Trumpet flower? Hops? Virginia Creeper?
July 5, 2018 11:25 AM   Subscribe

My covered wooden back porch is old, in mediocre shape, and painted an ugly brown that's wearing off. I'm thinking about covering it with a fast-growing vine in lieu of replacing it for the next 3-5 years.

I live in Chicago - zone 5/6 depending who you ask. It's a small urban yard, but I'm willing to be careful about pruning. If it's an "invasive" type of vine, I could also bury a large tub or something to contain the roots. I'm not terribly concerned about the porch structure itself since it will need to be replaced eventually, but I don't want the vine to do bad things to my foundation or siding.

My main priority is something that will grow as fast as possible, but some pretty foliage or flowers or something would be a nice perk too. Pic of the porch, plus bonus doggo head.

Ideas? Suggestions? Good/bad idea?

posted by ohsnapdragon to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Miiiiixed idea, as a energetic vine could pull off an old porch much faster. How hard will it be to prune an air-gap between the vine and the house proper?
posted by clew at 11:36 AM on July 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Hops grow REAL fast after the first year you plant them and have time to establish. They need good sun, lots of water and good drainage. Given those things they can grow so fast that they can sometime be problematic, depending on your yard. They are also heavier than one would expect. Make sure your porch can handle extra weight. You’ll also have to prune them back and get rid of everything each year, which is a chore some folks don’t enjoy. Each spring my hops plants go ballistic, and our coverage is insane. I’ve started aggressively pruning back in spring so we get better hops and fewer vines.

Jasmine grows slower, but there are a couple varieties that would work for your zone. Wisteria grows very slow, but is awful pretty.

My only concern would be that if the top is in rough shape, replacing it with a setup that allows the bottom to weather faster, you’re just setting yourself up for replacing all those stairs in short order. But if that’s not in your radar, vine away!

Good dog. 12/10.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Vines are the worst plants - I'd seriously only recommend them to grow on concrete or brick walls. They will destroy wood structures and they are a huge pain to get rid of.

I'd recommend some tallish ornamental grasses, like maybe purple fountain grass. Bonus is it will die back almost every year and is cheap to replace.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:52 AM on July 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

There has been a trumpet vine growing on my parent's deck for 20+ years in Michigan, so similar-ish climate. It has not destroyed the wood at all and is extremely low maintenance and I love it. That being said, when I got home from visiting the house last month and was thinking of encouraging a trumpet vine to twine around our porch supports, I found this article on fence-friendly vines and they caution against woody vines because they can cause rot. Instead, there's this helpful suggestion:
Though they should be removed at the end of the growing season, annual vines like morning glory, moonflower, sweet pea, and climbing nasturtium all work well with wooden fences. These plants are airier than most woody vines, which minimizes any moisture trapped between the plant and the fence. These vines grow readily from seed and can reach lengths of 10 to 15 feet at the peak of the season.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:05 PM on July 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

True Virginia creeper does hardly any damage to surfaces it grows up, but it would take at least 3-5 years to get high/full coverage. It does put on a beautiful fall show though.

I’d do annual vine(eg. Morning glory) together with perennials (creeper, hops, etc). You get the best of both worlds that way.
posted by SaltySalticid at 1:21 PM on July 5, 2018

I wouldn't plant morning glories there, unless you want them there permanently. They're not perennials, but they self-seed like crazy. I last had some on a fence in my front yard about 5 or 6 years ago and I'm still pulling them up as weeds.

Have you considered a climbing rose? I think in 3-5 years it won't get too heavy. The canes don't twine around the structure.

Or, if you want something that twines and is fragrant, what about a vining honeysuckle? Bush-type honeysuckles are invasive in Illinois, but the article said there was a native vining type (or if you want something showier you could probably find a vining hybrid).
posted by Lycaste at 1:38 PM on July 5, 2018

Bignonia capreolata is slower than you want but isn’t horrendously aggressive
Campsis grandiflora ‘Morning Calm’ is a less aggressive trumpet vine with huge flowers.

Aristolochia is kind of neat.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2018

I love a nice trumpet vine, but I wouldn't plant one that close to my back door. They produce a lot of nectar, which attracts hummingbirds—yay!—but also ants—boo! Better to plant it at a distance where you can admire it when looking out a back widow, rather than up-close, drawing an army of ants to your porch. So maybe not for this project.

Grapes grow really fast after the first year, and are readily trained if, as you say, you don't mind regular pruning.
posted by mumkin at 7:42 PM on July 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

In case you haven’t been scared off hops yet— if your dog is at all interested in foliage, you should know hops are highly toxic to dogs.
posted by shalom at 12:12 AM on July 6, 2018

Even your dog looks sad for your porch.
I'd start with a good sanding and a coat of paint (the porch, not the dog). I'd use the dog's colors, though -- cream and tan to make it look like the porch belongs there.

Then I would add some thin strips of wood or plastic to the ceiling and floor, tap in some sort of nails or hooks, and weave thin synthetic cord between them to make mesh screen walls.
Channel your inner fiber artist. Use different colors. Add beads and other objects. Leave gaps for "windows".
This mesh screen can be easily cut away and discarded when you want a change.
You could try a mesh screen on one side of the porch and see how that looks. I wouldn't want vines "eating" my porch.

I might use planters for the vines, depending on whether the plants could come inside during the winter. I might use very narrow and long planters near the ceiling as well.

If you have flowers, you have bees near the door. How about ivy? Virginia creeper? Moonflower blooms at night.
Or if your kitchen is nearby, what about something edible? Peas and pole varieties of beans?
Ask your neighbors -- they may have some pesky twining vines they can give you. Of course, then you may want to get rid of the vines, which can be a mess near your wiring and PVC pipe.

Honeysuckle and wisteria are heavy and may pull down a structure. Climbing roses take a while to get established and have thorns. So do blackberries.
Trumpet vines on my back fence are lovely, but they may be too overwhelming for that small space.
posted by TrishaU at 12:32 AM on July 6, 2018

Another thing I'd recommend is to grow something downward rather than upward.

Add some hanging brackets to the edge of the porch, then hang baskets and plant things like ornamental sweet potato, one of those upside-down tomato planters, melons, or even some squashes will put out big, trailing vines that do not attach themselves to your wood structure.
posted by bookdragoness at 3:28 PM on July 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

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