ideas for plants to go with Cat Claw vine

hotdrysunnyMay 14, 2010

My concrete slab patio features 2' x 3' planting holes in front of each of the four columns that hold up the patio roof. They are essentially square holes in the slab, filled with dirt. They were originally bricked up to about 10" high, but I ripped all the bricks out so now they are just open squares of dirt in the concrete, in front of the block columns.

The slab extends out past the columns for about 9 feet, so the holes are basically in the middle of the slab. The columns hold up the edge of the patio roof, so the holes and the 9' of slab are in the sun all day long - and they're on the southern side of the house. Which is located in Phoenix so we're talking some major heat and light in the summer.

I'd like to plant Cat Claw vines (macfadyena unguis-cati) in these four areas to grow up the columns (I know it can damage walls - I'm dealing with all concrete block so I'm prepared to take that chance) and add some color and vegetation to the patio.

The holes are large enough, however, that I think there's room to add at least one other plant for an "under-planting" of sorts.

I'd like to add a plant (or plants) that would play nicely with the Cat Claw, and add some complementary (or contrasting) color to the bright yellow flowers and glossy green leaves.

Plants with similar water requirements are my biggest concern since I have watered to death at least the National Debt's worth of plants in the past.

I do not want to use lantana, oleander, baja fairy duster, green cloud sage or santolina as *every* single yard in my neck of the woods predictably contains *every* single one of those plants (all shaved down to weird little cubes and balls) with mind-numbing consistency. I know they're great plants for my climate, but I can't stand 'em - blame the HOAs!

I thought about putting an agave in each of the holes, but first, I think they would look too formal in my crazy-quilt yard "theme;" and second, there's a lot of foot traffic around the holes, pokey, spiny, or really messy plants probably aren't a good idea.

So, any ideas for one or two other plants that might work in these areas? I am assuming the slab is no more than 1 foot thick (and maybe not even that thick) so the roots would have to travel down that far before they would be able to spread out beyond the 2' x 3' confines of the holes.

I know the Cat Claw vine has some significant roots, so I don't know if it would be better to use a plant with shallower roots, or if that's even a concern.

thank you all in advance!!! :-)

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Hi zzini,
We live in the desert too although a little higher elevation than Phoenix. I like the Agave idea as really contrasting with your Catclaw vine and does well in small spaces. I love the look of our A. colorata and another one we have that we got unnamed but is a beautiful blue with great leaf imprinting marks on it.

I know you were concerned about spines but octopus agave, A. vilmoriniana has no spines and its light green color would contrast with your dark green vine. A. bracteosa is smaller and also spineless and kind of twisty and cool looking. Of course very common but bulletproof here is the red yucca hesperaloe parv. and it's painless and so beautitul this time of year with those coral flowers. You can grow some of the more tender succulants that we lose in a cold winter so there's probably even more choices for you.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 8:29AM
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hmmm, those octopus agave are pretty groovy looking. . . that might not be a bad idea, given the space that I have. I also mulled over blue euphorbia - that might have a neat effect in front of a background of green leaves
good food for thought!!!
thanks :-)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2010 at 10:56PM
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Do NOT put cat's claw anywhere near your house if you like your roof, and stucco.

For a patio shelter like this, how do you plan to deal with the regular freeze-back and dead vine removal? What sort of roof does it have, and is it susceptible to damage from the vines?

How are you going to support the vines on the pillars? Despite the 'claws' that help the vine up the wall when it's small, they need some support when they get larger or the windstorms will catch the vine and peel it off the wall, leaving you with a mass of plants lying at the base of the column.

There's a reason for the popularity of the plants you don't want: they are tough as nails and endure the heat.

Agaves might make it, but they can sunburn badly.

I would infill the holes with concrete and add colorful sun-proof fabric curtains to the patio shelter for a truly low-care shade/color option.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 9:47AM
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@lazygardens - really? poop. I was prepared for some paint removal, but I was hoping it would behave itself a little better since it's so pretty and so popular in some of the xeriscaping literature I have.

as to all your questions - well, I was expecting it to be the PERFECT plant for my situation - and one that would not cause me grief or make me rue the day I planted it! ;-)

On the other hand. . . I never thought about just filling the stupid holes with concrete - that might be the cheapest and, probably, smartest solution. My dreams of a charming Mexican-style patio with gorgeous yellow-flowered vines draping graciously (and politely) from the roof were, I'll admit, a bit far-fetched and based on one too many Sunset magazine pictorials.

(I'm still not giving in to collections of pink dwarf oleander and yellow lantana. . . not yet, at least)

truth hurts, but thank you for the solid advice. concrete is one thing I know I can't kill!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 11:38PM
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zzini ... polite and cat's claw ... not in the same sentence.

If you can run some drip lines out there, an assortment of pots with flowering plants would also be Mexican-style.

Bougainvillia in a wire support cage (half-circle of remesh or cattle panel next to the pillar) would give you the "look" too, and be less likely to take the roof off. It will freeze back, but if the wire support cage is removable you can trim off the dead stuff in the spring and keep going. Add some fragrant flowering stuff at the base - herbs, alyssum, chocolate floweer, and it might work.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 9:02AM
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