Easy-care Climbing Plants

The initials ‘SS’ indicate that the climber is self-supporting; other climbers require tying in to trellis, wires or wall nails, at least in their early stages.



This is a group of vigorous climbing shrubs that will quickly cover large areas of wall or fence and act as camouflage for tall tree stumps or other unsightly objects. Actinidia chinensis, the Chinese Gooseberry, whose fruits are edible, will reach heights of 9m (30ft) or more. It has handsome heart-shaped leaves up to 20 cm (8 in) in length. The small, creamy-white flowers are followed by fragrant oval fruits, which resemble brownish gooseberries. The other species most often seen is A. kolomikta, noteworthy for the unusual harlequin colouring of its leaves, which are horizontally banded with green, white and pink. Soil – any. Sun or part shade

Aristolochia macrophylla


This vigorous twining shrub is popu-larly known as the ‘Dutchman’s Pipe’, on account of its unusual purple and yellow tubular flowers, which look like miniature saxophones. Soil – any. Sun or part shade.

Campsis radicans


The exotic-looking climber, popularly known as the Trumpet Vine, bears clusters of vivid orange and scarlet trumpet-shaped flowers, 5-8 cm (2 -3 in) long, in late summer and early autumn. It clings by means of aerial roots on its stems, but may need supplementary support at first. It does best on a warm south or west wall.

Soil – rich, well-drained.




This lovely group of plants has been justly called ‘the queen of climbers’. Clematis soon support themselves by their twining leaf stalks and, as already mentioned, the more vigorous kinds can be used in conjunction with a host plant – either a shrub or an old tree. In general, it is the species that are the most vigorous, although there are also many fine, strong-growing hybrids. Clematis like their roots in moist shade and their heads in the sun, although many will also flower and flourish on a north-facing wall.


C. flammula

An extremely vigorous species growing up to 5m (16 ft) tall, with clusters of small but very fragrant white flowers from late summer through autumn. This species prefers a warm, sheltered south- or west-facing wall.

C. macropetala

This is a useful species for growing on a pergola as its ultimate height is around 2.5m (8 ft). The double flowers are violet-blue; they appear in early summer and are followed by decorative silky seed-heads.

C. montana

The best-known and most popular of the clematis species, so vigorous that its shoots will reach roof level in two seasons and cover a great deal of wall space. It does well on a northerly aspect. The two best forms are ‘Rubens’, with bronzy foliage and pale pink flowers, and ‘Elizabeth’, similar in appearance and habit, but with slightly larger flowers. The flowers appear in May and have a distinctive vanilla-like fragrance.

C. orientalis

Often known as the Orange-peel Clematis, on account of its thick yellow sepals. This vigorous ‘SW’. species reaches heights of up to 6 m (20 ft). The yellow bell-shaped flowers are followed by silky seedheads. C. tangutica This species is particularly noteworthy for the beauty of its yellow flowers, like miniature Chinese lanterns, as well as for the masses of silvery silken seedheads which follow them. It makes a first-rate subject for low walls and fences.


The number of different kinds of large-flowered hybrid clematis must run into three figures, so only a selection can be given here.

‘Jackmanii’ is the best-known of these, with large violet flowers 10-12 cm (4-5 in) across. Others that deserve a place in any garden are ‘Hagley Hybrid’, a free flowering clematis, whose shell-pink flowers, produced in great abundance, have contrasting brown anthers;

‘Lasurstern’, possibly the loveliest lavender blue form, with striking white stamens; ‘Marie Boisselot’ (also called ‘Mme Lecoultre’), the finest white;

‘Mrs Cholmon-deley’, whose large pale blue flowers are freely produced;

and ‘Nelly Moser’, second only to ‘Jackmanii’ in popularity, whose large pale mauve-pink flowers have their petals banded with carmine.

The finest double is ‘Vyvan Pennell’ with flowers of a deep violet blue. Soil – moist, well drained Sun or part shade.

Hedera (Ivy)

Clinger (SS)

All the ivies described in Ground Cover Plants, make first-rate evergreen climbers. They will thrive in the poorest of soils and in any aspect or situation. For creating an illusion of sunlight on a cheerless north wall, nothing can surpass a golden variegated ivy, such as Hedera colchica ‘Variegata’, the gold-splashed variety of the Persian ivy. Soil – any. Sun or shade.

Hydrangea petiolaris

Clinger (SS)

Popularly known as the Japanese Climbing Hydrangea, this interesting self-clinging wall shrub deserves to be better known, since it will quickly cover a north wall and produce masses of white or greenish white hydrangea flowers in June. Soil – any. Sun or part shade.

Jasminum (Jasmine)


Several species of jasmine make attractive wall shrubs. The winter-flowering species, Jasminum nudiflorum, bears its yellow blossom from November to February. It can be grown on a north-facing or shaded wall. The Summer Jasmine, J. officinale, is a vigorous twiner which produces masses of small white intensely fragrant flowers from June to September. Its rather untidy and straggling habit of growth makes this climber more suitable for growing through trees or over sheds or other outbuildings. Soil – fairly rich. Sun.

Lonicera (Honeysuckle)

Twiner (SS)

These popular climbers are grown as much for the perfume of their tubular flowers as for their decorative display. Cultivars of our native Woodbine, Lonicera periclymenum, are among the most fragrant, although some other species and hybrids are showier and more colourful. Of the former, ‘Belgica’ and ‘Serotina’, respectively the early and late Dutch honeysuckles, are the most widely grown. Both have flowers of reddish purple and yellow which are borne in May and June by ‘Belgica’ and from July to October by ‘Serotina’. Soil – any. Part shade.


Twiner (SS)

These climbers, formerly grouped under Vitis, support themselves by twining leaf tendrils, or in some cases by sucker pads. The species include Parthenocissus quinquefolia, the true Virginia Creeper, and the Boston Ivy, P. tricuspidata, often confused with the former. Both are very vigorous, with spectacular orange and scarlet autumn leaf colour. Soil – any. Sun or part shade.


Twiner (SS)

The ornamental vines, which support themselves by twining tendrils, are vigorous climbers which, in favourable seasons, produce bunches of small edible grapes. They are, however, grown primarily for the beauty of their foliage. The most eyecatching species is the Japanese Glory Vine, Vitis coignetiae, with rounded leaves up to 30 cm (1 ft) across. These turn a striking scarlet and crimson in autumn. Several forms of the wine grape, V. vinifera, also make attractive wall climbers, among them ‘Incana’, the Dusty Miller Grape, with black fruits and foliage dusted with a white down, and ‘Purpurea’, the Teinturier grape, with reddish leaves deepening to a rich purple by the end of summer. Soil – any. Sun.


Twiner (SS)

The wisterias are undoubtedly the most showy and colourful of all climbing shrubs. They support themselves by means of twining stems and their long tassels of pea flowers, lilac purple in most forms, are a magnificent sight when they festoon the branches in May and June. The pinnate foliage, too is always attractive, especially so as it first unfurls, when it is a lovely golden yellow in colour. Wisteria sinensis is the most popular species, with flower clusters 20-30 cm (8-12 in) long. These appear before the leaves. The white form, ‘Alba’, is also well worth growing. W. floribunda, the Japanese Wisteria, has the most striking cultivar of all, ‘Macrobotrys’, with pendant lilac flower trusses up to 1 m (3 ft) long. All wisteria flowers have a spicy scent, rather like that of lupins. Soil – good loam Sun.

27. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Gardening Ideas, Time Saving | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Easy-care Climbing Plants


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