I love a good climber. What's not to love? As you may have seen in one of my recent posts, '5 ways to trellis a garden wall', a climbing plant can dramatically change the feel and style of an outdoor space. These gorgeous little clingers and climbers come with a whole range of features too. Some of these being deciduous, evergreen, ornamental, fruiting and scented flowers.
Here are 10 of the best climbing plants I love to specify when designing a garden, plus how the benefits work to enhance the space...
D = deciduous E = evergreen C = clinger (no trellis required) T = trellis required F = fruiting S = scented
1. BOSTON IVY
(Parthenocissus tricuspidata) D C
A deciduous climber with beautiful crimson autumn colour, this plant clings its tendrils to the wall with sticky pads, allowing it to climb without the assistance of a wire or trellis. Over time it grows to create a green mass of 3-lobed leaves.... reminiscent of English countryside cottages.
Use when: you have a wall or fence to cover that is out of full sun, the garden style is classic, zen or contemporary, you want seasonal change and autumn colour.
(Wisteria sinensis) D T S
Oh the wisteria... simply divine. The pendulous scented flower and feather-like leaf make this a rewarding addition to the garden. However, it can take 3-5 years to flower... but is well worth the wait.
Use when: you are obsessed with this plant (like me), you have a classic, zen, cottage or contemporary garden, you want a floral scent and display.
3. MANDEVILLA 'White Fantasy'
(Mandevilla 'White Fantasy') E T
Trailing vines with lush green leaves and big white flowers. This plant also looks gorgeous cascading over a large urn in the garden.
Use when: you want a mass floral display, you have a classic or resort style garden, you prefer all-year greenery.
4. CREEPING FIG
(Ficus pumila) E C
Beautiful heart-shaped leaves quickly disguise any unsightly walls. The leaves hug the wall so tightly, a covered wall can appear to be a hedge.
Use when: you are emulating a Bali garden, want a green blanket to a wall, have limited space and want little mess. Please note, this plant does have the potential to damage render to walls so choose placement carefully.
5. CHINESE STAR JASMINE
(Trachelospermum jasminoides) E T S
If you are a little unsure about your gardening skills, this is the climber (or groundcover) for you! It survives in full sun, part shade, water restrictions... you name it. It has a beautiful scent and is green and leafy all year round. Perfect for outside of windows to green up fences, and for its scent to trail inside.
Use when: you want a sensory garden, you require evergreen coverage, you need something that survives in sun and shade.
6. MADAGASCAR JASMINE
(Stephanotis floribunda) E T S
The starry white, plump Stephanotis flower is often seen in bride's bouquets. It has a deep green, fleshy leaf and beautiful fragrant flower. It may burn in direct afternoon sun so position it in a warm spot with afternoon shade.
Use when: you have a shady spot down the side of the house that needs greening up, you are after a sensory garden.
(Bougainvillea glabra) E T
Big, bold, bright and beautiful! The colour these beauties bring to summer is amazing. They are also super tough too. Just be careful to avoid hard pruning as this can send out more thorns than normal. Stick to regular tip pruning.
Use when: you require a deterrent from intruders (the thorns are lethal!), you love bright colour and floral display (the coloured parts are actually bracts and not petals!), have a Mediterranean style garden, you need something hardy but pretty.
8. PASSIONFRUIT VINE
(Passiflora caerulea) E T
This mainly evergreen vigorous climber can grow meters in length and height. Beautiful for covering boundary fences and unsightly walls, in full sun this vine will provide a stunning floral display and fruit in the summer time . This vine will require substantial trellising or support for the tendrils.
Use when: you have a productive or tropical style garden, you love passion fruit (of course!), you need to screen a fence or wall quickly, you have the space.
9. VIRGINIA CREEPER
(Parthenocissus quinquefolia) D C
Virginia Creeper is in the same family as Boston Ivy (Vitaceae) and has very similar features to apart from, as its botanical name suggests, it having 5-lobed leaves. It is a vigorous clinging climber that does not require wire or trellising. I find this climber to not sit as 'flat' as the Boston Ivy against a wall. I would usually specify Boston Ivy over Virginia Creeper if both were available.
Use when: you are looking for something a bit looser than Boston Ivy, love autumn colour display, require summer shade to a structure.
(Vitis vinefera) D T F
Who can go past a grapevine for its seasonal colour, delicious fruit, winter sun (to do its deciduous habit) and summer shade? If you're partial to the mess or maintenance of the fruit, there's always the option to go ornamental (non-fruiting).
Use when: you have a productive garden, you don't have a productive garden but would like summer shade/winter sun with the added bonus of homegrown produce, love autumn colour.