- 30 of the best climbing plants
- Climbers for walls
- Climbers for borders
- Vigorous scramblers
- Hardy Evergreen Climbers
- Fast Growing Climbers for Mild Winter Areas
- A Few More Evergreen Climbers for Mild Climates
- 1. Wisteria (Wisteria chinensis)
- 2. Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)
- 3. Bambino dwarf bougainvillea (Bougainvillea species)
- 4. Orange trumpet creeper (Pyrostegia venusta)
- 5. Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)
- 6. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
- 7. Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)
- 8. Banksia rose (Rosa banksiae)
- Caring for climbing plants
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- Related posts:
Clematis are magnificent flowering vines. They’re the original front-yard vine, often planted at the base of a lamp-post by the front walk to mark the home of a dedicated gardener with profuse bloom.
Gardeners have admired and grown clematis since at least the 16th century, and more than 2,500 hybrids have been developed. They thrive in sunny gardens, although pale-flowered varieties, such as ‘Will Goodwin,’ are usually happiest in bright shade. Where summers are very hot, morning sun or bright, indirect light is the best choice. Plant them in loamy, well-drained soil enriched with compost. Some gardeners shade their plants at the roots with a broken terra-cotta pot; compost around the base accomplishes the same purpose: it helps prevent moisture loss from the soil and moderates the soil temperature.
Clematis with great big flowers, up to nine inches across, are perhaps the most popular varieties. The splashy ‘Henryi’ will attract lots of attention with its enormous snow-white blooms; the handsome ‘Jackmani’ is equally dramatic, with velvety purple flowers. ‘Pink Fantasy’ and ‘Angela’ are both known for their compact habit, growing only 6-7 feet tall; their charming flowers are four inches across.
Although they are often trained along a fence rail or up a post by themselves, clematis will grow gracefully up through shrubs and roses. Some gardeners plant a clematis every time they plant a rose — in the same hole. Around established roses, set clematis plants a foot or two from the crowns and train them onto the roses. Clematis will also clamber up through hydrangea, abelia, weigela, and other shrubs.
When you plant, dig a big hole, at least one foot wide and deep, to create the well-drained soil these flowers thrive in. Set the plant in the hole with its crown three to five inches below soil level, place a supporting stake close to the crown, and then fill in and water well. While the plant becomes established, you may need to water every other day. Keep the area around the roots covered with a two- to four-inch layer of mulch (compost or crushed leaves work fine).
Clematis vines bloom with such exuberance that they practically hide the plants’ foliage. The bloom may last up to four weeks. In a garden with a good variety of clematis, the blooming season may extend from spring through fall. It’s a lively show: enjoy the flowers in the garden and cut some for the house, too. Snip the flowers when they’re almost open, and you can watch them unfold in a vase on your desk.
30 of the best climbing plants
Here’s a selection of the best climbing plants. We’ve divided the list into climbers for walls, borders and vigorous examples. Climbing plants, including favourites such as honeysuckle and jasmine, all share the successful strategy of relying on the support of other plants or objects to reach the sunlight. This obviates the need to invest much in producing supportive tissue, such as the wood in trees, and means climbers aren’t subject to the usual restraints on growth. Of course, luxuriant growth brings its own problems – vigour must be matched carefully to the appropriate space, and abundance restrained where necessary.
Climbers for walls
Trachelospermum jasminoides. A star-shaped Jasmine with white scented flowers and evergreen leaves. A twining woody climbing plant. Photo: Gardeners’ World/Jason Ingram 1
Self-clinging, evergreen and shade tolerant with frothy white flowers in late summer. This climbing hydrangea has a slow rate of growth, but this makes it less work to restrain once established. 6m. USDA 8a-10b.
Native to China, this Virginia creeper has tastefully variegated leaves that turn vibrant shades of red in the autumn. It self-clings and will tolerate the shade of a north-facing wall. 4.7m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 6a-9b.
Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris
Deciduous, but in season it completely clothes its space with large, green leaves and white, lace-cap inflorescences. Another climbing hydrangea that will cover a shady wall fast. 12m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 4a-7b.
Can be persuaded to adopt the semblance of a climber by training and cutting back immediately after flowering. If allowed some freedom, this winter jasmin will flower abundantly in winter and early spring. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 6a-9b.
The scent of ‘false jasmine’ is not that similar to true jasmine, but equally powerful. The star jasmine is quite hardy, although the similar Trachelospermum asiaticum is said to be hardier. Best on a sunny wall. 12m. AGM. RHS H4, USDA 8a-11.
Hedera algeriensis ‘Gloire de Marengo’
Good for lighting up dark walls without any fuss. A vigorous, self-clinging, adaptable variegated ivy, with smart, glossy leaves tinged with white. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 7a-10b.
Lonicera x tellmanniana
A honeysuckle lacking scent, but abundant, vivid-orange flowers offer excitement enough. Tolerates shade and may be pruned by removing flowered growth annually. 4.7m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 7b-10b.
The most vigorous of all annual climbers, and perennial in a frost-free climate. In one year, from seed, the ‘cup and saucer vine’ can cover an astonishing area with bell-shaped flowers from late summer to first frosts. 1.8m. AGM. RHS H2, USDA 9a-10b.
Similar to Hydrangea anomala, although you will need more patience. This climbing hyrdrangea is distinguished by the shape and size of the sterile florets that encircle the inflorescence. 6m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 7a-10b.
An extraordinary relative of the kiwi. Its leaves appear to have been dipped in white paint then spray-painted bubble-gum pink. Said to require full sun, but this doesn’t appear to be quite true. 9m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 4a-8b.
Climbers for borders
Rhodochiton atrosanguineus produces beautiful flowers along the length of its twining stem. Photo: Maayke De Ridder 11
Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’
Perennial in a Mediterranean climate, it can achieve sufficient bulk here to make its presence felt from a late April sowing, without causing too much of a nuisance. Will flower until frost cuts it down. 3m. AGM. RHS H1c.
A perennial nasturtium that needs acid soil and prefers a cool summer. The flaming nasturtium is herbaceous, arising from tubers and will run when happy. Works well among evergreen shrubs, such as camellias. 3m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 7a-10b.
An intriguing member of the bindweed family, with flowers that are simultaneously an intense orange and yellow in the early bud stage, maturing to cream. Sow Spanish flag in late April and plant after all danger of frost. 3m.
Clematis ‘Prince Charles’
A prolific blue-flowered clematis, similar to Sissinghurst’s ‘Perle d’Azur’ but with slightly smaller flowers and improved resistance to powdery mildew. Cut back hard in spring and watch it go. 2.4m. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b.
Twining herbaceous climber, a relative of Alstroemeria, that arises from a tuber. The trailing lily may come through the winter protected by a thick mulch. Something this gorgeous deserves some effort. 6m. AGM. USDA 10a-11.
Delicate in growth with striking scarlet flowers, this true annual is rarely seen and deserves to be grown more frequently. Straightforward from seed sown in late April and then planted out after all risk of frost is over. 6m.
Solanum laxum ‘Album’
A twining climber with abundant clusters of flowers that look fragile and fresh right up to the first frosts. Trim lateral branches to around 15cm in winter. On the tender side, so site carefully. 6m. AGM.
This ‘purple bell flower’ produces beautiful flowers along the length of its twining stems, and looks effective growing along horizontal twigs or branches. Can be sown late April, or August and overwintered frost free. 2.5m AGM. RHS H2.
Achingly beautiful, but requires shade, shelter, good drainage (yet plentiful summer moisture), is slow to establish and an apparently ambrosial beacon for slugs. 7m. AGM. RHS H3, USDA 9b-11.
Clematis ‘Frances Rivis’
A good early flowering clematis with nodding flowers of great charm in spring. Works well in partial, deciduous shade as part of a woodland scheme. Prune lightly after flowering, if at all. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 4b-9a.
Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’. A scented deciduous honeysuckle for early summer. It produces pink and white flowers and is great for attracting wildlife into the garden. Photo: Gardeners’ World/Jason Ingram 21
Clematis ‘Alba Luxurians’
One of the most vigorous of the viticella cultivars. Cut back hard every spring, you’ll be amazed at the coverage you get over the course of one season. Flowers profusely July to September. 3.6m. USDA 3a-9b.
Rosa ‘Wedding Day’
The scrambling rose flowers have the agreeable quality of changing colour as they mature, from pale primrose to almost white. The different stages appear side by side in each many-headed inflorescence. 9m. USDA 7a-9b.
Clematis ‘Bill MacKenzie’
A tough, vigorous, clematis, offering both striking flowers and seedheads over a long period. It’s tolerant of drought and extreme cold, but does best in full sun. 6m. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 5b-9b.
Honeysuckle, with vivid colouring and a long flowering season. A vigorous and at times untidy grower; it can be kept within bounds by carefully removing flowered shoots in winter. 6m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.
Rosa ‘Chevy Chase’
A rambling rose with a touch of opulence. The flowers are small double and crimson, with tightly clustered petals. Great in combination with the dark, glossy leaves of a mature holly, which makes a suitable host. 7m. USDA 5a-9b.
Rosa ‘The Garland’
Trained to cover an archway, this rose has always been the most arresting sight in the garden where I’ve been working for the past four years. Now it’s happily rambling on to a neighbouring yew tree. 7m.
Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’
Often grown in spur-pruned tiers on a wall, although if you allow it the freedom to romp into trees, it will seek out the sunshine to flower well, and assume something of its natural character. 12m. USDA 5a-10b.
A vine in the more precise sense of the word: a close relative of the grape. Grown for its large leaves, which turn spectacular colours in autumn. A wonderful way to enliven evergreen trees. 12m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 5a-9b.
Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’
Vigorous rambling rose, with delicate flowers. Perfect for hoisting up a large tree. Will take time to establish itself, but once it does you will be rewarded with grace, scent and a profusion of flowers. 9m. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 4a-9b.
Clematis montana var. grandiflora
Well known for its extraordinary vigour, which makes it difficult to contain. Its stemmy growth can look rather untidy, especially in the winter. All will be forgiven when it flowers. 12m. AGM. RHS H4, USDA 6a-9b.
Where to see and buy
• Burncoose Nurseries
• Great Dixter
• Penwood Nurseries
• RHS Garden Wisley
I had a song repeating in my head the other day, “Don’t fence me in.” Do you know it? It’s a popular American song written in 1934 by Cole Porter, and sung by so many other artists, including the one I couldn’t get out of my head…Talking Heads.
The lyrics below, had me thinking about how much I value space and freedom outdoors…
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies
Don’t fence me in
But a lot of times we need and appreciate a little fencing in… a little privacy from neighbors and a busy world! Outdoors, we can put up fencing, walls, arbors, pergolas; just about any architectural structure to create privacy and dimension, or, just the wall and ceiling planes to our gardens and outdoor rooms. So when you need the perfect marriage of evergreen climbers for architectural structures, (or vice-versa) here are some choices:
Hardy Evergreen Climbers
- 1. Akebia quinata (Fiveleaf Akebia) Zones: 5 – 9. Evergreen to semi-evergreen. Vigorously spreading and climbing vine with attractive, bluish-green foliage. Spring blooming Flowers are fragrant and grow on dangling stalks; color is deep purple. Fast cover for arbors. Part to full sun. Stems 20 -25 feet long.
- 2. Clematis armandii (Evergreen Clematis) Zones: 7 – 9. Large, leathery green leaves and with lots of fragrant, star-like white blooms in brilliant clusters. Fast coverage for patios, trellises, arbors and great privacy screen. Spring bloomer. To 25 feet. Part sun.
- 3. Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina jasmine) Zones: 7 -9. This vine tends to climb more quickly when grown in shady conditions, reaching lengths of 20 feet. The fragrant yellow flowers bloom in late winter or early spring.
- 4. Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’ (Tangerine Beauty Crossvine) Zones: 6 – 9. Evergreen to semi-evergreen. Easy to grow vine that produces abundant tangerine blooms over a long season. Attaches itself to most surfaces by tendrils. Bloom time: Late spring to summer. Full sun.
Clematis armandii. Zone: 7 – 9
Fast Growing Climbers for Mild Winter Areas
- 5. Ipomea acuminata ‘Blue Dawn’ (Blue Dawn Morning Glory) Zones: 9 – 11. Excellent fast-growing bank or slope cover with dark green leaves and large violet blue flowers. Aging flowers turn pinkish for a two tone effect. Free-flowering perennial vine. Full Sun. Fast growing to 25 feet.
- 6. Jasminum polyanthemum (Pink jasmine) Zones: 8 – 10. Fast-growing evergreen vine prized for its spectacular display of intensely fragrant pinkish-white flowers. Use as a climber over trellis or arbor, groundcover or in containers. Full sun. To 20 feet. Spring blooming.
- 7. Tecomaria capensis (Cape Honeysuckle) Zones: 9-11. This self-clinging vine quickly grows 15 to 20 feet long. Flowers are orange red long tubular flowers which bloom in clusters. Bloom time: Fall to winter. Once the plant becomes established, it needs minimal watering or other maintenance. Full sun.
- 8. Solanum jasminoides (Potato vine) Zones: 9 – 11. Evergreen to semi-evergreen. This is an attractive, shrubby climber gives an almost perpetual display of showy blue-white blossoms. Good ornamental cover for fences or walls, or grow across lattice for shade. Spring blooming. Part to full sun. Fast growing: 20-25 feet.
Jasmine Vine: A Fast Growing Climbers for Mild Areas.
A Few More Evergreen Climbers for Mild Climates
- 9. Ficus pumila – (Creeping Fig) Zones: 9 – 11. An evergreen vine with small, leathery, dark green leaves. Vigorous-growing, clinging, dense branches will adhere to any surface. Partial to full sun. Pretty fast.
- 10. Hardenbergia violaceae ‘Happy Wanderer’ (Purple Vine Lilac) Hardy to 20-25° F. This evergreen vine that climbs by twining stems to 12-16 feet. Flowers are pinkish-purple with a chartreuse spot in center which cascades like small Wisteria blossoms in the winter to early spring.
- 11. Pandorea jasminoides – (Pink Bower vine) Zones: 9 – 11. Evergreen twining branches hold glossy bright green compound foliage creating a perfect background for the flowers. Bright pink trumpet-shaped blooms have rose-pink throats for a lovely effect. Full sun. Summer bloomer. Growth 15-25 feet long.
- 12. Passiflora ‘Coral Seas’ – There are many passion vines to choose from. I selected this one, because it is one of my favorites. ‘Coral Seas’ is a great Passionvine for coastal gardens, but will not stand inland heat. It is a vigorous grower with a long blooming period. Flowers have coral-pink petals with purple filaments in the spring through fall. The lush medium green leaves have broad lobes. Needs full sun to bloom well.
- 13. Trachylospermum jasminoides (Star jasmine) Zones: 8 – 11. Beautiful evergreen vine with very fragrant, star shaped white flowers. Easy to train on posts, walls or trellises. Part to full sun.
Enjoy year-round green vines! Also, I’ve included links to take you right over to Amazon to make it easier to find the vines listed (and if you’re heading over to your local nursery be sure to jot down those botanical names). As your vines grow in, read this post we wrote on setting up hardware to train your vines.
ps: Planning to train your vines to cover a fence or a wall? You’ll need to create support – and training is key. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find everything you need at your local hardware store. You can purchase cable wire and related hardware by heading over to Amazon (we’re affiliates, so we do earn a tiny commission 😉 ). As mentioned, we’ve put together a list of what we use to make it easy to find what you need.
Stainless Steel Cable
Cable is 7 by 7 stainless steel and measures 1/16th by 125 feet. The safe work load limit for this item is 96 lbs. Need to support a much heavier load, the 1/8″ cable will support 340 lbs – but you’ll need a stronger wire cutter than the one we’ve suggested below.Stainless Steel Hook & Eye Turnbuckle these are really nice stainless turnbuckles, 4 inches closed and 5 1/2 inches fully openedCable Clip Clamp Easy to attach, remove & reuse with hand tools; SAE-sized nuts for open-end wrench or socketsKnipex 1/2″ Wire Rope Cutter Two crimping dies for end caps on Bowden cables and end ferrules for wire rope hoists
You’ll also need 2″ Eye Hooks (2 per row), a screwdriver and a small crescent wrench.
Twiners: Flexible new stems twist around just about any support structure of a suitable thickness. They’re good for growing up posts and poles, but make sure the support is strong enough for the species – a large twiner like wisteria can crush soft timber and strangle trees.
Tendrils: Small tentacle-like structures extend from near the leaf base. These can look like little coils or springs, or have tiny hooks on the ends. They’re perfect for covering latticework, wire mesh or cable-wire fences.
Scramblers: Backward-facing thorns or spikes on stems grab onto any support – climbing roses and bougainvillea are good examples. Often the simplest way to deal with them is to train them along cables on a wall, espalier-style, or over an arbour or pergola.
Sticky feet: Several climbers adhere to just about any surface using tiny suction cup-like appendages or dense clusters of aerial roots. These climbers should be used with care as they can damage painted, timber and rendered surfaces, and can get into mortar joints.
So, whether you need to beautify an archway, spruce up a fence or shed, screen out a view or add summer shade to a pergola, there’s a climber that’s right for you.
Here’s a selection of the best.
1. Wisteria (Wisteria chinensis)
Instantly recognisable with their gigantic sprays of fragrant spring blooms that appear before the new foliage, wisterias are vigorous, deciduous climbers.
Climbing type: Twining climber
Position: Full sun for best performance. Don’t over-fertilise or plant in rich soil, or their growth can get out of hand.
Highlights: Beautiful, huge pendulous racemes of flowers in spring with colours ranging from bright purple blues to mauves, pinks and pure whites, depending on the species or cultivar. Most offer lovely buttery-yellow foliage in autumn.
Uses: Great for training on large garden or house walls, just as long as there’s adequate cable support. Or use for climbing up and over large structures such as pergolas, especially where summer shade and winter sun is needed
2. Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)
A deciduous climber that can be both attractive and productive, depending on the variety selected. Part of the beauty of this vine is the gnarled form the trunks and shoots take as they age.
Climbing type: Tendril climber.
Position: Vines need full sun for best performance and will tolerate a range of soil types, provided they’re free draining. Strong support is required, as with time they can become woody and heavy. Highlights: Dense, beautifully shaped foliage, with bunches of summer grapes if you’ve chosen a fruiting form. Most colour-up well in autumn.
Uses: Training over pergolas to provide summer shade and winter sun, swagging under sunny eaves on a verandah, or training along wire fences. It can also be espaliered against a wall.
3. Bambino dwarf bougainvillea (Bougainvillea species)
If you love the flamboyant flower display of bougainvilleas, but find their large size and robust growth a bit of a turn-off, you will adore the mini-bougs in the Bambino range.
Climbing type: Although technically a scrambler, the compact form of the Bambinos means many of them behave more like shrubs than climbers.
Position: Full sun for best flowering display. Free-draining soil is a must, and they prefer dry winters with reliable moisture throughout summer.
Highlights: Amazing flowering – though the ‘flowers’ are technically bracts (modified leaves) – in neon colours, with lush foliage when not in flower.
Uses: Fantastic in large tubs and smaller gardens. A number of Bambinos are large enough to train over garden arches and arbours to great effect.
4. Orange trumpet creeper (Pyrostegia venusta)
The stunning beauty of this vine flowering in mid-winter never fails to send people rushing to their local garden centres asking for an ID. Beyond the bounty of blooms, pyrostegia is evergreen, very vigorous and has dense foliage. It’s also known as flame vine.
Climbing type: Tendril climber. Position: Full sun for best performance, but protect from frost. It tolerates most soils, but avoid heavy clay or water-logged spots. Position where the cascading blooms can be seen to their best advantage, such as hanging from a balcony rail or tumbling over the top of a wall.
Highlights: Masses of stunning, vibrant orange flowers in mid-to-late winter. As the habit of the vine is pendulous, it creates the impression of a flaming orange waterfall. Its foliage is glossy green and the stems are streaked purple. Overall, it has a distinctly tropical look.
Uses: Great for a winter flower display. Ideal for hiding walls, wire-mesh fences and even sheds, due to the dense cascading foliage.
5. Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)
This evergreen climber is a beautiful option for softening unpainted walls. Just a couple of cautionary notes to keep in mind – it’s unsuitable for painted surfaces and needs to be pruned quite regularly to keep it under control.
Climbing type: Sticky feet (self-clinging roots).
Position: Prefers full sun and is tolerant of most soil types, provided they’re free draining. Make sure the surface it will attach to is firm, as a mature plant can become quite heavy.
Highlights: Grown primarily for its tight-clinging foliage, creeping fig must be pruned regularly – this stops the adult foliage developing, so the leaves stay small and neat.
Uses: Ideal for covering unpainted masonry walls and fences, or large rock surfaces.
6. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
This evergreen climber is truly the landscaper’s friend. It will perform fabulously in a range of conditions, and looks brilliant with very little care. You’ll often see it described as vigorous but, in fact, it can be a little slow to establish, then has distinct growth spurts after flowering.
Climbing type: Twining climber, which may develop a few sticky feet (or aerial roots) as it matures.
Position: Performs well in partial shade through to full sun. It tolerates most soil types, but performs best in quality free-draining soil.
Highlights: In spring, the plant is smothered with small white flowers with a fabulous fragrance, and the foliage is great for adding permanent structure. Uses: Perfect for climbing over just about anything – arbours, pergola posts, lattice, wire fences – or along cables. It also works very well as a dense groundcover for covering large areas.
7. Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)
Not only do they produce mouth-wateringly delicious fruit, passionfruit vines can also serve as a beautiful camouflage over unsightly walls and fences thanks to their evergreen foliage and distinctive purple flowers.
Climbing type: Tendril climber.
Position: Plant your passionfruit vine in full sun with protection from strong winds. Passionfruit vines are versatile but are best suited to subtropical and temperate climates. Passionfruit vines grow extensive root systems so ensure the spot you choose to plant has plenty of space. The best soil for passionfruit vines is rich in organic matter and well-drained with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
Uses: Passionfruit vines can be trained to grow along your fence, on a trellis or over an arbour, just install some wire or mesh to support its tendrils. Your first edible fruit will appear around six to eight months after planting but have patience – the best crop will come in around 18 months.
8. Banksia rose (Rosa banksiae)
The Banksia rose is a vigorous and hardy climber that can quickly take over an area but fortunately it’s very easy to train. It produces masses of beautiful, buttery yellow flowers.
Climbing type: Scrambler.
Position: Choose a spot in full sun or partial shade with moist, well-draining soil. They require a surface you can tie them onto – think lattice, pergolas or posts.
Highlight: The Banksia rose is fast growing, making it ideal option if you’re in need of a quick covering.
Caring for climbing plants
“Most climbers will need an annual trim-back to keep them under control,” Roger says. “After flowering is the best time. But any time plants start to get out of control, and send out long tendrils where you don’t want them, be prepared to get out the shears and give them a cut back.”
Climbing plants aren’t only designated to outdoor areas – certain species of climbing plants can also be grown indoors in pots.
“You can grow climbers in containers, as long as they’re generous in size and include a small frame for the plant to lean on,” Roger explains. “Moderate growers like Mandevilla are ideal for pots. While climbing plants aren’t usually thought of as indoor plants, some such as ivy and creeping fig, can be grown in pots in sunny rooms. And devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) is one of the easiest of all indoor plants to grow – you can train its stems to spread over a window sill or even tape them to a wall.”
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How to grow fruit and vegetables in small spaces
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