The black-eyed Susan vine sports golden-yellow flowers with a dark eye in the center. (Getty Images)

The black-eyed Susan vine sports golden-yellow flowers with a dark eye in the center. (Getty Images)

Give these ‘annual’ vines a spot in your garden this summer

To clarify: They’re actually vines that gardeners treat as annuals simply because they die in winter.

I am inclined to think that when most gardeners discuss vines, monsters like wisteria, trumpet vine, honeysuckle and even clematis, are probably the ones that come to mind.

These are permanent vines that retain a woody structure year-round and eventually form an architectural component in the landscape, even when their leaves have all fallen for the winter. There are also perennial vines, like hops, some clematis and a rather elusive climbing yellow bleeding heart — yes, I have one on my patio — that after putting on what feels like miles of growth during the season, fade away to the ground in the winter only to return the following spring as vigorous as ever.

And then there are annual vines. Or, perhaps I should clarify that they’re vines that we treat as annuals simply because they will freeze and die in winter. These true annuals, like sweet peas, scarlet runner beans and the many tropical vines that grow just fine in our summers, can add a blast of color and even some privacy when grown on a trellis.

Here are a few varieties worth trying this summer…

Black-eyed Susan vine: Introduced to the states in the late 1800s, this popular vine sports golden-yellow 1-inch flowers with a distinct dark eye in the center. Over the years, breeders have developed colors ranging from white to yellow to orange-gold and even a reddish one fittingly called “Blushing Susan.” While you can often find this vine in the seed-packet section of the garden center, this time of year it is best to plant it from already started plants in nursery containers.

Lophos: Lophospermum is a vine native to Mexico that has velvety soft leaves with long tubular flowers that are reminiscent of gloxinias — hence the name of climbing gloxinia — that can be pink or red. Like all vines, you can use it as a spiller in a basket or planter, or feature it by itself where it will fill out a basket and trail down several feet. Pollinators, including hummingbirds, will love it.

Purple bell vine: Rhodochiton atrosanguineas is another vine native to Mexico with exotic-looking flowers that some might say are rather phallic, but since this column is in the newspaper, I will just describe them as being shaped like a bell with the bell a strong violet color and the “clapper” a dark maroon. Like most of these vines, it will grow 6 to 10 feet in one season.

Mandevilla: Also known as dipladenia, this beauty has glossy green leaves, much like star jasmine only larger, and will bloom its silly head off all summer with large tubular flowers that are 3 inches long. “Sun Parasols” are newer introductions that are a little less vigorous and develop a bushier look in a container. Colors are mostly pink to red, or occasionally white.

All of the above vines will perform best in full sun, although morning sun and afternoon shade seems to work, too. When grown in a container, remember that due to their vigorous growth habit they will need constant food and water to look their best. A little grooming throughout the summer will also make them happy.

Whether on a trellis or in a container, you won’t be disappointed with these fast-growing trailers. Try out a few this season and see if you don’t fall in love with them. Stay safe and keep on gardening.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at

Carnivorous plants

Sunnyside Nursery’s free gardening classes are online for now. A class on carnivorous plants is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 5 via Zoom. With registration, you’ll receive a Zoom link to attend the online class. For more information or to sign up, visit

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