By Mary Lew Quesinberry
Special to the Daily Herald
Question: I am planning to put in a pergola over my patio's concrete slab. The septic tank's vent pipe is about 8 feet from the edge of the slab. I would love to plant a climbing vine of some sort to grow over the pergola on that end of the patio but I am wondering what plant will do well enough but still not hurt the septic system.
Answer: My recommendation would be the drought tolerant coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). It is a native and has red trumpet-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds. The stems have evergreen, shiny green leaves and the spread is to 20 feet. It blooms from May to September and the blossoms will mature into berries that birds love. It does not have the invasive characteristics of Japanese honeysuckle, a native of eastern Asia.
Another vine to consider is Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora), a native of Japan. It is a fall bloomer and semi-evergreen. It grows to 20 feet and has sweet, vanilla scented, white blooms from August to October. It appears tiny white stars fell over the green. Mine was evergreen even in this past winter. Sweet Autumn Clematis requires no maintenance. It is toxic if ingested.
Queen's Wreath, also known as Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus) is a beautiful, easy-to-grow vine with pink flowers. It has a spread of up to 40 feet. It is a perennial and will die back to the ground in winter and re-grow in the spring. A negative to this vine is it would leave a mess on your arbor that would need to be removed from the structure each year after the freeze kills it.
There are many useful, fast-growing annual vines: Jack Beans, Morning Glory, Black-eyed Susan Vine, Hyacinth Bean Vine, Cardinal Vine and Cypress Vine. They would need to be removed from the pergola after a freeze and replanted the next growing season.
Avoid these vines for pergolas or septic tanks: Asian Jasmine, Texas Crossvine, Carolina Jessamine, Grapevine, Passion Vine, Virginia Creeper, Japanese Honeysuckle, Wisteria. These plants would become a nuisance and some are considered threats to our native vegetation. In addition, Texas Crossvine needs a very strong structure for support because it gets so heavy it could eventually damage your pergola.
Have any questions about gardening in Central Texas? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.