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Top 10 Choices for Annual Vines and Climbing Plants

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Flowering vines add so much to a garden, but they are often over-looked. It takes time for most perennial vines to become established and flower well, but that's not a problem with annual vines. Many will start flowering by mid-summer and continue right through frost. You won't often find annual flowering vines for sale in garden centers because as they grow, they become a tangled mess. But these plants are incredibly easy to start from seed, indoors or out, and require little maintenance. For the price of a packet of seeds you have vining flowers that can grow up structures and through plants or cascade down from hanging baskets.

1. Black-Eyed Susan Vine (Thunbergia alata)

Black-eyed Susan Vine in a Container
Photo: © Marie Iannotti
A short, annual vine that grows well in containers. The small(1 1/2") yellow and orange flowers often have a dark center, resembling black-eyed Susans. You can often find the plants sold in hanging baskets. While they do well in containers, a larger container or transplanting in the ground will encourage this vine to really take off. Yellow and orange flowers. (6 - 8 ft.)

2. Canary Creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum)

Flowering Vines
Photo: © Marie Iannotti
A Canary Creeper is late season bloomer, staring in July and going through October. It is in the nasturtium family . The 1" yellow flowers really do resemble feathery birds. The foliage is very attractive, with deeply divided palm-shaped leaves.

Canary Creeper is a vigorous grower, but like its nasturtium cousins, it doesn't really grab hold of anything. It does look good simply scrambling through other plants, though. Yellow flowers. (8 - 12 ft. Hardy in USDA Zones 9 - 10)

3. Cardinal Climber (Ipomoea sloteri)

Cardinal Climber Plants
Photo: © Marie Iannotti
If you'd like to attract hummingbirds to your garden, planting a Cardinal Climber vine is a good start. The trumpet-shaped flowers are full of nectar and a brilliant red.

Cardinal Climber has feathery, light leaves that filter the view, allowing you to look through the vine but also providing some privacy. The plants flower heavily, but they can self-sow aggressively. Only Arizona has banned their sale as an invasive. Usually the volunteer plants can be easily weeded out and many gardeners enjoy their free-growing nature. Note: the seeds are poisonous, if ingested. (6 - 12 ft.)

4. Climbing Snapdragon (Asarina)

Growing Climbing Snapdragon Vine
Photo: © Marie Iannotti
Climbing Snapdragon is not a snapdragon, but the flowers are very similar. It is a free-flowering twiner that is great in containers and spilling over walls. The vines will twine around strings and trellises and can be cut back if flowering drops off. Climbing snapdragon can even be grown as a house plant. Flowers come in red, pink, lavender and blue with speckled white chins. (6 - 8' ft.)

5. Cup and Saucer Vine (Cobaea scandens)

Cathedral Bells Flowering Vine
Photo: © Marie Iannotti
These unusual looking flowers are also sweetly scented. The vines attach themselves to supports gently, with tendrils. The actual flower is the cup. These are usually lavender or white. They are surrounded by a saucer or collar of green calyx. Cup and Saucer vines take awhile to start blooming, so it helps to start them early, indoors. For some reason, the flat seeds germinate better when planted on their edge. This makes them less prone to rot. (20+ ft. Hardy in USDA Zones 9 - 10)

6. Morning Glory (Ipomoea tricolor)

Morning Glories (Ipomoea tricolor)
Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
An old fashioned vine that everyone remembers from childhood. Easy to grow and it will twin around anything that crosses it's path. But they call it morning glory for a reason, and the flowers will close in the afternoon heat. Some people also refer to it as the Back to School Vine, because it can wait until the end of summer to start flowering.

However Morning Glories are vigorous vines that don't require much care and they self-seed readily. Variety of colors. 10 -12' (Annual)

Tips for Growing Morning Glories

7. Ornamental Gourds

Ornamental Gourds
Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.
Ornamental gourds aren't grown for their flowers, but for their seed pods - the gourds. There's a good variety of gourds that grow easily and quickly in just a few months. Many people let the vines sprawl on the ground, like squash, but if you are growing them for decoration, they remain cleaner and less pest prone if you give them a structure to grow up. A pergola or arbor looks especially fun with the vines growing across it and the gourds dangling down above your head. Many of the gourds are easy to dry and can be used as decorations or crafts, like gourd birdhouses.

8. Purple Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus)

Purple Hyacinth Bean Vines
Photo: © Marie Iannotti
Everything about this vine is riotous. The heart-shaped leaves have purple veining on the under-sides. The stems have a deep-purple cast. The profuse blooms are a rich lavender and the glossy pods are almost day glow purple. At one time this was an important foraged food source, but now it is mostly grown as an ornamental. The vines grow quickly and start flowering early. Flowering tapers off, as the pods begin to form, but the plants remain attractive and continue spiraling upward. (6 - 15 ft.)

9. Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)

Scarlett Runner Beans
Photo: Fatrabbit / Creative Commons
Runner beans, like hyacinth beans, are generally grown for their ornamental flowers. However Scarlet Runner beans make a nice eating bean, when harvested young. But since there are many better tasting beans and the flowers are so lovely (and there are so many of them), you can understand why it's gained a reputation as a flowering vine.

The vines can get long and heavy very quickly, so be sure to provide a good support for them to grow on. Although Scarlet Runner is commonly available, there are many other runner beans in shades of red, pink, white or some combination. 'Painted Lady' is a soft red and white flower and the vines can tolerate heat better than most runner beans. 'Moonlight' is a pure white flower that produces one of the better tasting, stringless runner bean pods.

Tips for Growing Scarlett Runner Beans

10. Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)

Sweet Peas
Courtesty of the National Garden Bureau, Inc.
Sweet Pea vines look deceptively fragile. This is a tough little vine that favors the cooler temperatures of Spring and Fall. The flowers are known for their heavy, sweet fragrance, but not all new cultivars are scented. Be sure to read the seed packet before buying.

Sweet peas make great cut flowers. The more you cut, the longer the plants will bloom. My favorite way to use Sweet Peas is to grow them in my vegetable garden, with my pole beans. They add color and fragrance, but they also entice more bees and other pollinating insects. 4 - 6 ft.)

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