Tropical climbing plants bring an unexpected burst of vertical colour to the garden. Whether you live in a cold climate or live in a warm tropical environment, no garden is complete without at least one of these tropical climbing plants. Many of these plants are easy to grow as long as they receive adequate water, require very little care once they are established, thrive in containers and will flower indoors during the winter.
Mandevilla, which includes plants referred to as Dipladenia, is a tropical woody vine that produces masses of showy pink, yellow, red or white flowers in spring and again in fall. Mandevillas require sandy, well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. Grow in bright, indirect light indoors and partial shade outdoors. During the summer, they are heavy feeders that require a lot of phosphorus, which is the middle number on a fertiliser label. Clemson Cooperative University recommends applying a 10-20-10 fertiliser every two weeks, but for the best results, be sure to read the label directions on the one you choose and follow them.
Mexican Flame Vine
The vibrant-coloured orange-red flowers that look like tiny daisies with golden centres are what make this evergreen twining vine stand out in the garden. Mexican flame vine (Senecio confusus) blooms year-round, although the heaviest periods of bloom are during the spring and summer. Prune on a regular basis, right after the summer flush of flowers to encourage the blooms and foliage to form at the base and in the middle of the plant instead of forming at the top only. Grow Mexican flame vine in part-shade. It will tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, including wet, alkaline and sandy, but is not tolerant of salt. It is an aggressive plant not bothered by pests or disease.
Passionfruit (Passiflora) is a shallow-rooted, woody vine that produces masses of fragrant flowers in shades of purple, red or yellow that give way to a delicious fruit that is either eaten fresh, used in tea, or in a variety of desserts including sorbets. Butterflies flock to this plant during the summer, and there is one variety, "Maypop," that is hardy to U.S. Department of Agricultural plant hardiness zone 5. Good drainage is essential. Enrich soil with organic matter yearly. The ideal soil pH is between 6.5 and 7.5. Grow passionfruit vines in full sun and be aware that if any fruit drops, the seed could sprout. Harvesting of the fruit is done once it falls off the vine on its own. These vines often pop-up several feet away from the parent plant and in cooler climates usually do not come up until mid-June.
The sky vine (Thunbergia grandiflora) is a much sought after tropical vine because of the sky blue, bell-shaped flowers it produces from early summer through late winter. The sky vine is tolerant of a wide array of soils, moderately drought-tolerant and prefers to grow in full sun or part-shade. It is a fast-growing vine that will quickly cover a wall or a trellis. Insignificant small red fruits follow the flowers. Prune this plant as soon as a flush of flowers finish to keep the sky vine in bounds. It is an aggressive plant that will take over an area if left on its own.
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- University of Hawaii at Manoa: Tropical Vines for Hawai'i Landscapes: Melvin Wong: May 2007
- Purdue University Cooperative Extension; Passionfruit; Julia F. Morton; 1987
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension; Mandevilla; Marjan Kluepfel, et al.; June 1999
- University of Florida Cooperative Extension; Thunbergia Grandiflora; Edward F. Gilman; October 1999
- University of Florida; Senecio Confusus -- Mexican Flame Vine; Edward F. Gilman; October 1999