Vines for a pergola

August 18, 2005

With any luck, I will soon have a small pergola in my back yard (8' tall x 6' deep x 14' wide). Since we are currently trying to get rid of hundreds of little trumpet vines that keep springing up, I know better than to grow those on it. Does anyone have suggestions for the "perfect" vine to cover the pergola but not take it over, that looks beautiful but doesn't attract so many bees that humans can't sit under it? Is there such a thing? I am not so bee-phobic since I started gardening but one of my kids is very much so.

I have no experience with clematis but wonder if one of them (or a few) would be good--also wonder about grapes?? I personally love roses but I know they can become so dense . . .

Thanks for your suggestions--pictures would be great too!

Comments (14)

  • Carol_Ann

    Grapes are nice on a pergola but the fruit, when ripening, will attract bees, lots of 'em... for a similar look without the fruit you can grow Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), although it's a vigorous grower and you'll have to cut it back from time to time. English ivy is another possibility but also aggressive, although in your climate it wouldn't be hard to control it. I personally like the dense foliage overhead for a cool summer retreat. You can just put a few pots of flowers (or perennials in the ground) at the entrance to the pergola for color... or have the pergola positioned to look out at a favorite flower bed.

    Do you want something to completely cover the top? Clematis will grow up the sides and in some cases over the top of a pergola... I had a Jackmanii that grew up onto the top of my garage in IN. Others didn't get as tall. You could plant a few different varities for a longer season of bloom and different colors. The autumn-blooming ones tend to attract lots of insects but the earlier season ones don't create a problem.

    There are lots of climbing roses to chose from -- pick a hardy variety that won't need winter protection or you'll have your work cut out for you. They'll attract some bees but not usually great numbers of them at once, so maybe that's a good choice to have color and beauty and coverage without too many bees to scare your kids.

    I can't remember if wisteria is a big draw for bees. If you try that, make sure your pergola is VERY sturdy, as wisteria is heavy and strong and will pull it down.

    You can always do annual vines (morning glory, etc.) if you want to mess with planting each year and wait part of the summer for coverage. You could do that until you decide, or do it on one/both end(s) so you can vary things each year.

    Also, consider combinations. White Flower Farm had some lovely clematis-rose combinations in their catalog this summer that really inspired me. Other garden catalogs might have ideas that inspire, too.

    Lots of other options but those are what I thought of first. I love pergolas -- have fun!

  • joandaugh

    Thanks for all the ideas & links. The Jackmanii is gorgeous--it's now high up on my list--thinking about combinations. I didn't realize that Virginia Creeper wasn't an ivy. I love how it turns red.

    I started some morning glory seeds for the first time this spring and it's amazing because through a "gardening accident" (most of my starts got dumped over) I had only one plant come through. It has managed to fill in an empty corner of my yard on a trellis. All from one little vine. So I might use those next spring to reach the top of the pergola while the perennials are still working at it.

    I love planning plantings . . .

  • psnave

    Sounds like a lovely project; DH promised me one and I'm still waiting! I second the clematis suggestion, no thorns and wonderful color. There is a group of clematis called "viticella" that perform fantastic in full sun, and are winter hardy. Many of them bloom all summer and are not prone to wilt, a common problem with clematis. There are pics at chalkhill nusery and brushwood nursery. You can goto and do a search for viticellas. Their is also a clematis forum here at GW.

  • bellarosa

    Great clematis varieties to choose from include:
    Madame Julia Correvon - Small, red flowers. Very profuse bloomer.

    Mrs Cholomodeney: Large, light blue flowers.

    Huldine: Heavy bloomer. White flowers. Tall.

    Etoile Violette: Purple flowers. Tall.

    Comtesse de Bouchard: Pink flowers. Tall.

    Sweet Autumn Clematis: Small, white fragrant blooms. Very strong grower. Blooms in Sept. for me. Get really BIG!

    Check out:

    There's a website in there for clematis varieties.

  • joandaugh

    Wow, the Chalk Hill list is extensive and the photos are great. It seems like I could pick complimentary colors and try to choose different blooming times. I wonder how many plants I would need--the top will be 8' x 14' including overhang, I believe.

    I also have a split rail fence in the front of my yard that is dying for a vining flower. It looks like we're coming up on a good time to plant them and grow enough roots before that season that starts with W comes, as long as it isn't 90 degrees all fall.

  • Lizzy5225

    Have you heard of Hops vine? It grows quickly, attracts butterflies instead of bees and has a silky blue flower.
    Just a suggestion.
    Good Lucky

  • joandaugh

    Oh, I did mean to ask about hops and I forgot. I have seen the dried flowers before and I think they're very pretty. I wonder if anybody in Zone 5--northern Illinois has had good luck with them?

  • kevin_5


    Hops(Humulus lupulus) are native to Northern Illinois.

  • october17

    Virginia Creeper can be very invasive too. Birds will drop seeds everywhere. I agree it's beautiful in the fall, but not worth it to me since, after ten years, I still have to pull a few out every year. (Somebody around here must have one.)

  • grandblvd03

    Dutchman's Pipe is a flowerless vine with huge beautiful leaves and grows well here. I have one on an arbor.

  • lbabb

    I have a hyacinth bean that I got last year. It gets purple kind of "spiky" flowers and then produces pods with seeds in them where the flowers were. I saved a few pods last year and planted them right in the ground in May, and I now have a beautiful vine growing up my deck. I have even had people stop and ask what it is, and if they could have some pods. You would have to plant it every year, but you would have the free seeds if you remember to save them.

  • joandaugh

    Well, the posts of the pergola are in and hopefully it will be finished by the end of the month--not much time for weekend projects now but it's a start. I don't know if I'll be able to put them in the ground this fall to give them enough time before winter. But the way the weather is now, it feels like the middle of summer still and I'm having to babysit all the new plants I've put in this year, which is really getting to be a pain. Where's the rain??

    I will have to investigate some of those other ideas. Someone gave me a pass to the Botanical Gardens so I'm hoping to get up there soon for more ideas too.

  • ceresone

    silver lace vine, perhaps?

  • Deborah lippitt

    Silver lace vines get huge and wisteria will spread where ever it all over.I have been fighting one I removed for 3 years.

    I have a large Akebia Quinata that appears to have Verticillium wilt.. Any one else know if it is susceptible?I am hoping it is only thrips.

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