Ladder Trellis and Favorite Summer Vine

By mid August, the flowers in the garden are heat-stressed and looking a little tired (just like me ;) but my favorite summer vine is still going strong and growing by leaps and bounds!

This is my third summer with Black-eyed Susan vine. It blooms all summer long until frost, which is typically November here in North Carolina.

Blooms slow during the heat of summer, but pick back up in September. I planted it two years ago to trail along a bench and it was still blooming for pumpkin season. You can see it climbing my bench and paired with pumpkins, here.

Black-eyed Susan vine is an easy-to-grow annual and an excellent climber and choice for a trellis or fence. No relation to Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), it climbs 8 to 10 feet in a single growing season, and up to 20 feet in frost-free areas, Zones 10 and 11.

It prefers full to part sun, with afternoon shade ideal here in the hot, sunny South.

I picked up two small vines from the garden center that I planted on each side of the ladder in early May, but it’s easy to grow from seed once the threat of frost has passed. Soaking the seeds in warm water overnight before sowing will speed germination. 

The “eye” is actually the throat of the flower that’s a brownish-purple shade.

I added some garden twine to train it to climb the ladder. By July, the ladder was covered with vine and cheery yellow flowers. I have to keep the vine in check to prevent it from climbing the Limelight hydrangeas next to it, and you can see it weaving its way through the silvery foliage of the artemisia.

My ladder is going on its third summer. It’s been painted, sealed and repaired twice.

I knew using it outside would shorten its lifespan, but I couldn’t resist planting it next to my Potting Shed. It seemed like garden serendipity when I found it at an antique mall already painted green and eerily close to matching the trim color of the shed.

Last spring,  my hubby removed and replaced the plywood steps that were splitting and chipping away. I matched the green paint at Lowe’s to paint the new boards for the steps. I also gave the entire ladder several additional coats of paint to provide some added protection from the elements.

This spring when I went to move the ladder, I discovered it was on its last leg. My hubby used $2 mending plates and bolted the pieces back together. I painted the plates and gave the ladder several more coats, keeping my fingers crossed that it would survive another year.

It’s serving as a trellis, with the vines hiding its Frankenstein-esque repair. ;)

I ‘planted’ some galvanized watering cans on the steps of the ladder  provide a little garden art and interest.

And I ‘grew’ flowers to add to the watering cans with magnets for a fun, blooming embellishment.

The small metal flowers were leftover from my Repurposed Door Knob Hose Guards.

Black-eyed Susan vine is long blooming, heat tolerant and doesn’t require deadheading. The most common varieties are yellow or orange, but you can find it available in other colors by seed.

Water it until established and then weekly during the heat of the summer and you’ll be rewarded with blooms all summer long until frost!

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  40 comments for “Ladder Trellis and Favorite Summer Vine

  1. August 16, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Love the ladder and watering cans..I planted two black eyed susans and the grew like I wanted but not as many blooms that I would like..and they were choking my snap, last week, I pulled them out but yours are full of blooms and look beautiful…not sure how to get them to produce more blooms?? The shed looks beautiful too!! 🌼🌼🌼🌼

    • August 16, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      Hi Ellen, They need full sun for maximum blooms. Also the blooms wane in the peak of summer, but it pick back up in September.

  2. August 16, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Mary, I like that! My Mexican sunflowers have finally taken off and will last through late fall, but your vine would make a really great late summer/fall alternative. Love your ladder trellis design and how it fleshed out!

  3. Linda
    August 16, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Just beautiful, I love how you used the ladder idea!

  4. Terry Workman
    August 16, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Just beautiful!

  5. August 16, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I love your vignettes featuring Black-eyed Susan vine. I have an old ladder in my garden too.

  6. August 16, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Another fan of the Black-eyed Susan vine! I have the white and the orange. I love the ladder idea!

  7. August 16, 2017 at 8:30 am

    I thought your ladder was cute with out the vines, but now really special with the vines growing up and around it!!

  8. Becky
    August 16, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Love this! So whimsical. The vines are so pretty and I love the metal flowers too.

  9. Cynthia Raines
    August 16, 2017 at 9:13 am

    I love your ladder and hope it makes it at least another year. Do you put it away in winter? I found the orange variety this year and it is still going strong, but I have to water daily as it is in a hanging pot. A few weeks ago I purchased a small vintage step ladder with the “Werner” ladder label still on it. My maiden name was Werner so I had to have it. She will stay in the shed as a decorative piece. Just love it!

    • August 16, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      Hi Cyndi, I saw a ‘Werner’ ladder today when I was poking around the antique mall, trying to beat the heat. What fun for you and your shed!

  10. Cynthia Raines
    August 16, 2017 at 9:21 am

    P.s. Thanks for the idea about the seeds, I love the pink and the white also. Will remember for next year.

  11. August 16, 2017 at 9:24 am

    What a beautiful work of art your ladder is, Mary, all intertwined with black eyed susan vine and your embellished watering cans! That made me smile this morning….thank you!

    • August 16, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      Blacked Eyed Susans are some of my favorites! Totally made me smile, too!

  12. Vanessa
    August 16, 2017 at 9:36 am

    How lovely!!! this weekend I will be making your tomato tart recipe!!!! I can’t wait!!!

  13. August 16, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I always enjoy glimpses of your beautiful potting shed and your ladder turned into a trellis is perfect! The addition of all of your classic galvanized watering cans is the icing on the cake! I have yet to begin gardening here in Florida and am always glad to learn about new plants like this vine that might survive my summer heat!

  14. Mary Boger
    August 16, 2017 at 9:53 am


  15. Debbie
    August 16, 2017 at 9:56 am

    What a beautiful garden you have! I have a black eyed susan same color as yours. Love the ladder idea

  16. August 16, 2017 at 9:58 am

    OMGoodness, I need to find that next year. I am making a note in my calander!! Thanks, Mary. You are a fountain of wonderful information!!!

  17. August 16, 2017 at 10:28 am

    I tried this Black-Eyed Susan vine for the first time this summer. It got off to a rather slow start, but once it found my trellis, it really started growing! Love your ladder trellis!

  18. Kathy M.
    August 16, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I have grown bkacjeyed susan vine from seed for years in Va but since moving your neck of the woods have found it readly reseeds and I just replant them where I want them to grow and share the extras.

  19. August 16, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    Mary, the Black-eyed Susan vine climbing your green ladder is stunning. Love the watering cans. Beautiful late summer garden!

  20. Cristy Lee Bennett
    August 16, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I always enjoy seeing and reading each of your beautiful posts. This one of your wooden ladder with the black-eyed Susan vines catches my imagination for sure. I came online today to look for ideas at Pinterest for growing pumpkins in a small space (planning for next year). I would like to find a wooden ladder to grow the pumpkins on. I also now want to grow these black-eyed Susan vines (which I have not heard of before your post today) over an existing arched trellis I have in my garden (next year). Thanks for today’s inspiration!

  21. August 16, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I love the ladder as a trellis! So cute! And the watering cans with the metal flowers are adorable, too. Have a great rest of the week!


  22. Marion
    August 16, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    I have never seen these Black eyed Susans. They are pretty.

  23. Joan
    August 16, 2017 at 6:19 pm

    Thank You for sharing your beautiful garden.

  24. Marilyn
    August 16, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Lovely flowers. The pumpkins are ready for Autumn.

  25. jane
    August 16, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    I absolutely love and so look forward to your posts and dream about sitting in your garden.

  26. August 17, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    So adorable Mary, the vine looks like Rapunzel’s locks cascading down the castle’s {ladder’s} walls! And your metal blooming watering cans look so fabulous amidst the flowering vines! You do create magic in your potting shed world, I admire your gardening dedication and all your beautiful floral creations…the ladder also reminds me a a summer Christmas tree~

  27. August 18, 2017 at 11:14 pm

    How do you keep the water and mosquitoes out of all your watering cans?

  28. Kim
    August 20, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Well, this is just so beautiful. I have Morning Glory growing on the wall of our garage, trellised, but now I think I need a ladder. And some galvanized water cans. :) Lovely.

  29. August 20, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Now this gives new meaning to a climbing vine!…I love it! This is definitely one for the “idea book”!!! Beautiful!

  30. August 21, 2017 at 8:33 am

    I love how the vine grew all over the ladder encasing it in greenery and flowers. It’s hard to keep wood from rotting when it’s exposed to a lot of water. Water always finds a way to creep in- perhaps a marine spar varnish or marine paint will seal it up. We had a nice 8 ft. wood ladder we let go of in a garage sale. It would have been perfect for something like this. Too bad I never thought of it! 😊

  31. Kim
    August 21, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    That’s an awesome ladder, Mary. I love the black-eyed Susan vine! You’ve inspired me. :-)

  32. Barbara Harilaou
    August 22, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Mary I have to ask you a question .I bought a black-eyed susan vine last year {yours looks beautiful by the way } and my first mistake was that I didn’t plant it in a sunny area {I know that now after reading your post} but it did not rebloom this year so my question is do you re-plant it every year or does it come up after the winter weather?I live in Corfu Greece and the winter weather here is very damp and cold but no snow.

    • August 22, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      Hi Barbara, I plant it as an annual here. It’s native from tropical East Africa to eastern South Africa and is hardy only in zone 10 and 11 in the U.S. If it comes back where you live, I would relocate it to a sunny area and fertilize it.

  33. Aquitelife
    August 22, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    Such lush beauty, it’s been ages since I grew these. Adore your shots, so many great angles.

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