Covering Brick Walls With Vines: What Type Of Vine For A Brick Wall
Glorious Boston ivy blazing in the winter or flamboyant honeysuckle clambering over a wall are sights to see. If you have a brick wall and are in search of a climbing vine to decorate and enhance your home, you not only need to decide the type of vine for a brick wall but consider the health of your house and what method the vine uses to climb. The effect you are trying to achieve is another factor when choosing vines for brick walls. The best vines for brick walls will also depend upon how much work you want to put into the plant.
What Type of Vine for a Brick Wall?
The classic, elegant effect of ivy on the walls of a stately home is one that many of us wish to mimic. Covering brick walls with vines is also an excellent way to cover up any damage or repaired masonry that doesn’t match. Vigorously growing vines are a natural cover up and add Old World appeal to even a modest rancher.
Make a list of the attributes you are looking for in a wall covering before you purchase and install. Your vines will be with you for a long time and should convey the image you wish to project as well as have the ease of care for which most of us look.
Choosing vines for brick walls should come with a cautionary note. That ivy covered masonry of old was actually damaging. If you needed to remove it to inspect or repair the brick, pulling the ivy could actually damage the mortar. Ivy self-climbs and inserts its roots into any crack or crevasse.
Modern mortar is a bit stronger, but if your brick has any damage a self-climbing vine may not be right for you. Some vines are self-climbing and will have no trouble finding footholds on the surface and in chinks between brick and will do no damage. Still other vines are twining and will need support. No matter which type you choose, the next question is what you are hoping to achieve. Do you want evergreen winter interest, spring glory or summer fruit?
Best Vines for Brick Walls
Using climbing vines on brick walls can say something about your home and you. If you are practical and want fruiting vines, a grape or kiwi may be the plant for you. If you want old-fashioned elegance, English ivy or a climbing rose should fit the bill. And if you are covering brick walls with vines to disguise some imperfections, fast growing Virginia creeper or jasmine may be the plant for you. The best vines for brick walls may be a bit subjective, but here are some suggestions:
- Boston Ivy – Self-climbing and turns fiery red in winter. Sticky adherent pads may be difficult to remove. Fast growing.
- Hummingbird Vine – Needs a bit of help at first but eventually will climb by itself. Brilliant, huge blooms that are very attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinating insects.
- Honeysuckle – Sweetly scented, vigorous vine, needs some support. Grows extremely fast. Draws pollinators and birds with its fruit. Deciduous.
- Clematis – Not self-climbing. Astounding masses of colorful flowers. Many different clematis types. Deciduous or evergreen.
- English Ivy – Self-climbing. Evergreen. Prefers a shady, moist location. Produces blue black fruits.
- Virginia Creeper – Self-climbing, Native plant that has early fall color and bluish black pea sized fruits. Deciduous.
- Wisteria – Wisteria is extremely fast growing, twining variety. Woody stems over time. Magnificent cascades of lavender or white blooms and delicate leaves.
- Silver Fleece – Also known as silver lace, this one needs support. Silver, white tiny flowers turn blush pink when mature. Fast growing.
- Balloon Vine – Sun lover that develops white flowers followed by heart-shaped, puffed green fruits. Needs support.
Using Climbing Vines on Brick Walls
Before you install any climbing plant, inspect your mortar and bricks first. Vines are fairly permanent and it would be a shame to have to remove them for repairs. If you have a vine that needs support, install that before planting. A trellis, lattice or wires are excellent ways to support non-self-climbing plants.
Consider how much upkeep you want to do. If you have lots of windows on the side that you plant the vine, you may have to prune consistently to keep them free.
Additionally, the speed of growth and potential invasiveness of the vine should be factors. Plants like wisteria can get out of hand without training and pruning. Others, like trumpet vine, may produce numerous babies every season and become a pest.
Using vines as part of the appearance of your home adds a unique signature to your landscape. There are many wonderful plants from which to choose, but choose wisely as this feature of the home is likely to be around a long time.
Types of Vines
Vines can be annuals or perennials, deciduous or evergreen, flowering or non-flowering, sun lovers or shade dwellers. This means you can choose a vine that best fits your garden style, whether it’s ivy (Hedera helix) on a brick wall for a traditional look, a clematis climbing an arbor in a cottage garden, or a passion flower (Passiflora) trained as an accent in a contemporary garden design.
Constantin Cojocaru | Dreamstime
Deciding what type of vine you want is the first step. Fast-growing annuals such as morning glory (Ipomoea) and black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) will quickly cover a fence, wall, or arbor and will often reseed.
Perennials such as honeysuckle (Lonicera) and trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) take longer to get going but will reward you with continued growth and flower displays for years. Bougainvillea will add a tropical touch to your garden, while star jasmine (Trachelospernum jasminoides) is noted for its strong fragrance. If you want foliage, flowers, and fruit, you might consider a hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta).
Another consideration will be the support system. Plants with thick branches or heavy fruits will need a sturdy structure to support them. And because vines attach to their supports in different ways, you’ll also need to know how to attach on the right support.
Twining vines naturally curl or spiral around anything that is close by and reasonably slender, including neighboring plants. Good choices for supports for these plants include thin pieces of wire, cord, or rope, or wooden or iron stakes or poles, and trellises.
Twining vines that eventually form a thick trunk, such as wisteria, will only need support at the base when they are first planted, but you will need to provide support for the upper growth.
Vines with tendrils have fairly straight stems with small curly offshoots that reach out to wrap around nearby supports, whether it’s a wire, another stem of the same plant, or a nearby plant. These tendrils are even smaller than the stems of twining vines, so the supports must be equally slim. Good choices include wire mesh, cord, or rope, or plastic netting. Lightweight vines with tendrils, such as clematis, will need permanent supports for the plant; something like a grapevine will only need supports for the trunks when they are young.
The stems of clinging vines, sometimes called holdfasts, have small tendrils with either suction disks, aerial roots, or claws that grab onto surfaces, especially those that aren’t completely smooth. Typical clinging vines include Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricespidata), winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei), and Virginia creeper (P. quinquefolia). Because they cling so tenaciously, you won’t need to provide supports. However, you will need to keep an eye on them, as in the long run they can damage building materials such as wood and stucco.
Some vines, such as bougainvillea, must be physically tied in place, although they may also wind their way through other plants. You can train them on a freestanding trellis or wire grid, using soft plastic ties or twine to hold the branches in place. To train freestanding vines on walls and other structures, insert eye screws into the support and tie the branches to the eye screw. Another approach is to stretch wire between eye screws and tie branches to the wires.
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Climbing vines adhere themselves using tiny aerial rootlets that attach into crevices in rough-textured masonry. Some types of climbing vines present small, disklike adhesive tips that attach to any type of surface, including masonry. English ivy (Hedera helix) is the most commonly known form of clinging vine. Though it was once extensively planted as a ground cover and screening vine, English ivy has fallen out of favor because it can smother out other native vegetation. The vine has tenacious adhesive tips that bond to any type of masonry construction.
Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) also clings to masonry structures with adhesive tips. The highly ornamental vine provides vivid spring and summery greenery, followed by spectacular fall foliage. In the United States, Boston ivy is not classified as an invasive species and widely planted in all climate zones. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is similar to and often mistaken for Boston ivy. Virgina creeper grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 3 through 10.
Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) is a fast-growing vine in zones 4b through 10a. The deciduous vine exhibits brightly colored, trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of vivid red, orange and yellow.
Native to Asia, Creeping fig (Ficus pumila) thrives in USDA hardiness zones 8a through 11b. Highly ornamental, the aggressively growing vine presents dark leathery green leaves that hold their color year-round. The fast-growing vine attaches to virtually any surface and grows well with little maintenance.
Blank Wall Solution: Easy Growing Vines
Here’s a great solution for a blank wall: espalier, the art of growing a plant along a flat surface. It may look costly and complicated, but it isn’t. This project is something you can do in a weekend. Perhaps you haven’t tried growing vines because they seem unpredictable. This method helps you control that. Choose the right one, and you’ll get a lot of coverage for the money.
Decide on a Style
First, select a pattern. The technique of espalier was originally used to produce a lot of fruit in a small space. Though you may not be growing fruit, you can still borrow from the method. Choose from one of the classic designs below, or create your own.
Select a vine that climbs by twining or by tendrils and has small to medium leaves. The scale of the vine should work with the pattern you select. Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), with its neat, dark green leaves and fragrant flowers, is perfect for the diamond pattern. Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) work for large-scale projects and open patterns such as the fan or candelabra.
Ivy is a tempting choice because of its beautiful foliage and fast growth (once established). However, it climbs by aerial roots that can attach to walls and turn into a maintenance nightmare if left unattended. If you do use ivy, choose one of the variegated selections, which tend to be slower growing.
Do It Like the Pros
Landscape architect David Samuelson of McDugald Steele in Houston shares these steps for training a vine on a frame made of cables. When choosing a pattern, allow for a mature, maintained vine width of at least 6 inches.
- Step 1: Decide on a pattern, and determine how many eye screws you will need. Measure the distance between proposed connection points to see how much coated cable or wire to buy. David used a vinyl-coated cable.
- Step 2: Center the pattern on the wall. Mark connection points with a grease pencil, and drill points with the appropriate bit. Insert 3/4- to 1-inch eye screws directly into brick, stone, or wood. Apply clear silicone caulk made for outdoor use around the eye screws to keep moisture out.
- Step 3: Starting at the bottom, thread and secure cable through the first eye screw, and then thread it through the second eye screw. Pull tight, and loop it through again. Move to next eye screw, and repeat, finishing the pattern and tying off the cable.
- Step 4: Plant one vine below the center of the pattern for candelabra and fan designs. For diamond patterns, plant a vine at the base of each bottom point. Twine the vines around the cable, and secure with twist ties.
Maintaining the Look
Continue training the vines to grow around the coated cable until the pattern is complete–usually in one to two growing seasons. Once the vines have covered the cable, clip as needed to maintain the form.
This article is from the August 2005 issue of Southern Living.
Many people think climbing plants are only suitable for outdoor spaces like gardens, but did you know they can be cultivated in indoor spaces, as well? Climbing plants add a richness and depth to any garden space and with the proper knowledge, you’ll have healthy and luscious climbing plants.
What’s even better is that certain species of climbing plants can even work well in offices, so you can enjoy the benefits of plants even at your workspace!
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in gardening in your backyard or a working professional seeking the benefits of indoor plants, our Ultimate Guide to Climbing Plants provides you with everything you need to know about cultivating climbing plants indoors and outdoors.
- What is a climbing plant?
- What is a trellis?
- What type of structures support climbing plants?
- What type of plants are considered climbing plants?
- How do you care for climbing plants?
- How do you plant climbing plants?
- Can climbing plants include flowers?
- Where can you grow climbing plants?
- How do you care for indoor plants?
- How fast do climbing plants grow?
- How often should you trim climbing plants?
- What are the benefits of climbing plants?
- What is a creeper plant?
- What is the difference between climber and creeper plants?
- What are some examples of creeper plants?
- How can I incorporate indoor vines into my workspace?
- Which climbing plants work well in office spaces?
- Where can I learn more about plants in the workplace?
What is a climbing plant?
A climbing plant is a plant which climbs up trees and other tall objects. Many climber plants are vines whose stems wrap around trees and branches but there are other methods of climbing.
Botanists divide climbing plants into two broad groups: Bines and Vines.
Bines typically twine their stems around an object for support. They have rough stems or downward-pointing bristles to air their grip. Some examples of bines are:
- Morning glory
The second group is vines. Vines use tendrils or specialized stems used by climbing plants, suckers, thorns and other methods to support themselves. Some examples of vines include:
- Climbing rose – thorns
- Virginia creeper – adhesive pads
- Trumpet creeper – leaves
- Passion flowers or passion vines – stems
What is a trellis?
A trellis s a framework made of either light wood or metal bars used as support for climbing plants or fruit trees. You can make your own trellis or buy one at your local garden center.
Some climbing plants require a support system like a trellis, but others don’t, so it’s important to do your research and determine which climbing plants you’d like to grow and if you have the resources to support them.
What type of structures support climbing plants?
Sure, you can use fences, walls, arches and porches. But be careful, climbing plants can get heavy so make sure your support system is durable.
What type of plants are considered climbing plants?
Tendrils – skinny structures along the plant’s stem that reach out in the air until they come into contact with structure they can hold on to.
- Stem tendrils – Passionflower, Grapes
- Leaf tendrils – Sweet peas, Chilean glory flower
Twiners – There are two types of twiners, twinning leaves or twinning stems. Twinning leaves use their leaves like tendrils. Young leaves twist around wires, string, twigs or other leaves to support itself. Twinning stems twist around whatever they touch, spinning clockwise or counterclockwise depending on the species of plant.
- Twinning leaves – Clematis,, Climbing nasturtium
- Twinning Stems – Pole beans, Dutchman’s pipe, Morning glory, Jasmine, Honeysuckle
Scramblers– Climbing or rambling roses are one of the many plants that are considered scramblers. These plants have long, flexible stems that look like vines but are unable to climb on their own. Scramblers sometimes have thorns that help them grip to other stems. If you want to add scramblers to a trellis, tie them with string or wire to neighboring stem.
Adhesive pads – These plants have stem tendrils with adhesive pads that allow them to stick to many surfaces. If they don’t have vertical support, they can crawl sideways.
- Boston ivy
Clinging stem rooms – The stems of these plants produce short, stout roots that cling to a variety of surfaces.
- English ivy
- Climbing hydrangea
How do you care for climbing plants?
Depending on the type(s) of climbing plants you’re growing will dictate how you care for your plants.
Tendrils – They need horizontal support to grab onto, roughly ¼ inch in diameter. But, you can also use two-inch square netting.
Passion Flowers or Passion vines – Mulch heavy in the winter for a good start for growing season. They need partial to full sunlight and need lots of water so keep their roots moist, especially during flowering season.
Twiners – To help twiners grow, they need a trellis, wire or post for horizontal support. Morning glories, Dutchman’s Pipe and Honeysuckle can grow large so they need support to hold their weight.
Morning glories – They die in frost but reseed themselves so they can grow the next year. Morning glories are best planted in full sun and seeds should be ¼-½ deep, eight inches apart.
Scramblers – Their thorns can make them difficult to work with. They too are unable to climb on their own and should be held with gardening wire or string.
Climbing roses – Climbing roses can grow very tall but have flexible canes so they can climb many types of surfaces. Some species need full sun and others grow best in partial shade.
- Stickers – Stickers don’t need horizontal support due to the adhesive on their tendrils.
Boston Ivy – Boston ivy prefers full sun to light shade with slightly moist to slightly dry conditions. Soil with clay or stony material is optimal for growth.
Stem Rooms – Stem root climbing plants use clingy stem roots to attach themselves to surfaces. These roots are strong, so strong they can damage paint when removed. It’s recommended you grow stem root climbers on homes and use trees or a trellis for support.
Climbing hydrangea– If given enough room to grow, climbing hydrangea can reach tall heights. They are also heavy so they need support. They need full sun to partial shade and any soil conditions will do just fine.
How do you plant climbing plants?
In general, you should plant your new climber 11 inches – 17 inches away from the base of your support structure so water can reach the root of your plant. Depending on the type of climbing plant you are cultivating will determine how you care for it and what kind of structure you will use to support it.
Can climbing plants include flowers?
Yes! Honeysuckle, Morning glories and Dutchman’s pipe are some of the most common climbing plants with flowers.
Where can you grow climbing plants?
Depending on the species of plant you are growing, you can grow climbing plants in containers, on walls, fences, trellis and along buildings like offices or homes. When deciding which climbing plant to cultivate, research how to grow and prune that specific species of plant to ensure optimal growth.
What season is best for climbing plants?
This ultimately depends on the type of climbing plant you choose to cultivate. In the spring, you can choose from clematis, which looks beautiful on pergolas or arches. Summertime is great for star jasmine, honeysuckles and roses. Fall and winter are great for grape vines, Virginia creepers and ivy.
How fast do climbing plants grow?
Fast climbing plants include akebia or “chocolate vine”, star jasmine, wisteria sinensis, vitis vinifera, clematis, etoile violette and morning glory.
Examples of slow growing climbing plants include hyacinth bean vine, moonflower and the pink trumpet vine.
How often should you trim climbing plants?
One of the major reasons gardeners love climbing plants is due to their length and abundance but that doesn’t mean these plants shouldn’t be trimmed. Many plants benefit from a trim and knowing when to do it is important.
For instance, climbers can use a good trim during late winter. Clematis should be trimmed late-summer or late-fall. Depending on whether your clematis is an early flowering, early to mid or late flowering species will depend on when you trim. Honeysuckle is typically trimmed every few years.
What are the benefits of climbing plants?
Climbing plants are a beautiful addition to any garden and provide depth and complexity to simple gardening spaces. They also provide shade on those warm summer days. When harvesting these plants indoors, the benefits include:
- Reduced stress and increased sense of well-being
- Improve air quality
- Reduce background noise
More benefits of indoor plants can be found here.
What is a creeper plant?
Creeper plants or creeping plants are small, vine-like plants that grow close to the ground.
What is the difference between climber and creeper plants?
Creeper plants are commonly found near the ground and grow horizontally while climbing plants tend to grow vertically, alongside buildings or other structures.
What are some examples of creeper plants?
Commonly grown creeper plants include:
- Japanese spurge
- Creeping junipers
- Angelina stonecrop
- Creeping myrtle
How can I incorporate indoor vines into my workspace?
You don’t have to exclusively enjoy climbing plants in your garden. Indoor vines are similar to outdoor climbing plants but as their name states it, they’re cultivated in different locations.
You can place indoor vines in hanging pots, on eaves and desks.
Below you will find a variety of indoor climbing plants that will liven up any workspace.
Which climbing plants work well in office spaces?
Vines that grow well indoors include:
- Philodendron Brazil
- Hedera Helix
- Devil’s Ivy
- Scindapsus Jade
Where can I learn more about plants in the workplace?
Ambius provides indoor plants, Green Wall installations, holiday decor and scenting for workspaces all sizes and industries. To learn more about how your workspace can benefit from indoor plants, contact us or call us for a free quote at 1-800-658-0045.
Dead ivy: enemy to bare brick walls everywhere Photograph: SideLong/Flickr/Some rights reserved
Back in October a question from a reader to hit a nerve:
Q We stripped 30 years of ivy growth off the walls of our house, but it has left marks and the remnants of tiny tendrils, which no amount of wire brushing can shift. How can we remove them before we repaint the walls?
A I get many, many questions about this and I have avoided them until now, as ‘Abandon all hope!’ doesn’t make for a very enlightening answer. But the clamour has become deafening, so I will tell you what I know.
A wire brush, paint scraper or pressure washer just won’t do it. You are wasting your time and damaging your walls. It is all about time and patience. If you can live with the damage for a few years, those tenacious little blighters just may have shrivelled and rotted slightly, enough finally to succumb to the attentions of a firmly wielded wire brush. Painting over them now will not only look rubbish but will also seal them in for eternity, so resist, and settle in for the long haul.
Lots of you got in touch with your own fixes: George Brooke and another reader known only as Paul said a blowtorch did the trick, while Margaret Constable wielded a creme brulee torch, which is roughly the same thing, I guess. A stiff broom or a wire brush removes the ashes and the wall is clear.
But perhaps you have your own fiendish methods of eradicating ivy tendrils? Do share your suggestions in the comments below.
Removing climbing vines from walls.
An ivy covered wall
John from Mississauga, Ontario writes: “We recently bought a house that was half covered in ivy. We didn’t like it and we were told to cut the roots and let the ivy die and then just tear it down from the walls. We cut the roots and let the ivy die but we noticed all these little suction cups that held the ivy to the brick and wood siding. What’s the best way to remove them?”
Unfortunately John, you have a problem there. Ivy, Virginia creeper vines and other climbing plants not only grip onto surfaces, porous or not, but on brick and wood, they can actually sends little gripping roots into the siding. We can get much of it off, but depending on the age of the ivy, you could have significant damage done. With brick, this often requires repointing. Which is to say; from a building science point of view, climbing plants are a very bad idea.
Can the suckers be removed?
OK, given that there is ivy on the wall, what is the best way to get rid of it? You were right to cut the plant to kill it. But the experts are telling me that you then want to wait for it to turn colour, but not let it get hard — usually about 3 weeks from cutting off the plant. If you act too soon, it is still griping strongly to the wall. If you wait too long, the residue on the wall becomes too hard. If you get it right in-between the two, you can simply use soapy water and a bristle brush to scrub off the suckers. They tell me nothing else will work.
I tried soap and water and it didn’t do much. Having had success with removing moss from asphalt roofs with non-bleach deck “restorer” cleaners I tried that on a bit of aluminum siding. It did effectively dissolve the little stuck part of the plant — and the PAINT on the siding as well. Don’t bother trying – this stuff is too strong.
A test house with Virginia Creeper Vines
Finally in the summer of 2012 I found a homeowner who has chosen to keep Virginia creeper vines on the brick chimney for aesthetic reasons, but wants to keep it trimmed away from the roof and the siding — a regular gardening job. In previous years the growth was cut back from the aluminum siding and ripped immediately off — leaving all kinds of little pock marks that didn’t want to come off, as you can see in the 5th photo above.
The 6th photo shows us what we are really dealing with. The grippers touch a surface and secrete what appears to be the best glue in the world — our glue chemists should study this stuff!
We started by cutting branches that headed over to the siding. This was done all the way up and then around the chimney on the roof.
After several weeks of experimenting I discovered that waiting just until the leaves are totally brown does allow ripping off most of the plant, as in the 7th photo and does not rip off any paint. What is left are hard shells with a bit softer centre all stuck on top of the paint but not cutting into the paint. The soap and water recommended didn’t do much to this shell and hard scrubbing did start to remove paint.
Bi-Carbonate of Soda
Then I decided to try to soak it off. I mixed up a very thick paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. To keep it from drying immediately I covered it with some plastic wrap. I didn’t want duct tape marks all over the siding so I restricted myself to a small area and used tooth picks stuck into the existing weeping holes under every row of the aluminum siding to hold it in place. This actually held up to a very strong wind storm. I tried hours, days and multiple days to discover that most of the softening will happen in 4 to 8 hours and works best not in the sun — so wait for the sun to pass by or put this on over night. If you let it dry out, you are back to where you started — no damage but no progress.
Then I rinsed off the bicarbonate of soda and found that a bristle brush or better yet a soft Scotch Bright type of kitchen pad was just strong enough to work on the suckers without bothering the paint. But that only succeeded in breaking the hard shell — leaving what look like little rings. Rather than trying soaking again, which would probably have worked, I made a fairly liquid mix of the same bicarbonate of soda and with that cleaning pad discovered that with a lot of patience, and little pressure, I could finally work off all of the plant and none of the paint! The only side effect was a very clean section of siding – as you can see in the last comparison photo, the top section was not cleaned, and the bottom was clean as a whistle. There is not even a trace of the gripers from the vine, and no paint missing.
If you are paying for labour, it would probably be cheaper to replace the siding. If you don’t have a large section to deal with, or you are ready to take this on as a long term personal restoration project, it is quite doable. If you are leaving some of the plant in place, you must cut it back every week — they really grow fast.