Perennial vines are an excellent way to add a wash of colour and elegance to your home and garden. Bare walls can be made bold, empty trellises turned into hanging wonders and swathes of backyard earth can be blanketed in lush, leafy beauty. And the fact that they remain gorgeous and healthy all year long? Vines really are a blessing to any home.
If you're considering growing perennial vines around your garden, this straightforward guide will tell you what you need to know.
We will talk about their hardiness, which can help determine where in Australia they're best suited. Then, we'll list 9 perennial vines along with the information you need to get them growing.
Plant hardiness zones: what they are and what they mean
Plant hardiness maps show areas segmented by climate conditions — mainly temperature. When you're researching plants, you'll often see a 'zone' label alongside them. These zone labels are incredibly useful for both growers and buyers, and let everyone know what range of temperatures a particular plant is suited for.
Zone labels are typically given on the United States scale, e.g. Zone 8 (USDA), since they created the scale. However, their national temperatures are drastically different from ours here in Australia. Fortunately, the Australian government has developed an Australian national plant hardiness scale that accommodates our climate range.
The Australian hardiness zones are determined by average annual lowest temperature (measured over a year), while the American zones are determined by average minimum temperatures (measured over a decade or longer). Broadly speaking, here’s how Australia’s zones break down on the AU hardiness scale.
- Victoria is primary in Zone 3, with some north-eastern areas in Zone 2. Coastal regions are often in Zone 4.
- Most of the southern half of Australia is in Zone 3.
- Most of the northern half of Australia is in Zone 4, with the northern coast in Zone 5. The northernmost coasts are in Zone 6.
As we go into our list of perennial vines, we’ll note both their Australian (AU) and US (USDA) Zones. That will eliminate any confusion for you when you go to buy your vines.
8 perennial vines for the Australian climate
1. Devil’s ivy
Scientific name: Epipremnum aureum
Zones: 4-6 (AU) / 10-12 (USDA)
Description: Devil’s ivy can grow up to 6 metres. Polynesian in origin, the bright speckled leaves of this vine lend a verdant, tropical feel to indoor spaces.
What it needs: Devil’s ivy prefers shade over direct sunlight, but it does need plenty of sunlight throughout the day. A nice shady spot either indoors or outdoors is ideal. It does very well in cooler climates as an indoor plant, and likes to dry out a little between waterings. Its toughness makes it a low maintenance perennial staple in households and offices across Australia.
Tips: This is a poisonous plant and poses a risk to pets and humans. If grown indoors, we recommend placing pots on high shelves, or hanging from the ceiling.
2. Sweet potato vine
Scientific name: Ipomoea batatas
Zones: 4-5 (AU) / 10-11 (USDA)
Description: Sweet potato vines are lovely perennials that can grow 2-3 metres. The heart-shaped leaves of these beautiful vines come in a range of rich, earthy colours. You’ll find reds and browns, and blacks and purples. You can even find golds and silvers.
What it needs: While sweet potato vine is a perennial, it absolutely thrives in summer, and can struggle in winter. They do like a humid environment though, so make sure to give them plenty to drink. They’ll need a high quality potting mix with plenty of drainage.
Tips: This vine is named after its far more delicious cousin. While it does produce edible tubers, they really aren’t the key feature of this plant. The leaves, however, are toxic and pets must be monitored around them.
3. Grape vine
Scientific name: Vitis vinifera (common grape vine)
Zones: 1-4 (AU) / 6-10 (USDA)
Description: A perennial favourite, grape vines can grow to a positively gargantuan 30m. If you don’t prune them, that is. Naturally, they will need a sturdy support structure to wrap around. Aside from their famously delicious fruit, the wide leaves of this vine make it a great shade for the garden.
What it needs: The first priority with grape vine isn’t fruiting, but growing strong roots. That’s why you’ll need to plant these perennial vines in nutrient dense soil and in full sun. The growing vines will need to be watered weekly. Grape vines also need a frame or trellis for support.
Tips: After a year or so, you ought to prune off 90% of the fruit. Pruning fruit will drive resources towards root growth and vine strength.
4. Black-eyed Susan vine
Scientific name: Thunbergia alata
Zones: 4-5 (AU) / 10-11 (USDA)
Description: The perennial black-eyed Susan vine is a welcome favourite. Its yellow-orange flowers pop against wide, shimmering green leaves. This vine will add a calming warmth to your garden.
What it needs: You can start growing these beauties indoors and from seed. If you’ve got any chance of overnight frost in your area, that won’t do. So, you’ll have to pot seeds indoors approximately 6 weeks before the frost is due to clear. Then move them outdoors. Black-eyed Susan vines need to be kept warm and well watered throughout, with plenty of sun.
Tips: As much as we might love them, nothing compares to the love butterflies and bees have for perennial black-eyed Susan vines. Make sure you plant them somewhere you can get a regular eyeful.
5. Trumpet vine
Scientific name: Campsis radicans
Zones: 1-3 (AU) / 5-9 (USDA)
Description: Trumpet vines can climb 6, maybe even 9, metres if cared for and supported properly. The delicate flowers of this perennial strike out against their deep emerald leaves.
What it needs: The good news is these vines are extremely resilient. Plant them somewhere with plenty of sun and leave them to flower on their own. Constantly feeding them with nutrients can actually diminish their flowering, since they’ll turn to leaf production instead. The bad news is that this resilience also makes them a strong resource competitor against anything growing around them. It will spread across any structure and strangle virtually any plant, so its aerial rootlets and ground runners must be carefully and regularly cut.
Tips: Trumpet vines also spread by dropping seed pods. When you see these start to form — they look like green beans — remove them immediately.
Scientific name: Trachelospermum jasminoides
Zones: 1-2 (AU) / 8 (USDA)
Description: The swirling white flowers of this vine produce a delicate, sweet scent in summer. The perfect compliment for sun-soaked family time in the garden. They can reach up to 6 metres in height.
What it needs: The Chinese star jasmine thrives in either direct sunlight or a bit of shade, which makes it perfectly suited to Australia’s generally warm weather. They like to dry out between waterings, so once or twice a week should do, depending on the heat.
Tips: Star jasmine is quite happy to remain ground cover if not given adequate structural support to climb. Be conscious of giving it that support, if you’re planning on covering a wall or fence.
Scientific name: Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Zones: 1-3 (AU) / 3-9 (USDA)
Description: The long, fanned five-pointed leaves of the Virginia creeper are excellent for covering up unsightly walls and boundaries. Normally a deep green, its leaves eventually pulse with autumnal yellows, oranges and reds.
What it needs: This is an extraordinarily adaptable perennial, making it a forgiving starter for the novice gardener. Virginia creepers are as happy in full sun as they are in full shade, and aren’t too fussy about their soil being too dry or soaking wet. We would certainly recommend you learn the ropes with these vines.
Tips: While Virginia creepers grow fast, they aren’t especially good at spreading out. You’ll need to plant a few of them side by side if you’re planning on covering a wide surface.
8. Climbing fig
Scientific name: Ficus pumila
Zones: 2-5 (AU) / 8-11 (USDA)
Description: Yes, it does produce figs; unfortunately, they are inedible. However, this perennial vine has plenty going for it. The fast-growing, wide-spreading thick green leaves of this common climber are often used to cover large and unsightly building walls up to 6 metres high.
What it needs: Creeping fig grows best in full or part shade. It needs a weekly watering and soil that drains well, too. However, it is drought resistant. It is a famously vigorous climber, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on it as it spreads, lest it grow out of control. It’s also notoriously hard to remove, and regularly pulls weak boards off with it.
Tips: A stable of any nursery, climbings figs aren’t hard to come by. However, they’re also extremely easy to grow from cuttings, as any strong branch will grow roots when placed in soil.