Onward and Upward

These colorful summertime vines are eager, reliable, and beautiful.

By Marty Ross


Black-Eyed Susan Vine
Thunbergia alata

This pretty vine is not related to the perennial black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), but the two flowers share a color scheme. The old-fashioned vine has glowing, golden-orange flowers with dark centers; it blooms profusely through the summer. It is very easy to grow from seed, but transplants have become widely available in recent years—along with new, early-blooming cultivars in orange, pink, or yellow. 'Blushing Susie' is one of Hilgenberg's favorites.

It can be difficult to find an annual vine that performs well in light shade, but black-eyed Susan vine doesn't mind dappled light. The young plants need a little encouragement to reach up to their supports. Once they get started, they twine nimbly around a wire trellis (or a tomato cage). Vines grow 6 to 8 feet. Black-eyed Susan vine is handsome in hanging baskets, which can be overwintered in a frost-free basement or garage. Or take cuttings, root them in potting soil, and plant in the garden again next spring.