Flowering Vines For Spring
Clematis jackmanii flower vine

Twining gracefully up a trellis or covering an entire wall, vines are the vertical planting element that take foliage and flower in the landscape to new heights!  There are myriad vines that we use in our designs, each with a different purpose in mind.  Vines are each unique, and their particular habits inform us where they might belong in the designed landscape.  Here are a few of our favorites to plant for a Spring flower show, and where we would plant them.

Early Spring

Clematis, Hardenbergia, Akebia


When the trees are still bare and the days warming, there is nothing more refreshing to the eye than Spring flowers.  We love these delicate-looking but deceptively hardy vines for their wonderful Spring show, and we tend to place them at focal points in the garden where they will show off when little else is in bloom.  Clematis are a classic beauty, and there are now countless cultivars to choose from.  We love the classic Clematis jackmanii (above) for its rich purple hue.  For something unique, Clematis ‘Niobe’ is a real show-stopper with its wine-colored flowers.  For an incredible show of smaller flowers in profusion, try one of the Clematis montana hybrids.  Montana’s fragrant blooms are a haven for pollinators, so expect a lot of bee activity… but nothing beats the fragrant bower!

Speaking of fragrance, Evergreen Clematis armandii has the sweetest white blossoms and unique evergreen leaves to boot!  For coverage on a fence or arbor, it makes quite the statement with leaves that hang almost like bamboo.  The best place to plant a Clematis?  They like their roots in shade and their leaves in good sun.  And of course, they want to climb!  A twining vine, Clematis will require a trellis or other support to twist onto.

Plant: In tight spots, or as a fence backdrop to a flower garden

Red Clematis 'Niobe' vine on a fence

Clematis ‘Niobe’

Pink Clematis Montana vine flowering prolifically

Clematis ‘Montana’

White Clematis armandii flowers and evergreen leaves

Clematis armandii


Another evergreen vine with a fabulous bloom, Hardenbergia (AKA Happy Wanderer) is native to Australia with blooms that resemble miniature wisteria!  A prolific grower and bloomer, it benefits from a good cutting back once a year or so.  The straight species is a rich purple, but for a pure white flower go with the cultivar ‘White Out.’  Full sun will keep these happy, and something to twine onto, and once established it is more drought-tolerant than most vines!  As usual, Australian plants are tough buggers.

Plant:  To cover a large fence, quickly.

Purple Hardenbergia violacea vine flowering

Hardenbergia violacea


Known by the common name of ‘Chocolate Vine,’ this unusual vine hails from China, where it is used in traditional medicine.  As if the brilliant green leaves and pendant, burgundy flowers weren’t enough, Akebia in bloom gives off a sweet aroma a little like chocolate to hearken in the Spring.  While invasive on the East Coast, it doesn’t cause trouble in our drier California climate, but may benefit from some shade in hot areas.

Plant: For a change from the familiar.

Burgundy flowers of Akebia Quinata Chocolate Vine

Akebia quinata

Late Spring

Wisteria, Lonicera 


The classic, exquisite, and sometimes maddening Wisteria has been widely cultivated in its native China and Japan, Europe, and the Americas.  With its massive flower clusters and tendency to cover a lot of space, it is the ultimate choice for a bower, arbor or pergola where its flowers can droop overhead.  The one main danger with Wisteria is its vigor.  Always searching for more space to grow, the vine’s woody branches will devour a weak arbor, and powerful roots will send out underground runners and sprouts, destroying lawns and foundations alike.  What to do?  Plant it where these traits won’t matter!  Planting some distance from concrete or lawn will give the Wisteria room to do its thing without intrusion.  Tricky but manageable in the right spot, the flower show, which may occur for over a month in Spring, is worth the extra effort.

Plant: For a show-stopper

Luxurious landscape with wisteria vines overhanging a bench

Wisteria sinensis

Lonicera (Honeysuckle)

Another classic, Honeysuckle is a well-loved plant with countless varieties native to Asia and the Americas.  We love Lonicera sempervirens for its classic red flowers, and several new European honeysuckle cultivars that are well-behaved and beautifully scented, including ‘Goldflame’ and miniature vine ‘Peaches and Cream.’  Full sun or part shade is the way to go for these beauties.

Plant: For hummingbirds!

Red honeysuckle lonicera flowers

Lonicera ‘Major Wheeler’

Pink and orange Goldflame honeysuckle lonicera flowers

Lonicera ‘Goldflame’

(Monrovia Patent)

Peaches and Cream honeysuckle lonicera vine from Monrovia

Lonicera ‘Peaches and Cream’

(Monrovia Patent)

We hope one of these vines finds a home in your garden this Spring!  If you’re looking to buy plants online, check out plantingjustice.org, a Bay-Area based organization with great plants for a great cause.  Thank you as always for reading, and we wish all the amazing Mothers out there a happy Mother’s Day!


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