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Flowering Vines to Plant in the Desert

As children, many of us watched Tarzan every Saturday morning on TV as he swung between lianas scattered strategically throughout the jungle and wished that we, too, could swing around our yards. Later, as adults, we watched “Gone with the Wind” with its vine-draped Southern plantation house, and fantasized about how wonderful our front porch would be if it had similar columns covered in ivy.

Violet trumpet vine (Clytostoma callistegioides)

While the Arizona low-desert climate isn’t conducive to growing thick vines that hang from trees, gardeners here have a plethora of vining plants with gorgeous flowers from which to choose that do extremely well in our high heat.

Most vines climb naturally by using tendrils or aerial rootlets along the stems that attach themselves to rough surfaces or crevices, by twining around a support, or by using thorns or hooked branches.

Others have to be manually guided and trained around a support structure. Whether natural or assisted, vines generally grow faster than other plants, which enables them to cover an area quickly, flourish in spaces with little available soil and reach bright sunlight when planted in even the most shaded of locations.

Pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana)

Vines are a great addition to any yard, but they’re especially suited for small areas because they add vertical interest without taking up a lot of ground space. You can use these climbing plants to create an inviting vine-covered entry arbor to your home that hints at coolness and shade within on a hot summer day. Or, use them to enclose a hidden garden within your yard to where you can escape or hold intimate conversations. You can affix vines to angular corners and edges, to soften and add grace to the areas. And if the walls enclosing your backyard feature long, empty horizontal expanses, consider breaking up the space and adding visual interest with vines. They can also be planted strategically to hide unsightly views or pool equipment.

A multitude of vines are available that offer an array of textures; many even have colorful, striking flowers. No matter what climber you choose for your yard, all vines need occasional pruning for shaping and should receive regular water during the warm season.


Pam’s pink honeysuckle
(Lonicera x americana ‘Pam’s Pink’)

This evergreen twining shrub needs support to climb. It produces clusters of lightly scented flowers that are pink in bud and open into tubular-shaped cream-and-pink blossoms. Bloom time is early to mid spring. Plant in full sun for best growth.

Pink trumpet vine
(Podranea ricasoliana)

A vigorous grower once mature, this vine loves heat and produces trumpet-shaped red-veined pink flowers during the warm season. It can climb posts and trellises, but it must be fastened to or guided around its support. A heavy frost might cause severe leaf damage, but the plant will soon recover if cut back to the ground. Plant in full sun.

Queen’s wreath
(Antigonon leptopus)

Also referred to as coral vine, this Mexican native climbs by tendrils and produces bright green leaves. From summer into fall, it displays sprays of pink, red or white flowers. It is deciduous in areas that receive frost but recovers quickly when the weather warms. Make sure to cut back to the ground in spring.

Queen’s wreath (Antigonon leptopus)

Violet trumpet vine
(Clytostoma callistegioides)

This evergreen trumpet vine climbs by tendrils and requires support to grow up a wall. It blooms from late spring into fall producing sprays of trumpet-shaped lavender flowers. Plant in full sun or partial shade.

Virgin’s bower
(Clematis drummondii)

This vine is native to Arizona and Baja California. While its flowers are not particularly showy, its fruits are. Flowers are cream-colored, appearing in clusters in spring and summer. They are followed by cream-colored plumose fruits. This vine is winter deciduous but cold hardy and should be planted in full sun or partial shade.

Yellow orchid vine
(Callaeum macropterum)

This deciduous twining vine is native to Mexico. Throughout summer, it produces clusters of five-petalled yellow flowers. Its winged seed pods are also attractive and often used in dried flower arrangements. Plant in full sun.


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