Tuesday, November 1, 2011

FAQ: Is there a vine to climb my wall without damaging the stucco?

Ficus pumila on a brick wall

Q. Can you please recommend me a small-leafed ivy that will grow in full shade in zone 10, and not be considered to have an invasive root system?  I would like something to climb the north facing wall of my South Florida house without doing penetrating damage to the stucco. I need it to climb by itself without a trellis.

A. That's a tough question. Vines climb by two means: clinging and twining. Twining vines wrap around something. You don't want a trellis, so there won't be anything to wrap around. Clinging vines produce growths that allow the plants to attach to the walls somehow.

Parthenocissus (Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper) have little discs at the ends of modified roots that look like suction cups. They are very difficult to remove from a wall once attached (if you ever decide to remove the vine).

Hedera (English ivy and such) produces little roots that find cracks and crannies in the wall and worm their ways into them. This can cause damage, too.

Ficus pumila (Creeping fig) grows the same way, but I have seen it grow heavy and fall off of a wall during a storm without doing damage to stucco, so that might be a possibility for you.

My wife insisted on planting a Campsis (Trumpet creeper) against a wall. It also attaches by little roots, but I've been able to pull juvenile vines off without damaging the wall, but they were still juvenile. There may be some tropical vines about which I'm unfamiliar that would work.

Trachelospermum asiaticum (Asiatic jasmine) is usually grown as a ground cover, but I've had some escape and try to climb the brick north-face wall of my house. I've been able to pull the juvenile vines off with ease, but they don't really grow thickly enough to achieve the look you desire.

In short, try Ficus pumila. It's not perfect, but may be your best bet. You might have to get it started by erecting a short, temporary trellis.

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