I THINK WE all can agree that this was the strangest planting season ever! Whether you’re looking to fill gaps in the garden or simply need a boost, fast-growing annual vines are satisfyingly quick — and you get flowers!
Look for 4-inch starts of annual vines at your local nursery or farmers market grower (don’t forget to thank them for wrestling errant tendrils on a crop that doesn’t want to stay put). But even if you can find only seeds, these heat-loving plants sprout quickly in fertile, summer-warm soil. Soaking seed for six to eight hours in room-temperature water before planting helps soften the seed coat and encourages speedy germination.
It’s best to provide climbing support at planting to avoid damaging roots when placing bamboo stakes or a trellis after plants are up and growing. Or locate your vine next to a shrub that could do with sprucing up in summer — I’m looking at you, lilac.
Easy to grow, and with lush foliage, bountiful blooms and nearly instant impact, any of the following annual vines will top off your summer garden.
‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea)
Large saucer-shaped flowers the color of a summer sky open every morning on this twining old-fashioned cottage garden favorite. The heirloom variety ‘Grandpa Ott’ blooms with intense purple flowers with a ruby-red star center. Don’t worry; this morning glory is well behaved, unlike nasty noxious bindweed. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall in full sun.
Scarlet runner bean (Phaseolus coccineus)
Brilliant sprays of scarlet blossoms, beloved by hummingbirds, continue until frost on fast-growing sturdy vines. Plump pods swell with hot pink and black “magic beans” — possibly Jack’s original beanstalk. Grow plants up bamboo poles for a bean teepee kid hideout. Grows 10 to 12 feet in full sun.
Exotic love vine, aka Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata)
How can you resist a plant called “Exotic Love”? Multicolored ombre spikes of tubular blossoms in shades from red to orange, yellow and cream are set off by deep-green lobed foliage and vigorous twining stems. Grows to 15 feet in full sun.
Climbing nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
This is a climbing form of a common garden favorite, with funnel-shaped blooms all summer in shades of orange, red and yellow. Bonus: Leaves and blossoms both have a peppery watercress flavor and are delicious in salads. Lightly tie vines to climbing support to encourage height, or simply allow to scramble on the ground. Grows 6 to 8 feet in partial to full sun.
Canary creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum)
Fluttery lemon-yellow flowers really do resemble little birds clinging to stems clothed with deeply lobed bright-green leaves. As with nasturtiums, a close relative, lightly tie vines to a climbing support, or train over a woody shrub. Grows 8 to 10 feet in partial shade to full sun.
Purple hyacinth bean (Dolichos lablab)
Large pendant racemes of pretty purple or white flowers stand out from dusky, heart-shaped leaves on twining stems. Blossoms are followed by curious dark-purple bean pods that have a metallic sheen. Grows to 10 feet in partial to full sun.
Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata)
Relative to the growth of most annual vines, this one is more compact but loaded with flowers — excellent in containers. Small open-faced blooms in shades of orange, yellow, bronze and cream have dark contrasting centers. Grows 4 to 6 feet in partial to full sun.