5 Perennial Vines for the Florida Garden
The Sunny Florida Garden
Any gardener in Florida will tell you that it is very easy to grow plants in the sunshine state. The first reason is because it is nearly always sunny and plants love the sun. Another reason is because it is humid, and many plants love a moist environment. Florida has some wonderful conditions for growing many different kinds of plants, but that doesn't mean the Florida gardener doesn't run into challenges picking the right plants to weather the sometimes harsh sunshine and harsh rain and hurricane seasons. Some plants that might do well in the northern United States might not do well in the South.
If you are looking for the best perennial vines to grow in the Florida garden, here are my tried and true five suggestions. They do well in the harsh sun and rain in the state of Florida.
1. Passion Vine
I rave about this plant in nearly every gardening article I write, and this article will be no exception. Passion flower is perfect for any Florida garden - whether in a raised garden bed or right in the ground. Passion flower, also called passion fruit or passion vine, is a perennial fruiting vine that is native to the state of Florida. When a plant is native, this means it is very low maintenance in the garden - tolerates sun and shade, grows in sandy soil, and is drought-tolerant. Not only does the passion flower provide passion fruit that is edible, it also blooms in otherworldly colors! The maypop passion variety is the native passion vine, but any species of passion vine will grow easily in Florida. Keep in mind that it loves to climb, so plant it next to a fence or trellis to allow it to do its thing!
Passion flower has many benefits to the gardener. The fruit is edible, though some varieties aren't the best tasting. I've found the maypop variety's fruit to be the juiciest and sweetest. An added benefit to having this fast-growing vine in your herb garden is that it is a host plant for a couple kinds of native Florida butterflies, namely the gulf fritillary butterfly and the zebra longwing. The adult butterflies will lay their eggs on the vine and you will get to see the entire butterfly life cycle - egg, caterpillar, chrysalis and adult! You will have an herb that not only provides food and beauty, but also supports the environment by feeding pollinators.
Bougainvillea is a tropical perennial shrub that climbs, so I've included it here with the other perennial vines. This thorny shrub blooms bright, showy red and pink flowers much of the year. It is a low maintenance bush and actually prefers to be neglected. It can tolerate lots of direct sunlight but will grow in part shade just as well, just keep in mind if it gets no direct sunlight it might not flower. It is hardy and can go for long periods of time without water, in fact it prefers less water than most. The only downside to the bougainvillea bush is the large, sharp thorns.
Depending on the variety and how you grow the bougainvillea, it can be a vine, bush, or even a small ornamental tree. There is a dwarf bougainvillea that looks beautiful used as hedging in flower beds.
3. Pipe Vine
Pipe vine, also known as Dutchman's pipe or birthwort, is a perennial vine that grows easily in Florida. It loves the sun and can tolerate long, harsh hours of direct sunlight even in the heat of summer. It is drought tolerant and low maintenance; however, it grows quickly and is a climbing vine so you'll need to plant it next to a fence or large trellis. The leaves are large, beautiful, shiny and green and the flowers are alien-looking but beautiful in their own way. Don't smell the flowers, as they give off a nasty rotting aroma that attracts fly and gnat pollinators.
There is a Florida native species of pipevine, but nearly any pipevine does well in the sunshine state. An added benefit to growing this vine in your garden is that it is a host plant for native Florida butterflies like the Pipevine swallowtail and Polydamas swallowtail. Supporting the native pollinators with easy-to-grow perennials equals supporting the earth.
4. Bleeding Heart
A subtropical vine native to warm, tropical climates, bleeding heart is an easy to grow in the Florida garden. Also known as glorybower, bleeding heart mostly blooms in white and a shade of fuschia. There are some bleeding heart vines that are native to Florida, which is the best choice if you're looking for low maintenance plants. They can handle lots of sun and are drought-tolerant, and it grows quickly if you're looking for a vine to cover a new pergola or archway. Plant them at least three feet apart along a fenceline. Keep in mind if the bleeding heart vine is mostly in shade it won't bloom or grow as quickly as a plant in full sun to part shade.
Be careful which kind of wisteria you grow in your Florida garden as some kinds are invasive. That being said, American wisteria and evergreen wisteria do well in north and central Florida, but may be harder to grow in south Florida. The University of Florida IFAS (Gardening Solutions) requests if you are growing Chinese wisteria to remove it and replace it with a non-invasive type like evergreen wisteria. This perennial vine does well in the sun but can grow well in part shade too. It will climb your trellis or fence with ease. The blooms are fragrant and beautiful.
Another benefit to growing American wisteria in your Florida garden is that it is a host plant for native skipper butterflies. You are supporting the Florida ecosystem by adding host plants to your garden that will support the pollinators for years to come.
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