Vines are easy to care for and add dimension

Vines add another dimension to the garden. They can be planted on trellises, arbours along fences or by trees and shrubs. As with any plant it will take a year or two to become established but once the vines are established they will draw the eye upwards adding a new dimension to parts of the garden. Most vines are low maintenance plants but like shrubs should be checked and pruned on a regular basis.

Clematis are one of the showiest vines. How and when they are pruned depends on the time of year they bloom. To try to simplify how to care for clematis, they have been divided into three groups depending on when they bloom.

Group 1 refers to clematis that bloom early spring with flowers emerging from last year’s growth. Prune these plants just after blooming to remove any broken stems or weak branches. Do not cut back into older wood as new buds may or may not sprout.

Group 2 clematis bloom between May and July. These plants bloom on new wood and like group one do well with a light pruning. In this case the plants should be pruned in the spring just before or as the leaf buds are breaking dormancy.

Clematis in group 3 bloom from July into the fall. These vines can be cut back to strong buds about 30 cm (12 inches) above the ground early in the spring.

Landscape Ontario mentions a new group of clematis that have been bred to bloom for longer periods of time. These plants should be pruned in the winter when they are dormant.

Not all clematis are vines. There are a number of varieties that are short sending branches up three to five feet. They may need support to stay up right but obelisks work better than trellises.

Hops are a herbaceous perennial meaning that the top will die back each fall while the roots will overwinter in the ground. Remove the top growth when the plant is dormant. Once established, hops can be an aggressive plant and need a sturdy trellis. Do not use trees or shrubs as their trellis as they are likely to smother other plants.

Virginia Creepers can be grown as a ground cover or a climbing vine on a trellis. Removing broken or damaged stems or thinning should be done in the spring before it leafs out. The plant will often grow for years without need to be pruned unless it gets too heavy for the trellis that holds it upright.

Prune Engleman Ivy which is often confused with Virginia creeper, requires the same care as Virginia Creeper.

Honeysuckle vines that are hardy in Alberta produce flowers on last year’s wood. Lightly prune the plants to remove dead, diseased or injured wood.

Hardy grapes will grow in Alberta if planted in a warm area that is protected in winter. Prune back to the second year’s growth leaving up to five buds on the lateral canes. Leaving more canes will decrease the number of grapes produced and increase the amount of foliage.

Vines are an easy to care for plant that adds to any landscape. Pay attention to when they bloom and prune accordingly.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturist that has gardened in central Alberta for over 30 years. She can be reached at

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