Native Vines for Landscapes in the Borderlands
Vines are valuable landscape additions. They can bring beauty and nature to structures that are otherwise drab and lifeless. They can provide nectar flowers to birds and butterflies high, safely away from predators like cats. Some vines can even take some heat off your walls in the summer. They can be used in arbors, on fences, or just be scrambling up the base of a shrub that would otherwise be bare. Some vines are small and only climb a foot or two, like fermina (Janusia gracilis). Others can climb to almost endless heights like butterfly orchid vine (Callaeum macroptera). Some are evergreen and some are deciduous. Some of the deciduous vines have spectacular fall color like the hacienda creepers (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
You will need to pay attention to the attributes of the vine: are they self clinging to a wall, need structure to twine to, or must be attached using wire or string? Can they handle the sun on a south-facing wall? Not all native vines can handle the hot reflected heat in such spots in summers.
Please also note that we are listing many plants that are uncommon in the landscape trade. It is our intent to make many of these species available. But you must keep an eye on our availability lists to see what we have at any given time.
Large, deciduous, perennial vine climbing by tendrils.
Full to part sun, moderate to low water, root hardy to about 15°F.
A lovely pollinator plant blooming prolifically. Red and white species available. Cut back to the ground after frost.
Large, deciduous, perennial vine, climbing by tendrils.
Full to part sun, low to moderate water, hardiness untested but native to 5,500’ elevation.
Pollinator plant, important for digger and gourd bees—males sleep in flowers. Fruits eaten by mammals.
Watson's dutchman's pipe
Small, semi-evergreen trailing herb.
Full to part sun, low to moderate water, hardiness unknown but native to about 4500’ elevation.
Larval host plant for the pipevine swallowtail (Battus philenor). Pollinated by Ceratopogonid flies—the flowers of dutchman’s pipe resemble a mouses ear; the fly enters thinking it will get a meal (they suck blood from their ears) but get trapped in flowers overnight. The flower releases pollen onto the fly and lets it go in the morning. There are hundreds of species of Aristolochia, all have cool pollination stories.
Large, perennial, deciduous cucurbit vine, climbing by tendrils.
Full to part sun, moderate to low water, hardiness unknown but native to sandy washes up to 3000’ elevation.
Great pollinator plant. Cool-looking, inflated, spikey fruits.
yellow orchid vine
Giant, evergreen, perennial vine that climbs by twining stems.
Full to part sun, low to moderate water, top hardy to mid 20s°F., grows back after frost.
This is one of the few vines that can grow on the hottest wall in reflected heat and still look good. Flowers attract butterflies and bees. Flowers a lot, followed by butterfly-shaped pods.
Small, herbaceous perennial vines, stems trailing or climbing and twining, sometimes woody at the base. Twines up to about 2 feet.
Full to part sun, moderate water, hardiness unknown but native to about 5000’ elevation.
Nice little pollinator plant.
Large, semi-evergreen, perennial vines that climb via tendrils or clamoring over objects.
Full to part sun, moderate water, top is hardy to about 25°F but regrows vigorously.
Larval food plant for the Silver-banded Hairstreak (Chlorostrymon simaethis) and gray hairstreak (Strymon melinus) butterflies.
Arizona Grape ivy
This is an unusual, succulent leafed, but deciduous vine that can spread over quite an area. Moderate to low water, full sun to shade (looks best with at least half a day of sun). Butterfly larval host for Wilson's Wood-nymph Moth (Xerociris wilsonii), Mournful sphinx moth (Enyo lugubris), Satellite sphinx moth (Eumorpha satellitia), and the Vine sphinx moth (Eumorpha vitis). Hardy to about -10°F.
A deciduous , clamoring vine that blooms with white flowers (plants are dioecious—meaning that there are female and male plants). After flowering, female plants will present whispy, silver-tailed fruits which lend it another common name: old man’s beard. Flowers attract a multitude of butterflies and other nectar-feeding pollinators. Plants are larval hosts for the fatal metalmark butterfly (Calephelis nemesis). Hardy to 10°F.
western white bower
A deciduous , clamoring vine that blooms with white flowers (plants are dioecious—meaning that there are female and male plants). After flowering, female plants will present whispy, silver-tailed fruits which lend it another common name: old man’s beard. Flowers attract a multitude of butterflies and other nectar-feeding pollinators. Plants are larval hosts for the fatal metalmark butterfly (Calephelis nemesis). Hardy to at least -10°F.
Not a lot is known about this seldom-cultivated plant. It likes part shade, and its nectar-rich flowers are followed by blue berry-like drupes (the birds love the fruits). Plants are dioecious (separate female and male plants), so not all plants may get fruits. Hardiness unknown but at least into the low 20s°F.
Another seldom-cultivated plant, this is another great pollinator species for those wild, native gardens. Spring-summer blooms appear on arching branches that are best grown under a tree or large shrub. Hardiness unknown but probably in the mid 20s°F. Probably a larval food plant for moths, as many of its relatives are.
A non-aggressive climber, (many species of Convolvulus are noxious weeds) this native is an attractive, reseeding annual with white, pink or purple flowers blooming spring through fall. Larval host for the painted crescent (Phyciodes picta).
Common in the foothills that surround Tucson, fermina is a sweet, little, mostly-evergreen vine with precious little yellow flowers with spoon-shaped petals. It grows in full to part sun. It is like a tiny form of yellow orchid vine (Callaeum macroptera) which is a relative. Flowers are followed by three-winged fruits. Plants are larval hosts for the funereal duskywing (Erynnis funeralis) and several skipper butterflies. Hardy into the low 20s°F.
This striking, warm-season growing plant is often found scrambling along the ground and makes a great ground cover as well as a vine. Plants are deciduous and reemerge in spring from a large taproot. Nectar-rich flowers are followed by fruits which taste terrible, though seeds can be roasted and eaten. Better left for the critters to eat. Plant in full sun. Hardy to at least the single digits °F.
Also a striking, warm-season growing plant is often found scrambling along the ground and makes a great ground cover as well as a vine. Plants are deciduous and reemerge in spring from a large taproot. Nectar-rich flowers are followed by fruits which taste terrible, though seeds can be roasted and eaten. Better left for the critters to eat. Plant in full sun. Hardy to at least the single digits °F.
Also a warm-season growing plant is often found scrambling along the ground and makes a great ground cover as well as a vine. Plants are deciduous and reemerge in spring from a large taproot. Nectar-rich flowers are followed by fruits which taste terrible, though seeds can be roasted and eaten. Better left for the critters to eat. Plant in full sun. Hardy to at least the single digits °F.
wild balsam apple
A sweet, annual vine that will reseed itself. Seldom if ever cultivated. Native to washes in Southern Arizona. Nectar-rich flowers followed by fruits that are eaten by birds. Save fruits each year to replant.
Like all milkweeds, this is a nectar-rich butterfly attractor that also serves as a larval host for the queen (Danaus gilippus) and monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies. We like it because it’s weird and cool-looking. Seldom if ever cultivated. Hardiness unknown but probably in the high 20s°F. Part sun best.
Known to succulent & caudiciform growers, but unknown to most gardeners, cowpie plant is a very cool, deciduous vine that grows from a giant, fattened woody taproot that collectors like to unearth the top of. Plants have small nectar-rich flowers followed by bright orange fruits. Most often grown in containers. Take care not to overwater when dormant. Probably the best argument for keeping in a container is that plants are not frost hardy and will freeze in the high 20s°F. Much like Ibervillea tenuisecta but more frost tender and much more of a rounded caudex.
This is much like the cowpie plant (Ibervillea sonorae) above, but more cold hardy (into the low 20s°F.
purple morning glory
This is a small, rare morning glory which is seldom if ever planted. Plants are attractive with pink to purple flowers in the warm season and annual. Full to part sun.
** The Arizona Department of Agriculture prohibits the sale of all vining Ipomoea species. This is ridiculous as there are many species that are not noxious weeds. But unfortunately the Ag department doesn’t consulting knowledgable botanists on the subject. If you happen to come upon native non-invasive species of morning glories, we wouldn’t frown at you if you encouraged their existence in your landscape. Some of the plants are, indeed, weedy and take up a lot of space. But the wild species, especially those found in the mountains, are rarer and less cumbersome.
This is a shrubby vine native to our surrounding foothills, especially in the Catalina Mountains. A perennial from the roots, this plant will produce white flowers in the warm season. Seldom grown in cultivation. Hardo to about 20°F.
This is one of the lesser-known honeysuckles that deserves more attention. A deciduous shrubby vine loved by hummingbirds, butterflies, and especially important to bumblebees, it has a very sweet, perfumey scent. Followed by fruits eaten by the birds. Hardy to the single digits °F. Part sun in the low desert.
Semi-deciduous in the low desert, fully deciduous in the higher elevations, this brilliant-flowered honeysuckle is especially loved by the hummingbirds and butterflies. Birds also consume the flowers. Can grow in full sun if roots are shaded. Hardy into the negative 20s°F.
Semi-deciduous in the low desert, deciduous in upper elevations, this orange flowered beauty attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Fruits feed the songbirds. Very hardy, to about -20°F.
One of the tougher honeysuckles, this white flowered, deciduous species is also attractive to hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies and the fruits attract the birds. Hardy to at least -5°F. Also the larval food plant for the Chalcedon checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas chalcedona).
variable-leaf bush bean
This deciduous, root perennial bean is rarely if ever grow in cultivation. Native up to 7500’ in elevation in Arizona, so very hardy to cold.
This is a curiosity in the landscape when it is found. Gila manroot normally grows to about 6 feet high. Whitish green flowers are followed by spikey, inflated, green balls. Plants are deciduous and regrow from taproots. Hardy to the low 20s°F. Still rare in cultivation though featured in books.
purple orchid vine
This species is related to the yellow orchid vine (Callaeum macroptera). While it can take full sun, it cannot take the reflected heat off a southern-facing wall like the yellow orchid vine can. But don’t let this deter you from growing this species, as the flower is more spectacular. A vigorous grower, it can climb over 20’. Semi deciduous in warm locations and hardy to the low teens °F.
Seldom grown in cultivation, this species is native to Arizona and south into Mexico. Another milkweed, this is a larval host for the queen (Danaus gilippus) and monarch (Danaus plexippus) butterflies. Nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies and native bees. This species is probably frost tender and best planted in a protected spot.
Also seldom grown, this species is slightly more common (besides Arizona, Sonora and Baja California, also found in California and Texas).
yellow morning glory