Best clematis for trellis

Cultivation over natural supports and as ground cover

Clematis Atragene Group ‘Frances Rivis’
(alpina) in Spirea vanhouttei

Summer-flowering varieties, hard pruned in spring, are ideal for this purpose. You can choose any of the following: Clematis ‘Błękitny Anioł’, Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’, Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’, Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’,

Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’
on Picea glanca ‘Conica’

Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’, Clematis ‘Warszawska Nike’, Clematis ‘Xerxes’. If you don’t want clematis to cover the supporting plant completely, you should choose varieties with a more delicate silhouette, ideally from the Viticella Group, such as ‘Little Nell’, ‘Betty Corning’, ‘Emilia Plater’, ‘Kermesina’ or ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’, but all the cultivars from the Atragene Group, the Texensis Group and the Integrifolia Groupare also well suited for this purpose. It’s best at the beginning to let the stems sprawl over the ground without any restraints. When the plant has spread out and new shoots are woody, the risk of damaging or even breaking the stems reduces, and you can safely arrange the plant according to your needs.

Clematis thrive in loamy, moderately moist and well-drained soil. If the supporting plants (e.g. heath) require little watering and fertilization, you can ensure proper growing conditions for clematis by burying at the base of the plant a flowerpot or a wide tube filled at the bottom with little stones. This solution enables a direct supply of water and fertilizers to the clematis roots. If the soil the host is cultivated in is too acid, clematis should be planted in a small distance (30-60 cm), where the soil conditions are more favorable.

Clematis alpina ‘Pamela Jackman’
on Betula pendula ‘Youngii’

Clematis varieties are very effective, when grown through trees or shrubs. A majority of shrubs flower in spring (e.g. lilacs, jasmine, forsythia, guelder rose ). Therefore, if you plant in their neighborhood a clematis from the Viticella Group, or a large-flowered hybrid reaching its blooming peak later in the season, (varieties requiring pruning of type B), and cut it back hard each spring, you’ll have a continuous show in the garden from June till September, first, during May and June, created by a flowering shrub, followed in summer by clematis blooms. In like manner you can use the cultivars from the Integrifolia Group to grow over compact, spring-blooming shrubs (e.g. azaleas).

The following varieties are well suited for growing into medium-sized trees or shrubs : Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’, Clematis ‘Duchess of Edinburgh’, Clematis ‘Ernest Markham’, Clematis ‘Etoile Violette’, Clematis ‘Polish Spirit’, Clematis ‘Generał Sikorski’, Clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’, Clematis ‘Gipsy Queen’, Clematis ‘Jan Paweł II’, Clematis ‘Jackmanii’, Clematis ‘Star of India’, Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’, Clematis ‘Ville de Lyon’, Clematis ‘Mad. Le Coultre’, Clematis ‘Warszawska Nike’, and all cultivars from the Viticella Group, the Atragene Group and the Texensis Group. If you want a clematis to grow up tall trees you should choose a plant from vigorous varieties, such as Clematis ‘Bill MacKenzie’, Clematis ‘Paul Farges’, Clematis montana var. rubens, or Clematis ‘Lambton Park’. Many climbers other than clematis are also well suited for training up trees. In sun exposed locations you might plant Trumpet Creeper , while ivy, Climbing Hydrangea, Dutchman’s Pipe, and Japanese Hydrangea will perform best in shade.

Clematis planted over a conifer, its lovely flowers scattered over the evergreen, will enhance the beauty of every garden. Varieties should be chosen according to the color of flowers and the rate of growth of a coniferous plant, the general rule being the weaker a conifer, the less vigorous and dense a clematis. For instance, plants with deep green foliage (e.g. yew) contrast nicely with pale-colored varieties such as Clematis ‘Comtesse de Bouchaud’, Clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’, Clematis ‘Mrs. Cholmondeley’, or Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’. All cultivars from the Viticella Group or the Atragene Group will also give a spectacular display. Conifers with silvery foliage will look their best when interwoven with brightly colored varieties e.g. Clematis ‘Kardynał Wyszyński’, while yellow-leafed plants blend harmoniously with blue-flowered clematis, such as ‘Mrs Cholmondeley’.

The old adage “a warm top and cool bottom” is ever true in most cases, so it’s best to plant clematis on the north face of the supporting plant, so that the base of the vine gets some shade. Clematis should be planted within a distance from a tree or shrub. The interval depends on the size of a supporting plant, and can reach up to 1m. You should connect the clematis to the plant it will scramble over with a rod, bamboo stick, or a wire, thus securing the stems from damage.

Hedera helix (Ivy) growing on the tree

Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ on Taxus

Clematis integrifolia ‘Olgae’ in Azalea

Clematis ‘Mrs. Cholmondeley’ on Potentilta

Clematis ‘Emilia Plater’

Clematis alpina ‘Pamela Jackman’ on Malus

Many climbers make good ground cover if left to grow with no supports, spreading over the ground and creating attractive, sometimes colorful, carpets. They can succesfully replace lawn, be planted under trees and shrubs, and are an ideal solution on borders and banks. Ground cover plants form a dense mat of uderground stems that consolidates the soil to prevent wind erosion, surface run-off and excessive drying, and keeping weeds at bay. Ground cover plants greatly facilitate maintenace of greenery by reducing the amount of time and money spent, as well as improve the overall effect. They are ideal for both large and small gardens, and also for public greenery. However, in order to achieve the best results plants should be chosen according to the location, the size of area to be covered, and to the growth habit of neighboring plants. Depending on your needs you can choose between climbers, which are quite vigorous in habit, and slower growing dwarf shrubs. These resistant and undemanding plants will adorn your garden with a mass of foliage and/or flowers.

Clematis Grupa Heracleifolia ‘Praecox’

Clematis Heracleifolia Group ‘Praecox’ is by far the best ground cover clematis. This resistant and undemanding cultivar thrives equally well in full sun and semi-shade.

Clematis Tangutica Group growing over Warsaw University Library

Its deep green leaves form a dense carpet suppressing weed growth, and in summer the plant is veiled with masses of pinkish-mauve flowers gathered in large panicles. If the area to cover isn’t very large, some other herbaceus varieties are also fit for the purpose, especially from the Integrifolia Group (e.g.: Clematis ‘Arabella’). For larger sites you may successfully use many cultivars from the Atragene Group, the Viticella Group or the Tangutica Group. These varieties, however, are a bit more demanding than Clematis ‘Praecox’, so special care should be taken to properly choose the plants for the conditions on the location, using either information in the encyclopedia section or the search engine of this application.

There are also other climbers well suited for creating covers e.g.: Virginia Creeper (perfect for large areas), Euonymus fortunei (among which the best cultivar to this end is ‘Coloratus’ – a vigorous, resistant and undemanding plant). In sheltered positions it’s best to use Japanese Honeysuckle ‘Aureoreticulata’ (yellow-green foliage), ‘Halliana’ (profuse and long-lasting bloom of fragrant flowers),and Akebia quinata . A yet another excellent ground cover plant, other than a climber is a dwarf shrub Vinca minor .

Another good thing about ground cover plants is their diversity when it comes to growing conditions. You can choose varieties that thrive in semi-shade or even in full-shade (e.g.: Common Ivy, Euonymus fortunei , Climbing Hydrangea , Japanese Hydrangea-vine and a dwarf shrub – Vinca minor ), and such areas always pose a challenge for a gardener. There are also other plants that favour sunny, slightly dry sites (e.g.: the cultivars from the Tangutica Group).

Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’

Planting. Good soil preparation is imperative and removing all the weeds, rubble and other impurities is important, as is enriching the soil with well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost. Spacings should be determined according to the growth habit of the plants chosen. It’s advisable to mulch the ground in between plants.

Maintenance. Watering plants is vital and doing it correctly is amongst the most important jobs in the garden. One of the best systems to this end is a drip or trickle irrigation system using a special tube laid just beneath the ground. During the first 2-3 years in spring (April-May) a fertilizer should be applied. In subsequent years feeding should be be done only when needed. You should remove all withered stems, as well as the shoots that are either too high or starting to outgrow its alloted space. The main pruning is best done in spring, while the correcting one can be accomplished during the vegetation period according to the needs.

Climb to the top of the tree

Conifers are often more in need of camouflage than deciduous trees – pine, spruce and the deciduous larch, for instance, all have bare branches low down.

Imagine a vigorous evergreen Clematis armandii climbing through a European larch (Larix decidua). In spring, the soft, fresh green tufts of larch leaves will highlight the trailing stems of small white C. armandii flowers with their fragrance of almonds.

In autumn, as the larch turns to buttery gold, the long, leathery green leaves of the clematis are waiting to take their place. Similarly, the bright yellowy tints of Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ – hop – look stunning twined round the grey-green foliage of Picea pungens, the blue spruce.

Birch, hawthorn and alder are also great hosts, with sufficient branches to allow the climber to run riot. Those growing up trees with more open branches – chestnut, oak, ash or sycamore – need constant training to help them reach the whole framework. In these situations vigorous plants that adhere by aerial roots have a better chance of providing full cover. Good examples are the climbing hydrangea, Hydrangea petiolaris, and ivy, Hedera helix and its varieties.


The trouble with underplanting mature trees is their roots: they are always exactly where you want to dig a hole to plant a climber. Other problems include the state of the soil, which will generally be dry, free-draining and devoid of nutrients; and light levels, which for most of the year will be low under the leaf canopy. With this in mind, plant now and mollycoddle the climber, giving it the conditions to make new growth quickly.

1 Site the planting hole as close as possible to the base of the tree and certainly within 2ft.

2 Dig as big a hole as possible, avoiding large roots. It should be at least twice the size of the container holding the climber. Smaller roots may be pruned to make space. Remove the soil completely. Fork up the bottom of the hole and add a layer of well-rotted farmyard manure to help conserve water, and add fresh soil from another part of the garden. Pour in three to four gallons of water and allow it to drain. Mix 8oz of bone meal into the new soil and position the root ball in the planting pit.

3 With the exception of clematis, keep the plants at the same depth as in their pots. Clematis should be planted with the top of its root ball 4in below the surface to encourage new roots to form on the buried portion of stem.

4 Firm the soil round the root ball with your foot forming a surface dished towards the stem. Water after planting to settle the soil around the roots and eliminate air pockets in the soil. A deep mulch of bark will reduce weeds and help to conserve soil moisture.


Climbing plants haul themselves up into the branches of their hosts using various methods. Some, such as wisteria, twine their stems round the branches. Others, including Cissus striata, use tendrils to hold on. Roses use thorns to steady themselves.

A portion of wire netting or plastic trellis can be tied to the bottom of the trunk; hold this out from the bark using small wooden blocks as spacers. This will give the climber something to grip and help the new shoots find their way through the mesh on their way up the tree.


One of the secrets of success is in early pruning to encourage the climber to form side shoots. Shortening the main leader will make the plant branch. Each stem can be trained up into a different part of the tree’s branch system. Once the climber has taken hold in the tree, there is little need for further pruning.

Fallopia baldschuanica, better known as Russian vine, is too aggressive for arches, pergolas and trellis, but it is ideal in a tree, where it will quickly make 40ft in height. In late summer and autumn the tree will drip, ooze and overflow with panicles of small, pink-tinged white flowers. No pruning is necessary.

With roses it is possible to cut out, at ground level, the oldest stems. They will have to be removed a section at a time to avoid pulling the whole plant out of the tree. Train the rose stems around the trunk, spiralling upwards, and they will produce many more flowering side shoots.

Peter Cundall: Plant clematis in early winter

THE best time to plant clematis is probably during autumn to early winter, although they can be put in at any time of year.

Like most climbing plants, they must grow into the sun in order to flower.

Most are perfectly suited to climbing deciduous fruit or ornamental trees.

They even wind their way up other climbers, including roses.

Clematis detest heavy, badly drained, acidic soil or where strong, persistent winds prevail.

A good, medium-rich loamy soil is ideal.

If planting close to a tree, find a gap between big tree roots about half a metre from the trunk.

Excavate the soil and plant into this gap.

Clematis plants develop powerful roots that easily compete with all but the most aggressive tree roots.

Always try to dig a hole at least three times wider than the existing clematis root-ball.

If conditions are dry, fill the hole with water several times and allow to soak away.

Most clematis varieties develop lots of tough roots while in pots awaiting sale.

Some may have started to spiral around the base of the pot.

Soak the root ball so softened roots near the base can be partly teased out.

Clematis are best planted a little deeper than the surrounding soil.

This encourages more stems to form, ensuring sturdier plants.

The best fertiliser is well-rotted compost, mixed into the base and sides of the hole.

Backfill with top- quality potting soil mixed with decomposed organic matter and water thoroughly.

If growing near a tree, use a thin stake to guide a new plant to its host.

Clematis can also be grown in tubs with a minimum width of at least half a metre and filled with good quality potting soil.

Well-shaded, cool roots are ­vitally important with clematis so, if necessary, spread a layer of flat stones around new plants.

The initial pruning is fairly hard and is best carried out in late winter.

Make the cut so just two pairs of fat buds remain, just above the ground.

Clematis plants need constant ­watering during dry, warm periods.

Those in tubs or troughs must be watered every day during hot weather.

Each August, sprinkle blood and bone fertiliser around plants.

Add sulfate of potash at the rate of a tight fistful per square metre.

Small flowering clematis such as C. montana produce single displays in spring. Colours range from white to various shades of pink and some are scented.

As old plants become tangled, use hedge-shears to cut them back, always after flowering.

Large-flowering clematis bloom in spring and summer and can be pruned to flower again in autumn.

The method is to cut back mature plants hard (about half a metre from the ground) every August.

These shortened plants rapidly sprout new growth within weeks.

By mid-January, all spring and early summer flowers will have finished. The plants can then be lightly pruned again — mainly deadheading — especially to remove immature seed heads.

This, with regular watering, forces plants to try again, often producing a satisfactory autumn display.

Clematis armandii, C. aristata and C. integrifolia need only a light pruning after flowering without cutting into old stems.

Varieties such as C. montana, C. alpina and C. macropetala produce flowers from previous summers’ growth and are mainly deadheading after flowering.

Large-flowering cultivars, including Belle of Woking, Niobe and Ville de Lyon, flower from stems sprouting from the previous season’s wood.

Cut off all seed heads and remove dead and weak stems down to the next pair of healthy buds in late winter and late January.

Varieties that bloom in autumn such as Jackmanii, Viticella and Texensis hybrids are pruned in late winter by cutting off all top growth, always avoiding old wood. Choose a pair of healthy buds and cut just above them.

Clematis are tough plants and even rough pruning gets great results. If unsure, prune all large flowered clematis to about 30cm from the ground every August.

Spring-flowering shrubby forms are best pruned after flowering in late spring.

As for the outstanding Apple Blossom (C. armandii), just leave this one alone apart from removing dead growth.

Versatile Vines

Photo by Larry LeFever/Grant Heilman

Few plants deliver as many practical benefits as vines. Grown on a freestanding trellis, for instance, vines quickly provide natural privacy for a deck or hot tub. Dense vines with coarse foliage bring cool summer shade as they climb over an arbor, while fine-textured vines create a tracery of green against a stucco wall. Vines can also dress up an arch or pillar with flowers, soften harsh structural lines and even hide an ugly view. And they do all this much faster, in far less space, than trees and shrubs.

Add in the many choices, and you have one of the most versatile and beautiful groups of plants. The keys to those benefits are picking the right vine for the right place and giving it the structural support it needs.

Photo by Larry LeFever/Grant Heilman


The word vine is a general term for a wealth of plants with varied ways of growing and climbing. Vines can be evergreen or deciduous, flowering or nonflowering, rampant-growing or restrained. As with all landscape plants, choose vines that are hardy in your climate and grow well in the light and space provided. They should also be adapted to the soil in your yard. Have your soil tested by a county extension service or a private lab. Here are some other basics for the perennial vines we’ll focus on:

How vines grow. Vines climb toward the sunlight they need in ingenious ways. Before choosing any vine, find out how it climbs and how aggressively to determine the appropriate support for it to grow on.

Vines with twining tendrils, such as Boston ivy, clematis, passionflower and trumpet vine, reach out and wrap around anything nearby. These vines require a wire grid, wood lattice or other narrow crisscrossing support.

Twining vines, such as honeysuckle and grape, encircle vertical supports. They can maneuver themselves through and around an open fence or wire trellis, or coil up a single cable. Most twist in one direction around thin supports like cord or wire.

Clinging vines, such as Virginia creeper and creeping fig, produce attachments such as small suction disks and aerial roots that grip supports tightly as they grow. True to their name, they cling to any rough surface tenaciously. Removal involves prying them loose once they are established. Unfortunately, these vines can damage soft brick or mortar, and will also tear apart wood siding.

Still other “vines” are actually sprawling shrubs with long supple stems that can easily be tied to a support and trained to grow upward without growing out. Climbing roses are a prime example.

CLEMATIS (Clematis species) feature slender, twisting leafstalks and dramatic flowers that range from 1 to 10 in. across. This easy-to-control vine should be planted against a porch railing, lattice framework or other prominent spot where blooms can be admired. Most vines in this diverse group are deciduous, including the large-flowered hybrid clematis ‘Nelly Moser,’ shown here. While undemanding, clematis do have specific requirements. Plant them where roots are cool and shaded and tops can grow in sun. Provide rich, loose, fast-draining soil and constant moisture. Height (6 to 30 ft.) and hardiness (to as low as

-30°F) vary by species.

Why you’re growing it. Think about exactly what you want a vine to do for your yard and choose accordingly. For example, evergreen vines, such as blood-red trumpet, give privacy and all-season color. Deciduous vines, like grape or wisteria, provide shade in summer and allow sunlight to warm your home in winter, after the leaves have fallen.

Also consider growth rate. A quick climber like silver lace vine can twine to 25 ft. or more in a season, providing near-instant privacy or help with screening an unsightly view. But rampant growers will quickly engulf other plants or structures if they don’t have enough space.

Once you decide what kind of vine you need, look for other appealing features—edible fruit, fall color and fragrant flowers are a few examples.

Clusters of sweetly scented blossoms are a hallmark of WISTERIA (Wisteria species). This vigorous deciduous vine requires sturdy support such as a fence, arbor or pergola. It’s also the wrong vine to plant against wood siding because its strong branches can wreak havoc. Wisterias aren’t fussy about soil, but they require good drainage. Plant in full sun and water well during the growing season when buds are forming. Prune annually to direct growth and maximize flowering. Young plants are slow to flower, but can top 7 ft. their first year. Hardiness (down to -20°F) varies by species.

Photo by Larry LeFever/Grant Heilman


Trellises, pergolas and arches do more than just support vines; they can also keep these tenacious plants from tearing apart siding and other vulnerable structures. Whichever support you choose, be sure it’s large and sturdy enough to hold the mature vine. Then put it in place before planting to avoid damaging the vine.

You can build your own support or choose from a wide selection of prefabricated trellises and arches made of metal, PVC or wood. Expect to pay about $200 for a 7-ft.-high trellis made of premium-grade Western red cedar and $150 or more for a premium nylon-covered tubular steel arch that’s 7 ft. high.

Also choose weather-resistant materials when building your own structures. Wires used in cables or gridwork should be rustproof (plastic-coated or copper electrical wire work well). In trellis or arbor construction, use pressure-treated lumber or a decay-resistant wood such as redwood or cedar heartwood.

Some other support tips for vines:

Secure trellises or latticework so they extend several inches out from the surface of wood siding. This protects the siding by promoting air circulation. The extra space also makes pruning easier. Use angle irons or small blocks of wood placed between the support and siding to create the necessary space.

Consider a hinged trellis, which lets you quickly move flexible-stemmed vines out of the way for painting and other maintenance. Hinge it at the bottom and attach it at the top with metal hooks and eyes.

Tie vines to their support using strong, stretchy materials that won’t cut into growing branches. Strips of old nylon hosiery are an excellent choice. Be sure to loop ties in a figure-eight pattern, with the crossed portion sitting between the stem and the support; this helps keep vine stems from chafing or snapping in windy conditions.

Don’t use trees to support vigorous vines such as bittersweet. Vines growing into the top of a tree and shading its leaves will weaken or even kill the tree. GOLD FLAME HONEYSUCKLE (Lonicera species) is a vigorous deciduous or semievergreen vine reaching 12 to 15 ft. high. Fragrant flowers bloom from spring to frost. Hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar, and many birds feed on the seeds. The plant is effective trained on wire cables along eaves or framing a doorway. Twining stems quickly conceal their support. Hardy to -30°F.

Photo by Jerry Pavia


Perennial vines are sold in 1-gal. or larger containers during the summer. In winter, you’ll also find deciduous plants like grapes and roses available bare-root at nurseries and garden centers. Although planting and upkeep depend largely on the particular vine you choose, there are some general guidelines that apply to all types of vines.

Planting. Position most vines at least 12 in. away from the support to allow enough growing room for developing stems. Vines planted in early summer also need thorough watering. Follow up with repeated soakings, especially during hot, dry spells.

Remember, too, that if you plant against the house, the roof overhang could prevent rainwater from reaching vine roots. And if your roof is gutterless, don’t plant directly under the drip line; water pouring off the roof during storms will injure plants.

Training. Once planted, most nonclinging vines need some guidance to help them start growing up the support. Often, using a few loose ties or simply wrapping the branch of a twining vine around the support is sufficient. Certain plants, such as Carolina jessamine and common jasmine, require training and tying for a season or two.

Pruning. Vines growing in confined spaces usually need pruning to keep them in bounds. Annual pruning also helps maximize flowering in many vines.

When to prune depends on when the vine blooms. Vines such as early-flowering clematis and many climbing roses, which bloom in spring on growth made the previous season, should be pruned immediately after flowering. Prune them too late, and you’ll remove flower buds.

Many other vines flower on the current season’s growth and generally bloom in midsummer and autumn. Prune these types of vines, including silver lace vine, trumpet vine and climbing hydrangea, in early spring. Certain climbers, notably wisteria and grape, blossom or fruit on old growth. Prune these types during the dormant season shortly before growth resumes in spring.

The best time to prune nonflowering woody vines, including English ivy and Boston ivy, is late winter or early spring so that pruning cuts heal quickly and are covered by new growth.

Vines are truly a versatile, blue-chip investment among plants. They’re also living proof of just how beautiful practicality can be.

Where To Find It:

Mail-order sources for vine supports:

Earthmade Products

Box 609

Jasper, IN 47547-0609

Garden Trellises

Box 105

Lafayette, NY 13084

Kinsman Co.

Box 357 River Rd.

Point Pleasant, PA 18950-0357


644 Enterprise Ave.

Galesburg, IL 61401

Vines are versatile and unique landscape plants. They can soften and link architectural structures such as pergolas, arbors, buildings, fences and arches to the gardens around them. They can provide shade, privacy, flowers, ground covers, edible or attractive fruit, fragrance and food for wildlife. No other group of plants can be used to create the same effects. It would be hard to imagine a well-planted landscape that doesn’t use vines somewhere.

Up, up and away

It’s important to know that vines climb in two distinct ways: by twining and by clinging.

Twining vines climb by wrapping their stems, leaves or tendrils around a support. They must have string, wire, latticework, trellises, thin poles or other support structures to twist around or weave themselves into.

Clinging vines can attach themselves to flat surfaces using aerial roots that grow from their stems or special structures called holdfasts. They are useful for covering walls without having to build supports.

Twining vines typically are easier to control.

Since vines don’t have to devote effort and energy to producing strong stems to hold them upright, they use their energy to grow outward. Vines are among the fastest growing landscape plants. In fact, they have no self control at all. Keep this in mind when considering using them in your yard.

Giving direction

When it comes to training vines, gardeners often do not realize how important it is to direct growth from the time the vine is planted and throughout its life in the garden. How the vine is trained depends on how it climbs, clinging or twining, and what the gardener is trying to accomplish.

An important characteristic in vine growth is that they go straight up to get as tall as possible as fast as possible. That’s because, in nature, the faster and higher a vine grows, the sooner it reaches more light. So, this characteristic is linked to how well a vine can compete and survive. Sometimes a gardener will encourage this characteristic. When training a vine on an arbor, for instance, it is desirable for the vine to rapidly reach the top and grow over the structure to provide shade below.

Lattice work

In many other situations, this characteristic must be modified. When training a vine on a fence, trellis arch or lattice panel, it is often desirable for the vine to be lush and full from the ground up. Many gardeners training vines on trellises are dismayed to find that the leaves are all at the top, with nothing but ugly bare stems on the lower part of the plant. Once that has occurred, there is little you can practically do to correct it. You must prevent it by training the vine from an early stage.

Take the example of a vine planted at the base of a lattice panel. Once in the ground, the vine will rapidly begin to grow straight up the lattice until it reaches the top. The typical gardener will simply start to prune back the excessive growth at the top. This creates a full, bushy, top-heavy vine and leaves the lower portion of the lattice with little or no attractive foliage.

To prevent this, start training the vine as soon as it is planted. Weave stems horizontally along the bottom of the lattice panel. As the vine begins to grow upward, unwrap the vine and force it to grow sideways by weaving it horizontally through the latticework. As you continue to do this over time, you will create a vine that is full and attractive on the lower part of the panel as well as on the upper portion.

Once the vine reaches the top of the lattice, don’t just cut it back. Take the long stems waving in the air, and weave them back down the panel. That will help fill in the top without creating the thick, bushy top that pruning would create. It works the same on chain link fences or trellises.

Clinging vines

For clinging vines, the approach is different. When the vine is planted, it will not immediately cling to a support. But as new growth occurs, the vine will grab the surface and start to rapidly grow upward. You cannot pull it from the surface and try to redirect its grow as with twining vines, so here’s what you need to do instead.

Once the vine has attached to the surface, let it grow for six to 12 inches and then pinch the tip. That will encourage the vine to branch out at that point. Once the new shoots have grown a few inches, pinch them as well, and they will branch out. This will help create a fuller look at the bottom of the surface to be covered.

By pinching the growing tips regularly, you delay the vine getting to the top, but you will get much better coverage in the long run.

If you do a good job of training your vine for the first few years, you will find that it pays off in the appearance. This is especially important when dealing with perennial vines that will grow in the garden for many years, but the training principles outlined here can also be used on annual vines, such as blue pea vine, cypress vine, morning glory and hyacinth bean.

If you plan on growing any climbing, creeping plants – whether it’s the heavy-duty creeping roses, wisterias or grape vines, medium-sized Virginia creeper or the just the delicate morning glories – all will need a structure to hang on to, something to appropriately support their growth.

That “something” is the garden trellis.

What Types Of Garden Trellises Are Out There?

There are many shapes and sizes of garden trellises. They can differ drastically in their design, material, and the ease of construction. Tall, gate and tunnel-like trellises are called arbors and pergolas.

In tune with their diversity, in this article I’ve covered a large variety of garden trellises – from the primitive, ancient designs such as the teepee pole trellis, to elaborate metal trellises.

Since these days garden trellises are often factory-made and store-bought, I haven’t discriminated against them – I included them along with the DIY projects. Some of us lack the time or the skills to make our own trellis – and it shouldn’t stop us from finding out all the options. And for the sworn makers out there, commercial designs are always a perfect opportunity for DIY hacks!

How To Navigate This Article

To make navigating through the world of trellises easier for you, I’ve divided our best trellis ideas into three categories: “Simple,” “Medium” and “Advanced”, which I’ll explain along the way.

  • Simple
  • Medium
  • Advanced

Now, let’s get down to trellis business!

Here are 25 examples which will give you an idea about the diversity of trellises.

Category: Simple

These trellises are easy to make from readily available materials or are affordable to buy. Among them, there are many simple DIY designs that were used in gardens for centuries.

However, the “Simple” category can’t cover it all – there are practically no simple arbor trellises or the ones that would be strong to support tall creeping plants such as wisteria.

Let’s explore the basic trellis designs, ancestors of all other modern trellises!

Pole and Wire Trellis

If you are not looking to achieve aesthetic perfection, the simplest forms of trellis will do the job. Yes, they will be unsightly until the vines grow over them, but there’s your additional motivation to nurture healthy, lush plant growth.

Trellis made of poles and vertically stretched rope or wire are traditionally used to support grape vines. For something that takes little effort to build, they are very lasting – the old vines on my family property still grow over the pole & metal wire trellis my grandfather made!

“TeePee” Pole Bean Trellis

The same as the example above, these trellises are not here for looks, but for function – although their shape itself has a certain charm. They are a classic for growing beans and peas, but naturally, can be used to grow any other gentle creeper.

As you can judge by the photo, they are very easy to make – three sturdy poles are dug into the ground in a triangular pattern. Then the tops are leaned towards one another and tied together with a wire or a rope. The wire then descends towards the base of the trellis by being wrapped around the construction – providing horizontal lines for plants to latch onto.

“Tent” Veggie Support Trellis

If you have more climbing crop plants, consider this one. An “upgrade” of the previous design, these “serial” triangular trellis use similar logic, but in a more organized, space-saving way.

A lot like a tent base, it has wires coming down from the upper wooden pole axis along the entire length of it, creating a larger surface for vertical plant growth.

The Two-Side Garden Trellis

This one is also a garden classic. Made to fit the raised bed, the two-part tent-shaped wooden trellis will provide to support for whatever creeper you are growing beneath it.

The design is simple – if you want to make it yourself, it will likely be a one-day project. These trellises are often used in vegetable gardens.

Mesh Trellis

Because of their banality, wire mesh trellis is probably the most unsightly on the list – when bare. However, they can turn into a beautiful spectacle if you are growing dense creepers to grow over the entire construction.

Mesh can be used to imitate pergolas for very little money – and they can look awesome when they are overgrown with greens!

Repurposed Curtain Rod Wall Trellis

This trellis was created by crossing a few old, antique-looking curtain rods and fixing them to an outer wall. Really simple right?

The espalier vine that it will support looks happy with it. And as you can see, even when bare, the entire composition looks charming.

Rustic “Spider Web” Wall Trellis

Located above a grow bed next to a charming rustic English cottage this plant bed is simple to construct. Unlike a regular square shape, this one is shaped like a piece of a spider web.

The trellis doesn’t span over the entire wall. That is useful in two cases – when you want to limit the growth of your creepers, or when you are growing vines that are annual and not particularly dense (e.g., morning glory) and you don’t want to look at an entire wall of bare trellis for many months.

Wagon Wheel Trellis

Here’s one fully upcycled trellis – it is actually a cleverly repurposed antique wagon wheel, attached to the ground in the middle of the growing surface.

If you can’t find a wagon wheel, you can use a much more easily available bike wheel – or a combination of several bike wheels.

Repurposed Garden Tools Trellises

This project by Sadie Seasongoods is charming, affordable and easy. Besides the cute looks, there is more wisdom to using old garden tools – they often have high-quality poles which will make a sturdy base for your plants.

Since vertical boards are tied with a rope to connect the garden tools, this project doesn’t require use of tools – not even a hammer.

Circular stand-alone Trellis

Trellis don’t always have to lean against bigger surfaces or be straight. This circular garden trellis is a simple metal stand-alone structure – and refreshingly it creates an arrangement in the midst of a lawn.

This particular arrangement consists of clematis vine climbing the trellis, with red begonias in full bloom beneath them in the middle, providing both rich green and colorful appearance. The looming clematis plant borrows some unusual lushness to common begonias, and in return, begonias with their vivid reds in non-stop bloom throughout the season make up for the currently flowerless clematis.

Bamboo Grid Trellis

Bamboo Trellis will provide the same function as the classic wooden grid square trellis (check out the next section). However, it is easier to do-it-yourself, because it uses knots (instead of drilling, sawing, and hammering) to secure the bamboo poles in place and create a shape of the trellis.

Category: Medium

Our “Medium” category will showcase trellises that can be both bought for a reasonable amount of money, or made with a bit more effort, depending on your resources and preferences. There are many classic designs, as well as some unusual ones.

Classic wooden lattice trellis around windows

This is probably one of the most classic images of trellis – simple square grid surrounding the windows, promising a stunning view once the vines cover the entire trellis.

This type of classic trellis is commonly bought, but it can also be made with a bit of patience, right tools, and proper measurements.

French Tuteur / Obelisk Trellis

A crossover between the teepee pole trellis and the two-sided trellis – only slightly more sophisticated. Although it has more elements, the French tuteur “obelisk” is still compact enough to become a part of smaller garden space, giving a lot of vertical growth space for a relatively little piece of ground.

It is not very difficult to do the DIY version of this trellis either.

Trellis Fence, 2-in-1

Making an entire fence out of trellis (lattice) gives you an excellent opportunity to create completely unique fencing for your yard. The sturdy construction can is excellent for supporting roses, blackberries, English ivy or other medium vines.

Just one catch – don’t let your vines grow over the lattice-type gate – if you happen to be absent for long enough, you won’t be able to get into your property!

Artistic Welded Metal Trellis

This beautiful artistically welded metal trellis, fixed to a tall wooden fence is a beautiful addition to a garden – especially the one with a rustic feel. Even if nothing ever grows over them – they are worthy on their own.

You can have similar pieces custom-made by an artistic welder (or do it yourself if you are one). The other option is to look at the second-hand ones in ads, garage sales or junkyards. Other welded objects can be repurposed to become trellises. This particular one in the picture quite looks like a piece of a small, old gate.

Non-Square Trellis

Since square and rhomboid trellises are a gold standard, as anything so typical, the shape can get a bit boring for some people.

Fortunately, you are not limited to typical designs only. Here is an example of combining different geometric shapes to create an extraordinary trellis, which will support your plants equally well.

Another popular option is to make angled trellises, such as this “chevron trellis.”

Arched White Trellis/Arbor with Roses

Arched “gate” trellis is a classic for supporting creeping rose variety. The white color of this trellis perfectly corresponds to the gentle nature of rose flowers.

Contrary to its looks, this type of trellis doesn’t have to be located on the entrance to the garden. It can be used to visually.

Because of the height, many straight lines and the arches, the complexity of making a trellis like this one would land it in our Advanced category. The price in the range of $100-$150 is not out of range for most garden owners.

Birch Tree Wedding Trellis

Besides support for plants, trellises are commonly used as centerpieces in weddings – a structure below which a lucky couple will take its precious vows.

Although wedding trellises can get complex, here is one simplistic, natural, rustic idea – a minimalist construction made out of raw birch trees and branches, “rooted” in flowerpots.

The natural white color of the birch tree makes the trellis look special and in tune with the wedding tradition of using white color for decoration.

Just be warned: this design may not be perfectly suitable for windy locations!

Simple Metal Trellis

Commercially made metal trellises are now commonly available at garden centers, larger stores such as Wallmart, or online. Over the years they have become quite affordable.

This design is really minimal, with no standard art-nouveau vine-like curves – although there are many of those available as well if you prefer those.

Category: Advanced

The size is a big part of what makes these trellises “Advanced.” Within this category, you will find arbors and pergolas, trellis gates and tunnels which represent a major investment, but also a striking, long-lasting decoration which will shape your entire garden.

Because of their complexity, these trellises are often bought or professionally custom-made.

Large Trellis Fence

This garden has been entirely fenced out by a large trellis, giving its owner an opportunity to create a living wall that divides the garden from the rest of the yard.

The only thing to be careful about is the sun – if you have a tall, dense wall surrounding your garden, that might decrease the exposure for your plants, especially in the months when the sun is low.

Bamboo Garden Trellis / Simple Pergola

Here is the simplest trellis arch (or pergola), that because of its sheer size still has to be in the Advanced category.

This trellis is not truly arched but creates more of a roof-like structure over the garden walkway. It sort of reminds of the giant version of a simple two-sided garden trellis I’ve described earlier. Because of that, it easier to make by yourself and a group of friends that most other trellises/pergolas on the list (though it’s still not easy!).

White Arched Wooden Trellis

The image of this arched trellis going over the garden patio was taken in a public rose garden, which says enough about what it’s fitting for. It can stand heavy vines creeping over it, plus it has a very elegant aesthetic – just like a rose.

Because of its size and craft, building a trellis like this one is expensive; however, because of the same features be sure it is something that will last for more than a generation, making it a wonderful gift for future generations in your garden.

Asymmetrical Wooden Trellis

This custom trellis/arbor is interesting because of its atypical, asymmetrical shape. If you imagine it with vines over it and compare it with standard square shaped or arched arbors, you will easily realize how this design brings some originality into trellis and landscape design.

The shape makes it suitable for modern, minimalistic, Japanese, or other Asian-style gardens.

Japanese-Style Bamboo Trellis or Pergola

Unlike our first example in the Advanced category, this complex natural bamboo is truly arched and wraps an entire path through the garden, creating a wonderful tunnel. In the picture the construction is bare, but it’s not difficult to imagine how impressive would it look when covered in vines.

Needless to say, a trellis of this size is very complicated, or expensive, to construct. Still, if you are short on resources, be it money, time, or skill, it can provide an inspiration to create a smaller, gate-like version using the same natural materials.

The picture is taken by using the infrared technique, so don’t worry – in reality, this trellis won’t make your greens purple!

Antique Iron Trellis and Arbors

Since trellises and arbors have been around for a long, long time, with some luck, you might be able to find antique wrought iron trellis that doesn’t cost a fortune. How?

Well, sometimes the owners are not really aware of what are their old trellis is really worth, or they don’t have time to find the right buyer, or they have assessed that the construction is in really bad shape. That is why it might end up in a junkyard.

Finding your trellis at the junkyard can be a real adventure. If you don’t find a classic like the one in the picture, you may come across other interesting objects (see the wagon wheel idea above) that can serve as a trellis.


Big or small, metal or wooden, home-made or store-bought, one thing is sure: besides providing support for your beautiful creeping plants, trellises will shape your entire garden. They can add the finishing touch that will make your green space stand out from all others.

Was my trellis list useful to you? Has it broadened your perspective when it comes to understanding the garden trellis universe? What kind would you like to have in your garden? Feel free to drop a comment – we would love to hear your thoughts on it!

Dispelling Common Fertilizer Misconceptions

Photo: Beth Hyatt/Total Landscape Care

For customers who prefer to maximize their landscape space, suggesting plants that grow up rather than out can be a good idea.

Showcasing a few vine plants will not only let your clients get more plants in a space, it will also create a unique look to have shoots growing skyward. This also gives them the option of looking into trellises or other vertical structures that will give their vines the chance to climb.

Climbing plants all ascend in particular ways. Some will wrap, some adhere and some curl, and knowing which plants do what will help you find the look your customer craves.


There are two types of tendril vines: stem and leaf. Examples of stem tendrils are passionflowers and grapes, while leaf tendrils can be found in the form of sweet peas and Chilean glory flowers. Stem tendrils are shoots that grow out of the stem, and leaf tendrils look similar but are actually modified leaves that emerge from a leaf node.

Tendrils are wiry, skinny structures along the plant’s stem that can reach around in the air until they come in contact with something they can grab. When contact is made, the tendrils will curl and form a coil that then allows the plant to either adjust the degree of tension or pull on the support.

Plants with tendrils need handholds in the form of horizontal supports, such as netting branches with many small side shoots and horizontal strings attached to posts or bamboo poles. Make sure that the strings are not positioned more than four inches apart, or the newer tendrils may not be able to reach the next level of string. The tendrils will also need to wrap around something thin, such as string or wire, that’s no more than about ¼ inch in diameter.


Morning glories, pole beans and honeysuckle, are just a few examples of twiners, and there are two important differences among twiners: they either have twinning stems or twinning leaves.

Those with twinning leaves use their leaves like tendrils to twist around wires, string and more. For these, be sure to provide enough support for the leaf stem to curl around.

For those with twinning stems, they tend to twist around anything they touch. Depending on the species, their stems will wind clockwise or counterclockwise. Wisteria is another famous twiner, and as you know they can become extremely heavy. Be sure to provide a strong structure and support if you know the vine is a perennial that will grow large.


Rambling roses and bougainvillea are two plants that fall into the category of scrambler. These have flexible, long stems that may look like vines, but they aren’t able to climb on their own. Scramblers can sometimes have thorns that help them grip stems close to them, but if you want them to climb they must be tacked into place and most likely tied up with sturdy string or wire.

Adhesive pads

For plants with stem tendrils with touch-sensitive adhesive pads that allow them to stick to most surfaces, take a look at Boston ivy and Virginia creeper. These climbers attach themselves to the faces of buildings or the trunks of trees, but if not provided with vertical support they will begin to crawl sideways and attach to whatever is in their path.

Clinging stem roots

This last group uses their clinging stems to attach themselves. Their stems produce a cluster of stout, short roots that can cling to almost any surface. Some you may be familiar with are the climbing hydrangea and most ivies, like English ivy. These climbers can damage paint work and mortar if you try to remove them from a structure, so exercise caution.

Training them to climb

Once you’ve decided what vine you plan to use in your customer’s landscape, it’s time to teach it to climb. The first step to training your vines to climb is to have support wires in place on the structure before any plants are introduced. After this, the climber should be planted 12-18 inches from the base of the wall to ensure there’s room for root development and for catching rain.

Untwine the climber to let it spread its stems, but leave them still attached to their cane supports. Using three bamboo canes you can train it to climb at an angle to reach the wire supports. Put the bamboo canes under the wires to keep them held in place and adjust the positioning the create a fan shape.

The next step is to tie the stems and canes to the wire supports. Using garden twine is preferable to wire because wire can potentially damage the stems and leaves. After the main stems have been trained into the basic fan shape, you can then prune off any weak growth that won’t contribute to the framework. The rest, as they say, will be history.

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