What do you do when you are running out of space in your garden but you want more medicinal plants? Think vines!
Vines can offer us the ability to grow vertically, allowing better use of space in our gardens. Vines can be grown on trellises or bamboo teepees to provide shade for other plants in the garden. They can also be grown along wire fencing, on arbors or around decks to create privacy. Read on to hear about my top 4 vines for zone 5.
Hops (Humulus lupulus)
Hops are a fast growing herbaceous perennial vine in the Cannabis family, the fruits or cones are primarily used for flavouring beer. There are many different varieties of hops available ranging from cultivars for specific types of beer flavouring to varieties that are cultivated for their exceptional medicinal qualities.
Hops are most often prepared as a tincture or a bitter infusion and they make an excellent sedative which seems to be more effective when combined with valerian root. Hops are also a phytoestrogen and are used to increase milk production in nursing mothers and to balance and regulate hormones in the female reproductive system, they are most effective when used fresh for this purpose.
Hops are dioecious, meaning they have separate male and female plants, you need the female plant if you want to harvest the hops. They spread vigorously by runners and can easily take over if not kept in check and can grow 20 to 30 feet in a growing season. The easiest way to propagate is through layering or cuttings. Full sun and lots of space make for happy hops!
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
Also known as Wu Wei Zi, Schisandra is a deciduous perennial woody vine and an important plant in TCM. It is used as an adaptogenic, restorative tonic as well as to treat the liver and as a calming and uplifting anti-anxiety tonic. For more information about the berries and their uses, here is a great article
Schisandra, like hops, is dioecious and to grow schisandra for the fruit you will need both the male and female plants and it will do so after the fourth or fifth year. It is a multi-cycle germinator and therefore not super easy to grow from seed, however for those who enjoy a challenge here is some advice from Richters. Other, easier propagation methods for schisandra are through cuttings and layering. It grows well in full sun to part shade (shade is preferable in hotter climates), in slightly acidic soil and is very cold hardy. The berries can be dried or used fresh for juice.
Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
Japanese honeysuckle is a fast growing perennial vine with edible leaves and flowers . It is an antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and immunostimulant. The flowers bloom in June and July and the flower buds, flowers and stems can be harvested for medicine. Used traditionally to treat colds and flus as well as for hot, inflamed conditions both topically and internally. For more on the medicinal uses of honeysuckle check out Michael Tierra’s article here.
Japanese Honeysuckle can be invasive, and once it has established should be cut back heavily after flowering to avoid it taking over and strangling nearby plants. The fruits are not edible for humans but birds love them and if allowed to fruit the birds will disperse the seeds freely. If Japanese honeysuckle is abundant in your area, think carefully before allowing it into your garden. The easiest way to propagate Japanese honeysuckle is through softwood cutting or layering but it can also be started by seed which require a 2 month stratification period. This woody vine grows well in full sun with its roots in the shade.
Dang shen (Codonopsis pilosula)
Also known as Poor man’s ginseng, codonopsis is a perennial vine in the Campanulaceae or bluebell family. It is used medicinally as an effective substitute for the highly prized Asian ginseng. An immunomodulator and immunostimulant, it is used to strengthen digestive and respiratory systems and build to immunity and energy in the body.
This hardy vine can grow up to 6 feet in full sun to part shade in well drained soil. Its beautiful bell-shaped blooms attract pollinators throughout the summer months. Joe Hollis from Mountain Gardens has an excellent video on Codonopsis pilosula. After 3 to 4 years the root can be dug up and processed for medicine.