How To Grow Climbers

Making a leafy screen outdoors is easy with this expert landscaping advice

hanging yellow climbers on a fence

Climbing plants like this laburnum, can transform an eyesore into a feature

To give your garden an injection of beautiful flowers, foliage and fragrance this spring, consider installing some climbing plants.
 
Climbers are spectacularly showy but surprisingly low maintenance, and provide a simple landscape solution to a range of garden problems and are particularly useful in small spaces.
 
Use them to soften a bare wall or cover a plain fence, creating a view where none exists such as in a courtyard or at the side of a house.
Let a grapevine scramble over your pergola for summer shade or use a shade-loving variety to green up the darkest corner of the yard.
 
Turn a bare spot into a garden feature by training a flowering climber over a trellis to screen the wheelie bins or hide the compost heap.
 
TIP On a deck, position evergreen scented climbers like jasmine to bring fragrance into the house. 

Green the scene

With evergreen and deciduous varieties, there are climbers for every climate and outdoor area, and spring
is the best time to plant.
 
Choose from a huge number of vines, creepers and ramblers to suit your landscape and conditions.
 
For a quick fix, fast-growing species, plant certain kinds of grapevine that can grow up to a metre a year.
 
Or you can buy climbers up to two metres high that are often already in bloom in large containers.
 
As a rule, the older the plant the more it costs, depending on the size and how many stems it has.
 
Large potted climbers are best left as container plants and tied to a trellis for decorative effect, as they may not flower for two years if planted out.

Younger plants will establish more quickly in the garden and grow rapidly in the first couple of years.

How they climb 

Plants scale walls and other structures in a variety of ways. Without vertical support, climbers continue to grow but spread horizontally, forming a groundcover.

How climbers grow 

  • Twiners like clematis have stem tendrils that coil around anything nearby, including a nail, wire, or neighbouring plant stalk.
  • Clingers need no support as they develop very strong roots on the stems in contact with a vertical surface, such as ivy on a rough wall. 
  • Winders like honeysuckle coil their stems around garden stakes, trees and other supports in one direction.
  • Suckers have stem tendrils with sticky pads on the ends that are extremely adhesive and can be difficult to remove.
  • Ramblers use their thorns to scramble up a support, like roses over an arbour, but need additional tying and training.

Healthy Plants

Most climbers tolerate soil of various types as long as it’s free draining. They like a sunny spot with shaded roots.
 
Improve the soil before planting or use a good quality potting mix for containers. Water plants in well.

Feed flowering varieties with a fertiliser rich in potash but don’t overfeed, as this can result in lots of stem growth and foliage but
a poor display of blooms.
 
Climbers can grow up and over just about anything, including brick walls, buildings, stakes, tree trunks and trellis panels.
 
Leave at least 300mm between a wall and the trellis for good airflow, and to ensure rainwater isn’t blocked by eaves or gutters.
 
Apply a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant, keeping it clear of the stem to keep the roots cool in summer and provide frost protection in winter.

Purple bougainvillea in flower
A bougainvillea is a fast growing climber that comes in a range of vibrant colours
 

Train the plants

Climbers require training and most need to be tied to a support. Even varieties that cling by root or stemneed help to spread evenly.

  • Horizontal wires work well. Stretch galvanised wires spaced 400mm apart across a wall or between fence posts, securing them at 2m intervals with vine eye screws
  • Trellis panels add a decorative element and can be mounted on wall battens or posts, or left freestanding. Tie stems loosely with soft garden ties. 

TIP Use plastic plant clips to secure stems to a stake.  
 

Planting a climber

Grow climbers in well-drained soil and position the plant at least 300mm in front of the trellis or support to ensure good airflow.
 
Dig a hole about 10mm deeper and twice as wide as the rootball then remove the climber from its pot, loosening the roots.
 
Position the plant in the hole and backfill with soil, firming it down gently. Water well while the plant is establishing, and tie to the trellis if the stems are long enough.

Choosing a Variety 

Assess the planting site before buying a climber, noting which direction the wall or fence faces and how much sun the proposed location receives.
 
TIP Ask your local nursery for a variety that thrives in the area. 

Clematis

A deciduous climber with multiple varieties and colours. Plant on the south side so shoots grow towards the sun, keeping the roots cool. Clematis macropetala does well in shade.

purple clematis climber in flowerClematis are available in a broad range of colours and flower year round, pick a variety based on the climate in your area

Mandevilla

With dark leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers in various shades of pink this climber makes an impression. Some varieties have fragrant flowers, others feature cream coloured blooms.

pink mandevilla climbing plant
Mandevillas prefer a mild to warm climate

Passionfruit Vine

Ideal for growing over a trellis, this vigorous evergreen climber has strong tendrils that grip the wire.

Flowers appear in summer with the added bonus of fruit in autumn.

passion fruit vine in flower
Passionfruit vine is easy to maintain and produces fruit in autumn

Bougainvillea

A favourite with gardeners, this fast grower flowers from spring to autumn and is ideal for hiding fences. It can also be grown as a shrub and makes a good container plant.

Red bougainvilleaBougainvilleas need free draining soil

Wisteria

Certain wisterias can take between 10 and 20 years to flower if grown from seed, so buy them already in flower or choose grafted plants that will bloom within a few years.

purple wisteriaWisteria needs a sunny spot in the garden, flowering in the spring and summer

Potato Vine

A white or purple flowering evergreen climber, potato vine grows in most parts of Australia. Fast-growing and hardy, it produces clusters of flowers from spring until autumn.

potato vine
Potato vine produces small purple or white bloomsfrom spring until autumn

Hardenbergia

This Aussie native is an evergreen twining plant with leathery, dark leaves. The most popular variety is ‘Happy Wanderer’, which has purple blooms and likes full sun.

Hardenbergia is a climber with purple flowersHardenbergia is an Australian native climber that does best in full sun

Pandorea

An Australian native vine, pandorea comes in a few forms. ‘Golden Showers’ puts on a show of yellow flowers in spring and the white ‘Lady Di’ stays in flower for most of the year.

Pandorea pink flower
Pandorea is great Australian native substite for wisteria or jasmine

Ornamental Grapevine

This deciduous climber is the plant of choice for growing over a pergola, as it provides summer shade and winter sun. It puts on a spectacular autumn foliage display of orange and red.

bright red ornamental grape vineOrnamental grapevine adds a bold colour statement to the garden

 

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