Fast-growing shade vine, preferably evergreen?

jane_socal(Sunset 23/z10)June 1, 2004

A Maryland friend needs help with the following problem:

"I have a problem fence in my backyard. It is quite ugly, approximately 50 feet in length, and 6 feet high. It is chain link, with white and turquoise aluminum strips worked into it. One end is partially crushed, where a tree fell on it. Right now it is largely hidden by a profusion of greenery that dies back in the winter. Unfortunately it's got a lot of poison ivy in it, and I'm extremely allergic.

I must do something with it, because it's ruining the looks of the back yard. I can't do without it (dog), and I don't want to go to the expense of replacing it. But in consultation with my neighbor back there, we think we'd like to get rid of the jungly vines that are there now--just RoundUp the whole mess, on both sides of the fence. Then I'd spray paint the fence dark green, and then we'd plant something fast-growing on both sides--some kind of flowering vine, perhaps, but something that will stay green in the winter, if possible.

Is there such a vine? I don't know what the pH of the soil is back there, but it has good drainage and is very shady."

Any thoughts are appreciated. Plus, is RoundUp the best way for him to get rid of such a vine, and will it persist in the soil?

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- Fast-growing, shade-loving evergreen vine? i hate to say it, but it sounds as if you are looking for an ivy. i know we disparage Eglish ivy here regularly, but it's a matter of context; sometimes ivy can be a good choice. And there are some interesting vartieties out there.
- Consider using more that one kind of vine. A couple-three contrasting varieties of ivy as a "background," then a couple nicer, deciduous vines to enliven it in the summer.
- Depending on how much space you have, you might want slim-profiles shrub in front of the fence. It would "bulk up" your wall 'o green, giving a bit of variation, depth, and interest. There are also wall-appropriate herbacious plants which prefer shade, such as native woodlands sunflower and Joe Pye, which get some height to them.
- Can you make further use of the wall? Use it to support a birdhouse or something which would peep out through the vines? You could put up an assortment of hanging pots / wall planters and have some fun with it.
- i will be interested to see what others suggest, as i've a hundred foot of north-facing blank wooden walls (the backs of tool sheds, feedshed, potting shed, and kennel) which could use something other than their current coverage by "volunteer" ivy and Virginia creeper.
- Deep shade or some sun, at lest in places? Really dry or some moisture? (Ornimental beans and clematis are happy to start in shade if they can get their heads into some sun.)
- Happy gardening,

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 9:28AM
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I wouldn't plant helix period, but there are some other choices. Climbing hydrangea is an excellent vine for shade or part shade. I don't know how well it would do on the fence you describe, however. Actually, I don't much like the looks of any vine on a chain link fence. It rarely seems to do anything for the underlying problem (ugliness) in my opinion. I think I'd work on screening it with a mixture of shrubs (deciduous and evergreen) and perennials instead.

Here is a link that might be useful: Climbing Hydrangea

    Bookmark   June 2, 2004 at 9:46AM
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azaleaphile(z7 MD)

After dealing first hand with rampant ivy from neighbors' yards (grrrr) and seeing its effects in local woods, I have to agree with other posters that it's best to avoid the stuff. Also stay away from oriental bittersweet and ampelosis (aka porcelain berry), please.

Some suggestions: I've got a clematis 'Henryi' that grows and flowers well on a chain-link fence in deciduous-tree shade. Flowers are white, which lights up the area, and the seed heads look nice too. Other clematis on the same fence aren't so happy, so make sure the variety you pick is shade tolerant. There's a variegated Virginia creeper out on the market that is quite attractive, but much slower growing than the original kind (got one in a pot, waiting for it to put out a few more leaves before I plant it). None of these are evergreen, unfortunately. Shrubs are a better bet, IMHO.

Good luck with painting the chain link fence --- spray painting is really wasteful (and it gets everywhere), but using a brush is tedious and a strain on the body. Plus our fussy neighbor hated the first color I picked (how was I supposed to know John Deere green is so intense?) so we had to redo one whole side......

    Bookmark   June 7, 2004 at 6:35PM
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Woodvamp (Decumaria barbara) is a fast-growing native woodland vine. Unfortunately usually it isn't evergreen here in Maryland, but it grows well in shade, blooms right now, and would cling well to the type of fence you are describing. Here's what it looks like. The flowers have a very mild but pleasant fragrance.

I have woodvamp, climbing hydrangea, and English ivy growing here in various degrees of shade and sun. Woodvamp would be the most suitable for the type of fence your friend describes.

Unfortunately we are just a zone too cold here for the beautiful Clematis armandii that grows so well in California.

Here is a link that might be useful: More about woodvamp

    Bookmark   June 8, 2004 at 11:47AM
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I just picked up clematis "my angel" which grows in shade/part sun but it isn't ever green.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2004 at 4:28PM
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lrobins(z5 CO)

Sunlight Gardens, a mail-order nursery with a very good selection of regional natives, especially recommends the Dutchman's Pipe or Pipevine (Aristolochia macrophylla) for "screening" uses in a shady location. This vine will grow in sun or shade although probably not really deep shade. Not evergreen; however, the large, 6 to 12 inch, heart-shaped leaves, will effectively cover a fence or trellis during the growing season. The plant is named for the shape of the flowers.

More description:
"Dutchmans Pipe is a common vine in moist southern Appalachian hardwood forests in coves and along stream banks easily twining 20 to 30 feet high. It has been popular as a porch screen for ages because it is fast growing, has large heart shaped leaves, and has odd little flowers. The two inch pale brownish purple flowers are pipe shaped or s-shaped with a widely flaring triangular "mouth" perfect for catching careless flies. The curious looking early summer flowers are borne sparsely among the wide leaves. Try it on a trellis for screening or let it ramble among shrubs and trees. It likes good moist soil and can take either shade or sun."

For even more information, see

"Will quickly provide dense cover for sun porches, verandas, pillars, posts, trellises, arbors, fences or walls. Has been used for many years to screen front porches, and is capable of creating a deep shade."

And, as a further benefit, pipevine (Aristolochia) is the main host plant for the caterpillar of the beautiful pipevine swallowtail butterfly, described here. (So if you do plant this vine, and then eventually a weird looking black caterpillar with orange spikes all over its body shows up, please take good care of your "babies" and don't spray them!)

Here is a link that might be useful: Dutchman's Pipe Vine available - Sunlight Gardens

    Bookmark   June 9, 2004 at 11:35PM
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Try kadsura japonica. If the winter is not too terrible it is evergreen. It grows quickly and right now in my garden in NYC it's shooting new growth all over the place. Every week or so I have to cut it back. It makes flowers like tiny magnolias followed by berries in the fall. It stands drought and neglect well. I got mine from forestfarm in oregon a few years ago. It is very elegant.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2004 at 10:36PM
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jane_socal(Sunset 23/z10)

Thanks, everybody, for your responses. My friend says he'll plant next spring, after he fixes up the fence.

He liked the kadsura japonica suggestion. Short of ordering it from Forestfarm in Oregon, does anyone know of any sources around MD/VA?

    Bookmark   June 14, 2004 at 12:41PM
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lawnkid(Central NJ)

This has been a helpful forum.
How about alternating different plants?

You could probably create different patterns, some flowers might bloom early spring, others later in the summer or early fall.

I am trying to do something similar. I have a 70ft X 4ft chain link fence on the back of my property which I wish to cover with climbing plants, IVY has been suggested. The area past this fence belongs to the county and it has been negleted. It also has a lot of garbage sitting there. Can you suggest an IVY or any other plants that will grow and cover my fence and, also how many would I need to plant and how far apart for the fence to be covered quickly. Maybe I could make a pattern of different climbing plants and flowers. I live in central NJ.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2004 at 12:50PM
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bellefleurs(z7 VA)

I planted a fast growing vine this summer (its not evergreen - but lasted throught 4 frosts) cup and saucer - has purple cup shaped flowers. I planted one 3" plant in the beginning of May and it spread about - 10' in opposite directions on barb wire fence also covered the fence from top to bottom (about 4 feet). It was part shade/part sun and it grew/flowered the best in August and Sept. Sorry I don't know the latin name.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2004 at 2:38PM
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lori_elf z6b MD

To cover a big section of fence without introducing ivy, I use one of the type I clematises that *don't* require pruning back in spring and develop tree-trunk like base. My favorite of this type is the Sweet Autumn Clematis (clematis terniflora), though most the leaves turn brown in fall. It gets some shade from a nearby maple on the south side, and the northerly side is in heavy shade.

I also like Euonymous Fortunei 'Emerald Gaiety' for a beautiful evergreen viny shrub that will slowly grow up a fence even in part shade, though you'd have to plant a lot of them for 50' coverage.

Kadsura Japonica said to be hardy only to zone 7b(?) when I did a search, which is not hardy here.

I would definitely plant some mixed bushes in front of the fence too to hide or partially hide the view of the fence as well.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 9:40AM
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- Perhaps part of the problem is just the chainlink itself. Wooden lattice is fairly cheap and could be attached to the chainlink with wire. (Keep the wood a few inches off the ground so it doesn't rot.) i's suggest painting the latticework before putting it up. That way, you won't miss spots, plus you can just do it with brush, roller, or spray while it's laid out on newspapers.
- There are also rolls of willow withies available which might look even better but still be a fraction of the price of replacing the fence.
- Wooden lattice or withies may look better plus provide a better surface for vines to grow on.

- Happy gardening,

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 12:05PM
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leaz7b(z7b TX)

I asked the same question several months back for a pergola I have in my back yard. I got basically the same answers, but they included Butterfly Vine and Confederate Jasmine(since there is debate as to whether I am actually in Z 7 or 8). Another suggestion was Mandy Jasmine. Hope these help you. I took a leap of faith and planted Confederate Jasmine for the fragrance. We'll see how it goes. Lea

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 7:04PM
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mark_nova(6/7 Snst32 AHS7)

I asked a similar question recently on the Landscape forum.
Also, on the subject of ivies, I was told that slower-growing ivies--golden-colored ivies such as Hedera helix 'Goldchild'--would slowly cover a fence without being too much trouble.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plantings for chain-link fences

    Bookmark   January 29, 2005 at 9:36PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

Some Jasmines should do OK in your area, and there are also some evergreen honeysuckles as well (but NOT the invasive Japanese types!).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 12:18PM
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