Vines have a diversity of uses, artistically and functionally, for decorating your home or indoor garden. Their flowing, mobile lines can serve to combine groups of plants, to relate the indoors to the world outside your windoiw, to finish a bare wall, to fill the space between a tall plant and its pot or to define a living area.
The seemingly endless variety of size, texture, color and form of vines offers opportunities to use them in imaginative ways to accent special features of your decorating scheme. But to grow and use vines successfully it is important to know how they grow.
Vines are plants that cling to or twine around a support as they grow upward. It is natural for vines to grow vertically.
Many vines are commonly used as hanging plants. There are hundreds of other plants that hang but are not vines.
Vines are grouped according to the way they climb: those with twining stems; those with twining tendrills and those with clinging discs or fasteners. For decorating, the critical thing to know is how a vine climbs.
Vines with twining stems need a slender support such as wire, cord or cane to twine around. Examples are morning glory, hoya, black-eyed susan vine, German ivy, variegated wax vine.
Vines that climb by twining tendrils (leaf-like appendages or modified leaves) will turn their tendrils around any convenient support as long as it leads upward. Examples are passion flower and grape ivy.
Vines that climb by clinging have root-like fasteners or discs at the tips of tendrils. An adhesive substance seeping from the discs enables the vine to attack itself to a flat support; the holdfasts grow into the support. Examples are creeping fig (Ficus pumila), ivy, philodendron, pothos (Scindapsus) and syngonium.
Support should be selected according to the vine's method of climbing. Bamboo stakes, hardware cloth or coarse screen wire can be fashioned as a trellis. Three of four plant stakes stuck into a pot and tied together at the top create a teepee-like support. A dome of wire or cane framework can be set on top of a pot. Twining stems or tendrils will wind in and out and around such supports. Twining stems of passiflora or morning glory will climb a wire or string support beside a sunny window.
Clinging vines should have a support into which the holdfasts can grow. Totem poles of pressed tree fern or slabs of unbarked cedar are effective. Poles in assorted sizes and lengths are sold at many plant shops. The pole should be set in the pot and wedged at the bottom with stones or pieces of wood so it will remain erect after soil and plant are added to the pot. It should be kept continually moist and occasionally watered with diluted fertilizer solution to sustain the plant growing on it. Philodendron, fig, pothos and syngonium are grown on poles of this kind.
A cone, column or ball made of chicken wire and stuffed with long-grain sphagnum is another means of supporting climbing vines like ivy and fig; like the totem, this support should be kept constantly moist.
Ivy can be trained on a wire coil or pyramid, but the training must be done by the garderner, carefully leading guiding or even tying the growing branches around the form. Ready-made forms or shapes of this kind can be purchased at many plant stores.
Nothing that lives appears at its best without some area. Vines are vigorous and sometimes rampant growers. Prune and guide them to keep them under control. Keep the foliage fresh and attractive by frequent dusting, misting or sponging. Provide the appropriate cultural environmental - light, temperature, water and nutrients.
Wandering Jew, flowering maple, Swedish ivy, ivy geranium and strawberry geranium have many of the decorative uses of vines, but these plants are not vines; they hang rather than climb.
Indoor Garden questions should be sent to Jane Steffey. The Weekly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.