Native Vines of the Southeast

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The forests of the southeast have provided gardeners with many wonderful native plants. Native trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers provide beauty while being adapted to the area’s harsh weather extremes and poor soils. Some of the hardiest and most interesting native plants are the vines. Whether evergreen or deciduous with simple or compound leaves, a native vine is an asset to any home landscape.

Virginia creeper flower

Native Vines of The Southeast

Native vines Seasonality Flower Fruit Attributes and garden uses


Bignonia capriolata

Deciduous Orange to red (April) Bean-like pod High, quick climber good for sighting in wooded situations, fences, or trellis.

Coral beads

Cocculus carolinus

Deciduous Yellow-green (June) Red drupe Flowers in panicles.


Campsis Radicans

Deciduous Orange to red (June) Long capsule Vigorous climber, aggressive. Good groundcover.
Carolina jessamine Gelsimium sempervirens Evergreen Yellow (Mar) Capsule Evergreen, early bloomer. Trellis, fence, mailbox, arbor, or groundcover.
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia Deciduous Yellow-green (May) Blue berries Great red fall color. Quick cover for walls and fences.

Muscadine grape

Vitis rotundifolia

Deciduous White Black grapes Edible fruit. Trellis or use on arbor.
American wisteria Wisteria frutescens Deciduous Lavender Brown pod Does not invade, compound leaves
Climbing hydrangea Decumaria barbara Deciduous White fragrant Capsules Good groundcover and climber wet or dry sites.
Yellow honeysuckle Lonicera flava Deciduous Yellow (Apr). Lovely flowers. Trellis.

Red trumpet honeysuckle

Lonicera sempervirens

Deciduous Red (Mar) Nice red flower color. Trellis.

Bamboo vine

Smilax laurifolia

Evergreen Green Black drupes Evergreen winter interest. Trellis.

bignonia crossvine

Gardeners can find many uses for native vines in the home garden. Some vines can be used as groundcovers when allowed to ramble over an open area. Others can be used to screen unwanted views by allowing them to grow over chain link fences. Unattractive fences can be hidden as well as old outbuildings and storage areas. Planted at the base of stone or masonry walls, vines can soften the look of garden walls. Vines can be used as shade when encouraged to cover an arbor. Trellises provide a vertical element to garden design.

Coral honeysuckle pink

Planting and maintaining vines is relatively simple. Just treat them as you would a shrub. Purchase the plants from native plant growers as a 1, 2, or 3-gallon container. Plant them in the winter and early spring and site them at the base of the structure you wish to cover. Periodically weave the vines through the arbor or trellis in order to form the branch structure you desire. For native grapes, tie twine from the trellis to the base of the vine and allow the vine to climb the string. Then pick the best branches to train as the main branches or arms.

Trellis designs

Trellises are simple and affordable to build. They come in a variety styles and shapes and one is sure to fit your particular situation. The materials that may be used, bamboo, pressure treated pine, twine, and wire, are easily located and affordable. Basically, any vertical configuration of lengths of bamboo or pressure treated wood can be used for a trellis. Simply tie a bundle of bamboo together at one end and fan out the other for a fan trellis. Or, lay out bamboo in a grid pattern and lash the pieces together with wire or nylon twine to make a grid trellis. For muscadine grapes, build a single or double tier trellis. Train the main branches horizontal to the ground and prune in the winter to rejuvenate the vines.


Arbor Designs

Arbors are not quite as simple to build as trellises, but are worth the extra effort. The structures define spaces in the garden by separating garden ‘rooms’, much the way a door separates rooms in a house. By blocking views and guiding traffic, one can make a garden feel much larger than it actually is.

Arbors also provide shade and rest to weary gardeners and garden goers. Chairs, tables, and planters can be arranged under arbors to provide an atmosphere of relaxation.

Arbors define an entryway to a garden feature or space, such as a path, gate, or garden room. Lattice arbor designs are also ideal for training climbing plants such as roses, clematis, and ivy. Unlike a two dimensional trellis, the arbor provides flat or curved “roof” to support a leafy canopy, ideal for shady sitting areas.

There are a couple of common arbor designs: the pergola, which features a flat top with horizontal supports and the classic, which features an arch on top with horizontal supports. Arbors can be constructed from a wide range of materials such as cedar, iron, wood, twigs or branches, and PVC (plastic).