Well-behaved evergreen or semi-evergreen vines for Bay Area – are there any?


In our warm area we can’t really rely on cold weather to control most evergreen vines and one should be very careful in choosing long lived highly decorative, preferably evergreen well conforming to the site vine.

1)   Vine appearance and CULTIVARS: Always examine vigor of the vine: different cultivars or species (subspecies) in the same Genus or Family can differ significantly in their growth rate.

2)   SUPPORT, SPACE & GROWING CONDITIONS: If you are considering your vine go up – please provide sturdy support – trellis, arbor, fence or walls should be able to support the plant.

3)   YOUR TIME: How much time you ready to devote to trimming and otherwise tending for your vine. Or you may be able to control rampant and heavy growers if your conditions not ideal for that vine (though it may affect blooming).

4)   VINE ATTACHEMENT: Think if you ever will need to repair or paint your support – it will also determine your vine option (some can’t be detached without permanent damage to vine and/or support).

Lets see how different vines hold at its’ support:

  • Use rootlets and/or holdfast discs to cling to the surface (can be detached, but more probably will damage the surface and if runs on a stucco wall it can create potential openings on a surface for termites or other insects entry). Mature vines need to be tied or otherwise fasten to support because they can be detached under its’ own weight;
  • Twine around support and itself (can’t be detached from support without serious damage to vine or support unless you are willing to cut vine to the ground);
  • Use tendrils to hold on support (detaching from support not an easy task but can be done for young plants with minimal damage for vine);
  • Combinations of above listed methods (there are no ways to detach the vine from support besides cutting it to the ground).

Trumpet Vines
Let’s investigate what options do we have in inland BA just in Bignonia Family (Bignoniaceae) -home for the many vines with trumpet-shaped flowers):

 Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)  Trumpet Creeper (Campsis)  Violet Trumpet Vine (Clytosma callistegioides)  Trumpet Vines (Distictis) Yellow Trumpet Vine /Cat’s Claw (Macfadyena unguis-cati) Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta)
COLOR, FLOWERS Brick-red, red, orange-red. Flowers are 2 inches trumpet-shaped, clustered at the end of branches. Red, orange-red  flowers – in clusters at the end of the branch tip. Violet, lavender, pale purple with darker veins, 3 inch long and wide trumpet flowers at the tip of the new shoots. Vanilla Trumpet Vine (Distictis laxiflora) Vanilla scented flowers open violet and then fade from lavender to white with orange-yellow throat inside. 4 inch long and 3,5 in wide long lasting trumpet flowers in clusters at the tip of the shoots. Yellow flowers are 2 inch long and 4 in wide long lasting in clusters. Orange-red tubular flowers are 3 inch long and 1 in wide in profuse clusters at the tip of the terminal shoots.
LEAVES Leaf – consist of two dark green glossy 6-in leaflets and tendril, in colder month leafs may turn purplish and even partially drop. Leaves divided in 9-11 leaflets depending on species, stems have aerial rootlets. Leathery dark green leaves with even or wavy margins divided in 2 leaflets and tendril in between. Glossy dark green leaves with wavy margins divided in 2 leaflets and tendril in between. Glossy dark green leaves divided in 2 leaflets and claw-like 3 part tendril in between. Glossy dark green leaves divided in 2 leaflets and 3-part tendril in between, some of the leaves have 3rd leaflets instead of tendril.
BLOOMING TIME Blooming: first flash – late spring then intermittent summer flowering.  Blooming from mid summer to fall.  Profuse blooming from late spring to fall. With age may become woody.  Blooming through the year in burst in warm periods.  Short blooming period in spring or early summer Blooms in fall and winter
LEAF DROP, VIGOR Evergreen in BA, very rampant and woody grower (some species up to 60 ft) native to Southern US. Semi-evergreen to deciduous in BA, woody, very heavy, vigorous vine. Evergreen in BA, strong vine from Brazil and Argentina. Grows to 30 ft long. Evergreen in BA, strong vines native to Mexico. More restrained then other Distictis, 15 – 20 ft Evergreen in frostless BA can go completely deciduous in colder areas, very vigorous vine native to Mexico up to 40 ft. Evergreen in BA, very vigorous woody vine speedy brunching and growing up and wide to 40 ft native to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay
CULTIVARS ‘Dragon Lady’ – saturated red blooms, ‘Jekyll’ – smaller flowers, orange on the outside with yellow throats inside, ‘Tangerine Beauty’ – tangerine colored with lighter shade on the inside – less rampant grower of crossvines– up to 30 ft.  Campsis radicans (Bignonia radicans). Common Trumpet Creeper – native to eastern US grows up to 40 ft. Leaf – 11 leaflets, flower – 3 in orange tube with bright red lobes -2 in spread. ‘Balboa Sunset’ has darker red blooms, ‘Flava’ – yellow blooms. Campsis grandiflora (Bignonia chinensis). Chinese Trumpet Creeper is less vigorous – up to 30 ft and not as hardy as C. radicans. Leafs with 9 leaflets and flowers are redder and slightly larger then Common Creeper’s.  Cross between those 2 species – Campsis x tagliabuana has characteristics in between. ‘Madame Galen’ has salmon-red flowers, ‘Indian Summer’ salmon flowers with red-orange throat.  Blood-Red Trumpet Vine (Distictis buccinatoria) more vigorous grower up to 30 ft with bright orange-red flowers with yellow throats, that faded to purplish-red with yellow throat are 4 inch long and 3 in wide in clusters. Royal Trumpet Vine Distictis ‘Rivers’ close in appearance and vigor to Blood-Red Trumpet vine with mauve-purple flowers and yellow throat.
SUPPORT, SPACE & GROWING CONDITIONS  Needs very sturdy support and plenty of headspace. Full sun to some shade (more shade – less flowers). Moderate watering – after establishing, can go by with very little supplemental water – also help control growth rate but cut on flowers. Needs very sturdy support and plenty of headspace. Full sun to some shade (more shade – less flowers). Moderate watering – after establishing, can go by with very little supplemental water Needs sturdy support – trellis/arbor and plenty of headspace. Full sun to partial shade – one of the most shade tolerant trumpet vines. Moderate watering – after establishing Needs sturdy support – trellis/arbor and plenty of headspace. Full sun to partial shade – one of the most shade tolerant trumpet vines. Moderate watering – after establishing Needs sturdy support – trellis/arbor and plenty of headspace. Full sun to partial shade. Can be used as erosion control and ground cover – sets roots where stems touch the ground. Moderate watering – after establishing Needs sturdy support – trellis/arbor that can withstand its’ weight. Full sun. Moderate watering – after establishing.
YOUR TIME  Needs plenty of your attention before spring grows – thinning and cutting back. Train your vine to drape arbor or entryway for dramatic effect.  Needs plenty of your attention before spring grows
and after flowering – thinning and cutting back. Old unmanageable plants may
require radical cut back to the ground, has suckering problem.
 Needs your attention in late winter – thinning and cutting back. During growing season continue to cut unwanted shoots and spent flowers (not necessary). If you let it run – can easily drape your house Prune in late winter – thinning and cutting back. During growing season continue to cut unwanted shoots Prune after flowering – thinning and cutting back.  During the grows season pinch vigorous shoots as needed Prune after flowering in spring or summer – thinning and cutting back.
VINE ATTACHEMENT  Tendrils and holdfast discs – attaches to almost any surface  Stems cling to support by aerial rootlets and twine – attaches to almost any surface. At mature age need additional support on walls – may became too heavy to hold itself  Stems use tendrils to attach, vine needs support on walls  Stems use tendrils to attach, vine needs support on walls Stems use forklike (claw-like) tendrils to attach, vine needs support only on slick walls Stems use tendrils and twine to attach to support. Gracefully drapes over the retaining walls.

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One Response to “Well-behaved evergreen or semi-evergreen vines for Bay Area – are there any?”

  1. Gerald Birmingham Says:

    Great post…I always find time to trim our vine. I also use tendrils to hold on support.

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