The black-eyed Susan vine is one of the few climbers to feature bright orange-yellow flowers. The 2-inch-wide, five-petaled blossoms have flat heads and a purplish tube with a deep brown eye, hence the name. Also available are flowers in white and buff, and ones without the characteristic dark eyes. Regardless of flower color, this annual vine can quickly climb nearby structures, covering the surface with bright blossoms from midsummer until frost.
The black-eyed Susan climbs structures by a method known as twining. The vine roots stay grounded, but the leaves and blossoms move toward the sun by wrapping their flexible stems around a sturdy object and spiraling upward. To train the black-eyed Susan vine to climb an object, gently weave the stems around the support structure. The black-eyed Susan vine can climb 6 to 10 feet high, making it an ideal choice for adding a splash of summer color to fences, walls and trellises.
Without a nearby support structure, the black-eyed Susan vine will spread horizontally, covering the ground in a thick blanket of 3-inch-long, arrow-shaped leaves and colorful summer flowers. The black-eyed Susan is a robust vine that flourishes in climates where many plants fail. It grows equally well in the sun or shade, is tolerant of poor soils, and is well-suited to life in hot, dry conditions, making it a welcome addition to desert or seaside landscapes.
In frost-free areas, the black-eyed Susan vine can be grown outdoors as a perennial. Those in cooler climates will have to replant the vine each spring. Seeds can be started indoors two months before the last frost, then transplanted into the garden each spring. Alternatively, black-eyed Susan vines can be overwintered in the house. Simply plant the vine in a large container and place it against a sunny wall. As winter approaches, trim the vine to remove any unwanted foliage and bring the container inside. A small trellis can be worked into the potting soil for the tendrils to twine around, or the vines can be allowed to cascade over the sides of the container, filling the room with fresh foliage all winter long.
The black-eyed Susan is a vigorous vine that can easily work its way into nearby trees and shrubs. While this does create a visually appealing effect, the twining growth habit can literally strangle the life out of other plants. The vine covers the supporting plant’s foliage, preventing sunlight from reaching the leaves, causing its decline. Should the black-eyed Susan vine begin to head in a direction it does not belong, unwrap the wayward stem and rewrap it around the proper structure.