These climbers transform challenges into highlights with cool style.

By Lauren Sloane


If summer's scorching heat has fried most of your garden, take heart. To the rescue are fall vines that boast stunning blooms and vibrant foliage. But these vines aren't just eye candy—they're the solution to many garden predicaments. They gracefully conceal unsightly fences, brighten arbors, and fill the vertical space between ornamental plants and trees. We love these vines for their outstanding fruit, foliage, and flowers, as well as their roles as practical garden problem-solvers.

Virginia creeperVirginia Creeper
(Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

The problem: Your north- and east-facing walls are glaringly bare.

Why this vine: The small yellow-green flowers are much-loved by bees, but Virginia creeper's fall foliage is its real attraction. Leaves, each with five toothed leaflets, turn a rich red during autumn, brightening walls and cascading from pergolas.

What it needs: Fertile soil and partial sun. Easy to grow.

Mature height: Up to 50 feet, or as tall as the supporting structure

Climate: Virginia creeper is not limited to Virginia but can be found growing from Maine to Florida, and as far west as Utah.

Italian ClematisItalian Clematis
(Clematis viticella)

The problem: Your landscape is as colorful as a pile of cold compost.

Why this vine: Varieties like 'Etoile Violette' and 'Abundance' bear beautiful and abundant blooms for vibrant color from summer into early fall.

What it needs: Full sun for the vine and shade for the roots. Because clematis does not cling as it grows, the way ivy does, it requires support. Fences, trellises, and host plants provide great structure for this twining vine.

Mature height: 10 to 12 feet

Climate: Survives subzero temperatures, yet has better heat tolerance than large-flowering clematis.

Sweet Autumn ClematisSweet Autumn Clematis
(Clematis terniflora)

The problem: Your chain-link fence seems more fitting for a penitentiary than your family's garden.

Why this vine: Aside from its lush, shiny foliage, sweet autumn clematis produces a dazzling display of scented, white flowers in August and September. While its sheer volume may overpower your mailbox post, this vine is the perfect cover-up for unsightly fences.

What it needs: Full sun for foliage, shade for the roots, regular watering during hot weather, and well-drained, rich soil.

Mature height: 20 to 30 feet or more

Climate: Survives subzero temperatures in New England and grows with great vigor in the Southeast.

Watch out: Sweet autumn clematis self-sows readily and is considered invasive by some southeastern author­- ities. Avoid trouble by removing the seedheads produced after blooming.

Boston IvyBoston Ivy
(Parthenocissus tricuspidata)

The problem: Your cinder-block garage is an eyesore.

Why this vine: Boston ivy's glossy, verdant leaves turn dazzling shades of orange and red during autumn and provide a brilliant disguise for unsightly fences or walls.

What it needs: Fertile soil, part sun to shade, and regular pruning.

Mature height: 50 to 70 feet (or as tall as the supporting structure!)

Climate: Don't live in Beantown? No worries; Boston ivy adapts to a wide range of climates and conditions.

Watch out: Before introducing Boston ivy to your property, consider potential impacts on wood, painted surfaces, and mortar—the vine's adhesive disks may cause damage, though not as bad as the harm caused by clinging stem roots of evergreen English ivy.