Growing flowering vines on evergreens trees or evergreen shrubs—don’t do it!

Clematis growing on azalea shrub.
I recently read an article about adding color to evergreen shrubs and evergreen trees by planting a flowering vine at the base of the evergreen. The vine trails through the branches of the evergreen to reach the sunny outside. The blooms of the vine appear for perhaps a maximum of four weeks, and then the vine dies back for the season.


A flowering vine does add color to a landscape design. However, a flowering vine can damage an evergreen shrub or an evergreen tree.
Pictured above is an azalea in my home’s landscaping. The vine, which is a Sweet Autumn Clematis, returns each spring and blooms in late summer into fall. Vines of any type, when allowed to grow over another plant, block sunlight from reaching plant. In addition, vines wrap around branches, pulling them together or down, destroying the beauty of the evergreen tree or shrub. At the end of the vine's growing cycle, it turns brown, leaving an ugly network of dead vines on the evergreen.

Once established, vines are difficult to remove. This clematis, which would look lovely over a trellis, has become invasive. I’ve cut the vine at the base repeatedly through the growing season, yet it continues to grow and thrive. This clematis, which has been here for more than 12 years, has expanded allowing multiple vines to attack the evergreen from different angles. I’ve tried digging the clematis out to no avail. Even spraying the vine with a chemical weed killer proved ineffective.

So the Sweet Autumn Clematis and I have come to terms. I will continue to cut the vine away until the azalea stops blooming each spring. I will let the vine grow through the summer and fall. But I will not allow the vine to reach any other plant in the area. As soon as the blooms of the vine fade (might as well enjoy them while they are there!), I will cut vines at the base—again.

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