ShadyGardens Blog

July 15, 2012

Invasive Plant Alternatives #2: Climbers

Filed under: clematis, Honeysuckle, invasive, Japanese, jasmine, Lonicera, native, noninvasive, Passionvine, vines, wisteria — shadygardens @ 2:01 pm
As written in my previous post, many popular landscape plants seem harmless, yet they are actually invasive plants that move quickly into the surrounding areas to crowd out native plant species. Once established, these plants are capable of strangling trees and covering up native plant species on which many of our beneficial insects and wild animals depend for their survival. This change to our environment could drastically alter our eco-system.


These popular invasive vines have a native alternative that is far superior in both beauty and behavior.



In this second installment of my 3 part series on Invasive Plant Alternatives, I intend to share some information about popular climbing vines and some alternatives to use instead of the invasive varieties.

Japanese Honeysuckle appeals to many gardeners due to its fast-growing habit and its sweetly scented blooms, but that aggressive nature and rapid growth are what has caused it to take over the South. Japanese Honeysuckle is one of the most common nuisance plants, yet it is still sold in garden centers everywhere!

I can think of quite a few good alternatives for this garden thug, but these are my favorites:
Lonicera Sempervirens
Shady Gardens Nursery
  • American Native Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, shown in the photo above, is one of the best hummingbird magnets I know of, with its large red tubular flowers that come almost year round in my garden. (There were a few blooms on mine even in January here in West Central Georgia!) If red is not your color, Lonicera sempervirens is available in a yellow blooming selection called John Clayton.
  • Carolina Jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is an evergreen vine native to the Southeastern United States with bright yellow blooms in early Spring and sporadically throughout Spring into Fall.
  • Clematis is available in many varieties, both native and non-native species and a wide selection of colors. All are lovely–none are invasive.
  • Passionvine is another native perennial vine with very showy, large purple flowers and attractive, edible fruits. This vine will self-sow, but never crowds out its neighbors. Stems are delicate enough that this plant can be allowed to climb through shrubs and trees abundantly without worry of damage to the support plant.
  • American wisteria (Yes, I did say wisteria!!) is a native vine that is just as beautiful as the Chinese and Japanese wisteria, but is not invasive at all. The blooms are very fragrant. You might see it sold as Amethyst Falls wisteria, but don’t be afraid to plant it. Avoid Chinese and Japanese wisteria, because I can show you how it’s taking over much forestland in Alabama and Georgia, strangling and pulling down trees, much like kudzu.

If you have an arbor or trellis that could use some ornamentation, choose one of these climbing vines for your garden. You won’t regret it.




August 27, 2010

Hot Georgia Summer in my Garden Part 2: Some Plants Look Great!

Filed under: drought, Georgia, heat, Passionvine, redbud, watering restrictions — shadygardens @ 3:34 pm

Recently I complained of plants wilting in this hot Georgia summer with no rain. I promised to let you know when I find some native plants who have held up to this heat with no wilting so far. We have still received no rain, and there isn’t really any rain in the forecast. I decided to check only in areas that I know have received no supplemental water – only rainfall. (Rain…what is rain?)

Passiflora Incarnata – Passion Vine

The following native plants look surprisingly beautiful in spite of temperatures in the upper 90’s and no rain:

  • Passiflora – Passion vine or Maypop
  • Lonicera fragrantissima – Winter Honeysuckle
  • Redbud
  • Arizona Cypress
  • Agave
  • Blueberries (established plants that were planted a few years ago)
Oakleaf Hydrangea at Callaway Gardens

With some plants, wilting or not depends on the site–those in shade look great but the ones receiving some direct Georgia sun are wilted pitifully:

  • Callicarpa americana – American Beautyberry
  • Hydrangea quercifolia – Oakleaf Hydrangea
  • American Holly

In recent years, mainly due to the drought that has lingered here in Georgia, I have been planting in my garden more species native to the Southwest. Arizona Cypress and Agave are two plants that are not native to our area but grow beautifully here with absolutely no supplemental water. 

Arizona Cypress looks this good this in every season!
If you’re in an area where watering restrictions keep you from planting in your garden, consider looking for some of the plants I’ve mentioned. They will not disappoint you!

July 30, 2008

Purple Passion Vine: Food for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly!

Passiflora Incarnata is one of the most exotic-looking plants I can think of, yet it is native to right here in the Southeastern United States!

Dark green foliage begins scrambling over the ground and up neighboring shrubs in May each year. Soon after, large buds open into very unusual purple flowers that attract pollinators of every sort.

Purple Passionvine is an easy to grow deciduous vine that can be found growing along roadsides and in open fields in Eastern Alabama. Large serrated leaves have 3-5 lobes and can be up to 5 inches across. This plant forms tendrils which help it climb up nearby support.

Passionvine, or Passionflower, is also often called Maypop, because of the large egg-shaped fruits that develop all along the vine. My parents say childeren used them as weapons in their day! Some say the fruit tastes much like guava, but it reminds me of green plums. The fruit will open with a ‘pop’ to reveal hundreds of pulpy seeds. Try sucking on them to enjoy the sourness.

Passiflora incarnata is an important larval food source for the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly, so you might observe orange caterpillars devouring your plant!

One suggestion is to plant Passionvine where it can scramble up a shrub, thus disguising the chewed leaves as you enjoy the flowers. (The caterpillars eat only the leaves & fruit–not the flowers.)

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