The neighborhood density of plants strongly affects their growth, reproduction, and survival. In most cases, high density increases competition and negatively affects a focal plant in predictable ways, leading to the self-thinning law. There are, however, situations in which high densities of plants facilitate focal plant performance, resulting in positive density dependence. Despite their importance in forest gap dynamics and distinctive growth form, there have been very few studies of the effect of density on lianas or vines. We grew an invasive (Celastrus orbiculatus) and a native (Celastrus scandens) liana species together in three different density treatments, while also manipulating the light and support availability. We found that across treatment conditions, C. orbiculatus always out-performed C. scandens, showing greater relative growth rate in height and diameter, greater biomass and higher survival. Both species responded similarly to the density treatments: with plants in high density not showing a decrease in relative height growth rate compared to medium density. Aboveground biomass for C. scandens was not affected by density, while for C. orbiculatus, the most massive plants were growing in medium density without support. More surprisingly, survival analysis indicated that the two species both had significantly lower mortality rates in the highest density treatment; this trend held true across the other treatments of light and supports. More generally, this study demonstrates that these lianas can escape the consequences of high density and thus the self-thinning law that affects self-supporting plants. This suggests a broader hypothesis about lianas in general: their greater flexibility in allocating growth resources allows them to grow taller and thinner without collapsing and thereby potentially escape shading and mortality even at high densities.