Ten plants to replace climbing roses

'New Dawn' roses once covered the back arbor and fence.

Here are ten plants to replace climbing roses removed because of Rose Rosette Disease. I know some rosarians don’t think you need to remove afflicted roses, but I’m following the science at Oklahoma State University’s Cooperative Extension Service and other information I’ve studied. Like so many life decisions, what to do is complicated.

Climbers were the first roses hit here, and climbing roses define an English garden. I first lost two ‘New Dawn’ roses at the end of the garden as shown above, then two ‘Cl. Old Blush’ roses and now both ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ roses. Earlier, I lost ‘Cl. Pinkie’ to a terribly cold winter with a low of -17F.

In this post, I’ll focus on what to replace your climbers with–if you must. I’ll profile shrubs later.

My American wisteria, Wisteria frutescens, froze a month ago. It was covered with blooms. I'm pleased to see that some blooms still managed to do their thing.
Wisteria frutescens, American wisteria ‘Amethyst Falls’

1. American wisteria. Wisteria macrostachya ‘Blue Moon’ and W. frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’ are two favorite replacement plants. I have one of each on two separate arbors, and they are covering things nicely. Don’t confuse these American wisterias with the Chinese and Japanese ones sold each year at the box stores. You don’t want those growing up an arbor because they will take it down like a pro wrestler in the WWE. You and your arbor will never know what happened. Heck, grow one of the Asian wisteria on your house, and it may come down. I kid you not. The American ones, however, are more mannerly, and they also bloom a bit later which is a good thing considering Oklahoma’s propensity for late freezes. These plants will also add some blue-ish purple to your garden too–never a bad thing.

Back garden in mid-spring with 'Amethyst Falls' wisteria on the arbor which once had 'Zephirine Drouhin' roses.
Back garden in mid-spring with ‘Amethyst Falls’ wisteria on the arbor which once had ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ roses. It usually blooms much more than this, but it was frozen back. I cut off the dead foliage and blooms, and it rebloomed with a little less enthusiasm.

2. American honeysuckles. Again, don’t buy Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, if you see it for sale in the box stores, which I did just last week. Bad Home Depot. Japanese honeysuckle is terribly invasive in the South. I have some from Bill’s grandmother that I can’t get rid of, and I’ve tried everything short of burning down my back deck and log house. So far, my climate is cold enough that Japanese honeysuckle hasn’t spread to other parts of the garden, but it is a nuisance.

Instead, grow one of the pretty pink or red honeysuckles native to the U.S. I have a lovely coral one, and I hear that L. sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ is fab. My honeysuckle is so young I couldn’t find a decent photo. It takes two to three years for these perennial vines to get going so patience is key.

'Grandpa Otts' morning glory climing into Whirlwind White fan flower (scaevola) with 'Blackie' sweet potato vine behind.
‘Grandpa Otts’ morning glory climbing into Whirlwind White fan flower (scaevola) with ‘Blackie’ sweet potato vine behind.
Cypress vine, an aggressive little sucker, but hummingbirds love it.
Cypress vine, an aggressive little sucker, but hummingbirds love it.

3. Annual vines. Here, you have a lot of choices. However, many of these reseed with abandon so if you plant ‘Grandpa Otts’ morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea, for example, be forewarned. You’ll be pulling seedlings until the end of time. Still, it is beautiful. I. quamoclit, red cypress vine, shown above, is another self-seeding hero or villain, depending upon your point of view. It also comes in a mix with pink and white. I like the red. In this same vein, there’s also I. multifida, cardinal climber. These all attract hummingbirds and bumbles, among other things. If you’re into white gardens or night-feeding moths, you can grow moonflower, I. alba. Note that the flowers close during the day. Cypress vine and morning glories can be noxious weeds in some states, so check with your local invasive plant list before growing. As with most ipomeas, score or soak the seed before sowing for better germination. Soaking is easier.

Clematis 'Queen of Holland'
Clematis ‘Queen of Holland’ looks delicate, but it’s very tough indeed.

4. ClematisThere are so many good clematis. I originally began growing them to clamber up roses, but now, I grow many just because I love them. You can plant them at the base of other plants to give their roots some shade. A favorite in my garden this summer is ‘Queen of Holland.’ With deadheading, it bloomed all summer and is continuing to sport lovely blue blooms even into September. This summer was very cool in comparison to most so maybe that is why. Clematis can sometimes be difficult to get started. Just make sure that drip irrigation is near their roots and mulch them. If they get clematis wilt, remove the bad foliage and try again next year. Some varieties are more susceptible to clematis wilt than others. I also like ‘Niobe’, a dark red. ‘John Paul II’ is almost white with dark stamens. ‘Huvi’ is a large purple.

Clematis 'John Paul II' -34
Clematis ‘John Paul II’
Clematis 'Niobe'-2
Clematis ‘Niobe’ that trails up an apricot mystery rose.

5. CrossvineBignonia capreolata, is native to the United States. It resembles trumpet vine, but isn’t invasive like the latter. Native crossvine, shown below in a photo from Cindy at From My Corner of Katy is a pretty thing. Thank you for the photo Cindy! Plus, Fairegarden has a lovely photo of ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine on her blog. I may choose crossvine to replace ‘Cl. Old Blush’, but I haven’t decided yet. It would be an entirely different color palette. One of the hardest things about roses is that many of the heirlooms I grew were pink. Many native plants don’t follow that soft color quotient. It will mean changes.

Thank you to Cindy of My Corner of Katy for her photo of crossvine. Mine has never taken off. I think it's where I planted it. Too much shade. It likes heat.
Thank you to Cindy of My Corner of Katy for her photo of crossvine. Mine has never taken off. I think it’s where I planted it. Too much shade. It likes heat.

6. Manettia cordifoliaAlso known as firecracker vine, this hot little number is hardy in Zones 6-10. There is a large specimen of it on the fence at Bustani Plant Farm as shown below. I meant to buy it last Saturday when I was there signing books shopping, but got talking to another customer and forgot. Oh well, they will have it again in spring.

A garden bed with Manettia cordifolia at Bustani Plant Farm. I took this photo in September 2012.
A garden bed with Manettia cordifolia at Bustani Plant Farm. I took this photo in September 2012.

7. HydrangeasThese aren’t vining plants of course, but they are wonderful anchors on either side of an arbor. I don’t have much luck with H. macrophylla. I know many people do, but it’s too hot here, and they need too much water for my garden. I have had splendid luck with H. paniculata ‘Limelight’ and ‘Little Limelight’ along with H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’ and H. quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’, the one oakleaf I’ve been able to grow in the sun. If you want a vining plant behind the hydrangeas, try a clematis. It won’t take over, but will add the height the other plants lack. I know it’s hard to give up romantic roses, but if you must, you can still create romance with other plants too. It just takes some thinking.

Hydrangea quercifolia 'Ruby Slippers' just beginning to bloom at the back arbor. Later, blooms turn red starting from the bottom and moving upward.
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’ just beginning to bloom at the back arbor. Later, blooms turn red starting from the bottom and moving upward. The substance on the leaves is Nolo Bait, an organic method to stop the grasshoppers.
Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Overdam' in front of Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Overdam’ in front of Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ is still quite romantic I think.
Back garden with purple chairs. I have 'Ruby Slippers' growing in front of the arbor, but they are still small. On the right-hand side is American honeysuckle. On the left is 'Grandpa Otts' morning glory that is self-sown.
Back garden with purple chairs. I have ‘Ruby Slippers’ growing in front of the arbor, but they are still small. On the right-hand side is American honeysuckle. On the left is ‘Grandpa Otts’ morning glory that is self-sown. The plant in front is Phlox hyb. ‘Wanda.’

8. Passion flower vinePassiflora incarnata, even the one that is supposed to be perennial, doesn’t always return in the part of Oklahoma where I live, but it is a wonderful plant for a variety of reasons. One, its flowers look like small spaceships. Who wouldn’t like that? It’s the larval and nectar plant for many different butterflies including, according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Gulf Fritillary, Zebra Longwing, Crimson-patch longwing, Red-banded hairstreak, Julia butterfly and Mexican butterfly. All good reasons to plant it. Just note that it does reseed and rarely in the same place. The two summers I grew it here on the back deck, it attracted so many Gulf Fritillaries, I was thrilled. In fact, I made a video on why you should plant passion flower starring the butterflies themselves.

Passiflora 'Inspiration,' Inspiration passion vine that has overwintered at Bustani Plant Farm. It covers part of the barn. One of ten plants to replace climbing roses
Passiflora ‘Inspiration,’ Inspiration passion vine that overwinters at Bustani Plant Farm. It covers part of the barn.

9. Japanese hydrangea vine, Schizophragma hydrangeoides, was suggested by my friend, Layanee of Ledge and Gardens. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, it can be slow to establish, but wouldn’t it be pretty on an arbor or wall? In our climate, it would require shade with those big leaves.

10. Coral Vine, Antigonon leptopus, isn’t hardy here so it could be listed in the annual/tropical vines, but after seeing it on several websites, I think it need its own space. So pretty. I might try growing it as a tropical here.

There’s ten plants that you might grow in place of roses that no longer climb. I’d love to hear your thoughts of other things we might plant instead. I’m open to ideas. I’m still considering what to plant for the shrub roses I’ve removed. With some of them, I’m simply leaving the space empty. A few empty spaces will soon be filled with perennials and other self-sowers. I just need to make sure they aren’t more weeds.