to make jam? Wine? Eat them fresh off the vine? Different grapes are bred for different purposes. Make sure you get the one you want.
Honeysuckle – The honeysuckle vine is hardy down to zone 3 and produces extremely fragrant flowers in early to midsummer. Opt for native North American varieties instead of the invasive Japanese variety.
Hops – Hardy down to zone 2, hops vines are extremely tough and fast growing. Their female flower cones are one of the key ingredients in beer, making these vines an excellent choice for home brewers.
Clematis – Hardy down to zone 3, these flowering vines are a popular choice in many northern gardens. Divided into three distinct groups, these vines can be a little confusing to prune. As long as you know the group your clematis vine belongs to, however, pruning should be easy.
Hardy kiwi – These fruits aren’t just for the grocery store; many types of kiwi can be grown in the landscape. Hardy kiwi vines are usually hardy to zone 4 (arctic varieties are even tougher). The self-fertile variety sets fruit without the need for separate male and female plants, while “Arctic Beauty” is grown primarily for its impressive variegated leaves of green and pink.
Trumpet vine – Hardy down to zone 4, this extremely vigorous vine produces lots of bright orange trumpet-shaped flowers. Trumpet vine spreads very easily and should only be planted against a sturdy structure and monitored for suckers.
Bittersweet – Hardy to zone 3, the vigorous bittersweet plant turns an attractive yellow in the fall. Both male and female vines are necessary for the beautiful reddish-orange berries that appear in the fall.
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The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova
If you're looking to plant a perennial vine in a sunny spot, there's a wide variety to choose from. Some are flowering vines, grown more for their blooms than for their leaves. Others are plants with notable foliage. And still others are known for their berries. Varieties of perennial vines look their best at different points throughout the growing season, and some are a little more tolerant to cold weather than others. In fact, gardeners in northern climates often have to treat certain perennial vines as annuals. Here are 12 perennial vines that do well in full sun.
Some vines easily attach to structures, such as trellises, while others require a little more training. Stake or tie your vines while they’re still young, upgrading to stronger ties if necessary as the plant matures and gets heavier.
Honeysuckle is one of the perennial flowering vines that keeps its leaves throughout the winter in warmer climates and can produce its fragrant flowers well into the fall. These flowers attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Honeysuckle, like Virginia creeper, isn’t fussy about soil as long as it drains well. It likes full sun or semi-shade and needs to be pruned now and then lest it becomes invasive.
Group 2 varieties bloom vigorously in spring, and often provide a second, lighter flush of flowers throughout the summer.
The two sets of flowers grow on old and new wood respectively.
These need a light pruning in early spring to clean up dead wood and remove any untidy stems, and another light to medium pruning in summer to remove spent flower heads and encourage bud set on the new growth.
They can underperform somewhat in very cold zones because they need warm temperatures early in the year for two sets of flowers to form.
In colder regions, they often produce only one full flush of flowers starting in early summer.
Flowers face up or outward and are available in two-tone bicolor cultivars and single colors of blue, mauve, pink, purple, red, white, and yellow.
A few of my favorite cultivars include:
‘Multi Blue’ features an abundance of dramatic double flowers in shades of deep blue to purple with pale center bars.
Silvery blue staminodes form a striking pincushion on the recurve petals, and they bloom in late spring.
A compact variety, mature plants reach 6 to 8 feet tall and flowers measure up to 5 inches across.
‘Multi Blue’ appreciates some light afternoon shade in locations with hot summers and is ideal for containers, small gardens, or climbing on a vertical support. Hardy in Zones 4-11.
‘Multi Blue’ plants in one-gallon containers are available from Burpee.
A showy cultivar, ‘Bees’ Jubilee’ boasts stunning two-tone flowers of creamy pink with a deep cherry stripe, and creamy yellow filaments topped with rosy anthers.
The large blooms measure 6 to 8 inches across and are followed by silky seed heads.
Fast growing, its mature height is 6 to 13 feet, and it blooms in late spring and again in late summer. Abundantly free flowering, it’s an impressive scrambler to use as a ground cover or to add vertical interest on arbors, trellises, and climbing through small trees or shrubs. Hardy in Zones 4-11.
‘Blue Ravine’ produces full, cornflower to lilac blooms, with violet center bars and rosy pink anthers.
The large 6- to 8-inch flowers have a delightful fragrance. They bloom in late spring through early summer, and again in late summer.
‘Blue Ravine’ grows up to 8 feet tall with a 24-inch spread, and a twining habit makes it useful as an accent plant in a container, on a trellis, or anywhere it can grow up and through shrubs and hedges.
‘Capitaine Thuilleaux’ has showy, two-tone flowers of pale pink with rich, strawberry center bars and wavy petal edges.
Dark magenta-tipped stamens add a distinctive focal point to the 7-inch, lightly scented flowers.
A compact plant, maximum growth at maturity is 6 to 9 feet. This cultivar is very floriferous in mid-spring, with a lighter flush in midsummer, and a pleasing display of seed heads in late summer. ‘Capitaine Thuilleaux’ is an ideal choice for containers and cottage or courtyard gardens, and it also grows well in partial shade. Hardy in Zones 4-11.
The ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’ cultivar is known for its luminous, fully-double flowers of white to blush pink with creamy yellow anthers.
The 4- to 6-inch flowers form a striking rosette and bloom in late spring, then again in late summer.
The ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’ grows 6 to 8 feet tall and is moderately vigorous in growth. It makes an attractive display in containers, and on arbors, fences, or any vertical support. Hardy in Zones 4-11.
With a profusion of eye-catching, bi-colored flowers, ‘Fireworks’ is a showstopper.
The ruffled lilac petals have vivid cerise central bars and white filaments topped with magenta anthers. The showy flowers grow 7 to 8 inches in diameter, and bloom in late spring with a lighter flowering in late summer.
Growth is semi-woody, and plants reach 8 to 12 feet in height with a spread of 3 to 6 feet. ‘Fireworks’ adds dramatic color to upright structures, or twining its way through shrubs and small trees. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Profusely free-flowering, ‘Henryi’ has ivory, rounded flowers with pale mauve edges.
Lime green central bars fade as blooms mature, and purple anthers add a delicate contrast. The single or semi-double blooms measure 6 to 8 inches across and appear in early summer, with occasional secondary flowers.
A vigorous grower up to 10 to 12 feet tall, it makes a lovely specimen espaliered on arbors, trellises, and pergolas, or it may be used to add summer interest amongst shrubs like rhododendrons. Hardy in Zones 4-11.
‘Moonlight’ features full, symmetrical, cream-colored flowers that fade to pearly white with pale yellow stamens.
The highly fragrant, single flowers measure 5 to 7 inches. They bloom in late spring and again in late summer.
Hardy in Zones 4-9, this type grows 8 to 10 feet and prefers a partial sun or dappled shade location. This is a sweet choice for patio containers or for climbing up trellises close to windows or paths where the scent can be enjoyed.
‘Nelly Moser’ is famous for its profuse display of bicolor, starburst flowers measuring 6 to 8 inches across.
Petals have white or pale pink ruffled edges with cerise center bars, and creamy filaments are topped with rosy anthers. Ornamental wooly seed heads form in summer.
Expect blooms in late spring, with a lighter flush in midsummer.
This variety grows 8 to 10 feet and makes a gorgeous specimen plant climbing on arbors, trellises, or lamp posts. Hardy in Zones 4-9.
‘Ivan Olsson’ features stately flowers in pale mauve and white, with pink filaments and purple anthers.
Flowering in late spring with occasional blossoms throughout the summer, the full flowers grow up to 5 to 6 inches. Hardy in Zones 4-9, it grows 7 to 9 feet tall and is ideal in containers, on vertical supports, or as a ground cover or spiller.
Got an eyesore in your landscape? Cover it with these fast-growing climbers!
If you want to add visual depth to your garden, think up. Climbing vines and shrubs, that is. These climbers expand your garden in an entirely new direction, and the added height gives your space a cozy feel by creating privacy. As an added bonus, all of these plants bloom at least once a year, so you’ll be treated to a wall of color all season long.
Clematis is a versatile, fast-growing vine that comes in all colors and blooming seasons. While flower size and color will depend on the variety you plant, what all clematis boast is their explosive height. They can skim the clouds at 30 feet in just a few months, and in addition to growing tall, they also grow wide to provide optimal coverage. All varieties of clematis thrive in sunny locations that tend to have cool soil. If you're worried that your sun-exposed spot might get too hot, apply mulch around the plant to ensure that the soil remains cool. Since clematis shoots up so quickly, be sure to provide support for the vine to climb, whether it’s a fence, trellis, poles, etc. Clematis grows well both in the ground and in containers if you wish to limit the growth. Water often while the vine is establishing itself. Then water an inch a week, and give it an extra good drink during times of drought. Prune following the blooming period to ensure that the vine always looks its best.
Climbing roses can be trained to grow over fences, trellises, or walls, and they often add a traditional touch to the garden. These roses send up a long structural cane — it’s on the main shoots that the smaller ones grow. When planting, be sure to install your supports first and then plant the rose. You’ll want to support rose canes adequately, and while it may seem counterintuitive if you're planting a privacy barrier, it's a good idea to train the long cane to grow in a horizontal position. The main cane will produce more flowers when horizontal, all of which will bloom and spread out to create a great deal of cover. Ideally, you’ll want to continue to tie your rose canes as they grow, though for at least the first year or two try letting them grow freely, as it will help them bush out. Water well while the plant is becoming established, and prune it annually to help it maintain your desired shape.
Climbing hydrangeas are the summer favorite that can grow up to 50 feet tall. Although it takes a few years to establish itself,you had better watch out for accelerated growth when it does. These vines will climb anything: trellises, fences, and even trees. Before long, the area will be covered with massive green leaves and flowers. This hydrangea will bloom from early summer to mid-autumn. While the plant provides ample privacy in the summer, it’ll eventually shed its foliage and remain sparse until the following spring. Hydrangeas are versatile, and so long as you plant them in soil that's super rich, you can grow them in full sun or partial shade.
Wisteria is a hardy climber that quickly creates screening when planted near a trellis or fence and provides visual interest when trained to climb a wall. Wisteria can grow up to 30 feet tall and is known for the fragrant lilac and blue-tinged flowers that cascade from the vine. These aggressive vines have a habit of growing to fill all of the nooks and crannies they can re ach, so you'll want to try to keep some distance between them and your house. Additionally, be aware that both Chinese and Japanese wisterias are considered invasive in some states. Alternatively, you might consider growing American or Kentucky wisteria instead. Not sure of the difference? Just look at the seed pod — the Asian varieties will be fuzzy whereas the North American varieties are smooth. Plant them in full sun and compost-amended soil.
Trumpet vine grows easily in pretty much any condition: sun, shade, blazing heat, and cold. It’s bright red and orange flowers attract hummingbirds and other wildlife to your landscape. It grows quickly, both in height and width. While this is ideal if you’re interested in creating privacy screening, keep in mind that this plant can get invasive if not kept under control. How fast can it grow? It’s not unheard of to reach anywhere between 30 to 40 feet in one season alone! Prune it often (don’t worry, it can handle it). Trumpet vine is ideal for fences and trellises, but like wisteria, you'll want to keep it away from your home, as the vine's aggressive growth may cause damage to your shingles or foundation. One way to avoid some of the drawbacks of planting a barrier of trumpet vines is to steer clear of the Campis radicans variety that's native to the United States and instead try the Campis grandiflora, or Chinese trumpet vine. It's still a fast grower that you'll need to control with pruning, but planting these on a column out of reach from other plants pretty much guarantees you a nice privacy barrier without the worry that the vines will start to strangle trees and other existing plants.
Star jasmine is easily identified by its small, fragrant star-shaped flowers that grow quickly over walls, trellises, and fences. Although it can grow up to 30 feet tall, it still needs support. Otherwise, it’ll flop over. If you're searching for a good groundcover though, a flopped-over star jasmine can do the trick. Easily adaptable to many temperatures and climates, it can take full sun in moderation. If you plan to plant it in a warmer zone, be sure to provide some protection from the glaring sun during the hottest parts of the day. Water it regularly, especially while it's still getting established. The hotter the temperatures outside, the more water it’ll need. Prune it after flowering to ensure that it maintains the shape you prefer.
Hops are hardy vines to add to any garden, especially if you’re a home brewer or know someone who is. This vine climbs a staggering foot a day and will grow up to 25 feet in total. Even if you’re not into brewing, hop vines are an interesting ornamental to add to the garden. Be sure to support them by training them to climb twine, wire, or cable, or at least train them over a trellis. Rhizomes, the subterranean stems of your hops plants that will produce their root systems, should be planted in early spring and watered well until they become established. Harvest the cones from August through September, when they've become green and fragrant.
Laura Foreman is a copywriter and gardener living in coastal Northern California. She comes from a long line of Midwestern farmers and New England gardeners, including a grandfather whose garden once made the local newspaper. She grew up working in her parents home garden, which grew an assortment of vegetables as well as flowers and two huge hydrangea bushes. She mastered container gardening after years of apartment living and now tends a much larger plot with lots of fruit trees. She continues the family garden tradition by putting her kids to work to help with weeding, planting, harvesting and, of course, eating. Additionally, she looks forward to putting her harvest to use and finding new recipes for jams and compotes as well as cider, beer, wine, shrubs, and liquors. The homestead isn’t limited to plants she also has sheep, a goat, a horse and several chickens and recently learned to prepare, spin and dye wool for spinning and weaving. To see what she’s growing in the garden, follow her on Instagram or check out her blog, From the Garden Today or see what the sheep are up to at the blog, What the Flock.