Issue: August 12, 2006

Vines to cover concrete block wall


What vine would be good to cover a cinder block wall? We have a fairly large area across our back yard that we would like to cover. We would like to have a vine that is compatible with our climate and would cling to the wall.

We had a vine in that location, but we had to train it with wires and string. It grew to the top of the wall and just kept growing there without going over the wall. When we had a big wind a few weeks ago, it blew it off the wall.

Also, what time of year would be best to plant this type of vine?

Ilene J.


There are several vines that may fulfill your requirements. English ivy climbs walls by means of clasping roots but will not tolerate the south side of a wall unless there is shade from a tree on the wall. In southern New Mexico, Algerian ivy (a close relative of English ivy) can also be used. It has larger leaves with a brighter green color. Both are evergreen and will provide green color throughout the year.

If the wall faces south, you may find that Boston ivy or Virginia creeper will suffer less leaf scorch. These are deciduous, so they will lose their leaves in the winter. However, if the location is not shaded, they will produce bright fall colors before dropping their leaves in the fall. If you purchase one of these, choose plants with tendrils that terminate in adhesive pads (flattened areas at the end of the tendrils). Some Virginia creeper vines, including close relatives that look like Virginia creeper, have tendrils that do not form adhesive pads. The tendrils twine around twigs and stems and are not adapted to adhering to walls. They would require trellises or other support to climb the wall.

The stems at the base (of especially the Boston ivy and Virginia creeper) may become bare. To encourage production of new leaves in that area, you may need to prune the vines. Training major branches horizontally near the base of the wall with vertical secondary branches will allow you to remove some secondary branches and periodically rejuvenate the vines.

When you prune branches from the wall, marks from their attachment (roots or tendrils) will remain and may be unsightly until new growth covers the area. If you ever remove the vine completely, these marks will remain for years unless you paint over them.

Vines that attach to the wall should not be used on stucco-covered walls. They can pull the stucco off, and tendril and root marks will remain on the stucco if the vines are removed or fall off.

The best time to plant these vines are in the fall while the soil is still warm but the nights are cool, or in the spring before new growth begins. However, you will probably purchase these as container-grown plants that can be planted in the autumn, (in the winter in southern New Mexico), in the spring, or even during the summer during the monsoon rains. In northern New Mexico, the winter will not be a good time to plant your vine.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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