Climbing plants

Climbing plants give height and structure to a garden and make a spectacular feature in their own right, such as Wisteria (image top left). Many climbing plants are vigorous, which means although they are easy to grow, it is important to check the eventual size of the plant against the space available.

As a group, climbing plants come in all shapes and sizes, perennial, annual, evergreen and deciduous. The smaller climbing plants, such as compact clematis, and annual sweet peas look just great in the border, around a feature such as window or door climbing up an obelisk. A natural way of planting into a border is to train climbing plants to scramble and wind its way around a border. 

Because climbing plants can be vigorous, they are also ruthless in grabbing, clinging, flattening and basically growing over anything in their way. If you let the plant grow through a border, as opposed to being tied into an obelisk or a structure, you may need to check its growth as there is a tendency for some climbing plants to swamp everything around which can stunt the growth of neighbouring plants by clinging and sometimes pulling more fragile plants down.

When growing annuals you can make a temporary support out of pruning off cuts which can make an attractive natural arrangement, as spotted here at one of the RHS gardens.

The Best climbing plants

The range of climbing plants is varied, some are easy to grow, such as Passion flower, (image top center) which looks exotic, but is in fact easy to grow and suitable for most gardens with little maintenance,

Other varieties of climbing plants such as the popular Clematis are more difficult to grow, requiring time, attention and pruning. Although one of the most popular flowering plants, Clematis can be tricky, there are hundreds of different species to choose from flowering throughout the year. Some varieties of Clematis are easier to grow than others, those requiring little or no pruning, such as the Montana group. 

Don't be put off growing clematis they are spectacular climbing plants and help is at hand with more information about Clematis and pruning made easy and videos on planting and pruning Clematis.

A word of warning about Fallopia, an attractive climbing plant but a real thug , not for nothing known as the "mile a minute plant". 

I illustrate some of the best climbing plants below with links to pages with additional information.

Hydrangea petiolaris a great climbing plant for shade

Easy to grow, deciduous and shade tolerant. This Climbing Hydrangea is great for a shady wall. It has lovely white flowers in late spring and early summer and is a strong grower.

Lonicera common honeysuckle lovely scent especially on an evening

Semi Shade tolerant requiring specific growing conditions. Honeysuckle is a sweet smelling, ideal garden climber. It likes woodland conditions and is best grown with its roots in the shade.

clematis 'Crystal fountain'

Clematis are very popular climbers with many varieties suitable for all gardens. Such is the range of clematis you can have one in flower almost all the year round.

passion flower

Passion flower is exotic looking, but easy to grow.  It is an evergreen, or semi evergreen climber. This purple variety P. caerulea is hardy in most areas.

Ipomoea ' morning glory' flowers lovely pink trumpet of flowers

A tender annual, showy but difficult to grow. It has trumpets of flowers in shades of blue, pink and pastels, an unusual summer climbing plant.

Winter flowering  Jasmin with delicate yellow flowers

Deciduous easy to grow Winter flowering Jasmine lightens the gloom in December, January and February. It is very tough and suitable to grow almost anywhere in the garden.

Fallopia also known as the Mile a Minute plant, a thug of  a climbing  plant.

'Mile a Minute' is a very very fast growing climber. This plant comes with a health warning as it is just so rampant plant with caution in a big space.

wisteria  in bloom long delicately scented mauve blooms

Showy and scented fantastic climber. Very little can beat the sight of a wisteria in full bloom in early summer for its beautiful blooms and scent.

Hedera  the native English ivy  is a wildlife haven

Easy to grow Ivy is very tough and so is ideal in difficult areas. This type of ivy is also good for wildlife, providing late nectar for bees and home to many insects. It makes good groundcover.

Lathyrus odoratus a stunning Pink sweet pea

Wonderfully scented summer annual.  Sweet peas make a great summer display for a long flowering period. Good to know, that the more you pick, the more they flower.

pale yellow flowers of Winter flowering Honeysuckle

Winter flowering Honeysuckle

One of the most sweetly scented winter flowering plants the Honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissim. It flowers from mid-December to March and is easy to grow.

Tropaeolum speciosum the Flame flower bright scarlet climbing plant

Tropaeolum speciosum The Flame Flower

This is an unusual climber which has scarlet flowers in late summer and autumn and looks great growing through an evergreen shrub or hedge.

Everlasting Sweet pea

Everlasting sweet pea with Hydrangea

Annual Sweet Peas can be time consuming to grow and an alternative to consider is the Everlasting sweet pea. Called Lathyrus latifoliu it has the shape, vigorous growth and height of the annual sweet pea but none of the scent.

Solanum crispum

Solanum crispum wit pale blue flowers

Solanum crispum is a fairly vigorous climbing plant which will scramble up walls and structures. Whilst it is hardy, it is best grown in a sheltered sunny position, its common name is Chilean Potato tree, (it is related to the potato) it can reach 5m in height.

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Last updated 14.09.2021