By Hazel Sillver published
For us, the list of the best climbing plants isn't subjective: in our opinion, these are the garden climbers to grow in your back yard. We have chosen a whole range of climbing plants to suit every spot – from shaded areas to small spaces – and every situation – for creating privacy, shade and color.
As with every great garden design, vertical features, such as pergolas, arches and trellis, will add structural interest and depth – and they're perfect for climbers to scramble over, which is why you might want to add at least three of these to your backyard ideas. The secret is to find the right place to plant them and keep them neatly pruned.
Best climbing plants
Climbing plants do require attention a couple of times a year – but they will reward you with stature, color, interest and scent. These are the best.
1. Best climbing plant for shade
Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris AGM is a gorgeous climber to brighten a light-starved wall – wonderful if you are looking for garden shade ideas.
This deciduous hydrangea has attractive oval green leaves paired with large (sometimes 8in/20cm wide) lacy white flowerheads in summer.
If you know how to grow hydrangeas, you will know that they can be slow to establish, eventually becoming vigorous. This one will form a woody framework that clings via aerial roots. Native to the Himalayas, it enjoys a cool, sheltered site – a north or east-facing wall is ideal. Pruning hydrangeas will help them keep a neat shape.
Height: 40ft (12m). USDA 4-7 (UK H5).
2. Best climbing plant for trellis
Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’ AGM (the golden hop) has superb lime-yellow leaves that light up the garden. In summer, it produces primrose-green cone flowers. Then, in fall, the leaves glow butterscotch, and the plant is hung with hops.
Ideal for clothing trellis, fencing, or a pergola. For the best color, grow this deciduous climber in sheltered sun, in moist, well-drained soil. Cut down to the ground in November or March.
Height: 20ft (6m). USDA 4-8 (UK H6).
3. Best climbing plant for a sunny spot
Vitis coignetiae AGM – in fall, the broad leaves of the crimson glory vine blush fabulous shades of ruby and scarlet. It is related to the grape vine, but is healthier and doesn’t produce edible grapes.
Being enthusiastic, it is excellent sent over an unsightly outbuilding or along a dull fence. Plant in full sun for the richest color; in neutral to alkaline soil; and prune in midwinter to control its vigor.
Height: 50ft (15m). USDA 5-9 (UK H5).
4. Best climbing plant for flowers
Rosa The Generous Gardener AGM is a repeat-flowering English climbing rose, bred by David Austin, and dedicated to people who open their gardens for charity.
The buxom shell-pink flowers resemble water lilies and exude a delicious rosy scent laced with musk and myrrh. Learn how to plant roses and you can grow this healthy, reliable gem in rich, moist, well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade.
Prune roses to keep them shapely and in check.
Height: 15ft (4.5m). USDA 5-10 (UK H6).
5. Best climbing plant for scent
Lonicera x heckrottii ‘Gold Flame’ AGM is a candy-colored honeysuckle to scent the air with beautiful perfume on summer evenings. The pink, peach, and amber flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths, and the scarlet berries feed birds in the fall.
Grow this semi-evergreen climber in humus-rich, well-drained, moist soil in sun or semi-shade.
Height: 16ft (5m). USDA 5-9 (UK H5).
6. Best climbing plant for pots
Clematis viticella ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ AGM is a favorite in cottage gardens; in fact, this is the oldest garden clematis, cultivated in France over 200 years ago.
The ruffled dusky-magenta blooms resemble silk flowers from a vintage shop, giving it old-world charm when it blooms in late summer and early autumn.
Grow in well-drained, fertile soil in sun or semi-shade, as container gardening ideas, and always with the roots shaded by other plants. You can prune clematis of this kind lightly to keep it in shape.
Height: 10ft (3m). USDA 4-9 (UK H6).
7. Best climbing plant for pergolas
Akebia quinata flowers from late March to May; the chocolate vine produces maroon flowers that smell of spiced vanilla – wonderful as one those more unusual pergola ideas.
It has attractive semi-evergreen bright-green leaves; and in warm regions, will produce wonderfully weird purple fruit, if there is another chocolate vine in the vicinity.
Grow in well-drained, moist soil in sun.
Height: 30ft (9m). USDA 5-8 (UK H6).
8. Best climbing plant for pollinators
Rosa ‘Parkdirektor Riggers’ – clusters of blood-red blooms with golden stamens adorn this repeat-flowering climbing rose in summer and fall.
It is grown for its crimson color and semi-double flowers (which provide food for bees) rather than its scent, which is faint.
Suitable for south, west, east, or north facing walls or facades. Grow in rich, moist, well-drained soil.
Height: 13ft (4m). USDA 5-10 (UK H6).
9. Best climbing plant for the front of a house
Wisteria floribunda ‘Kuchi-beni’ AGM – elegant, long racemes of fragrant white flowers flushed pink-mauve adorn this old Japanese wisteria in May and June.
Ideal for a sturdy pergola in sun, in moist, well-drained soil, and requires pruning twice a year.
Do not grow in states (such as South Carolina) where W. floribunda is invasive, unless you are prepared to prune it – instead, grow a less vigorous American wisteria (such as ‘Amethyst Falls’).
Height: 30ft (9m). USDA 4-9 (UK H6).
10. Best climbing plant for color
Passiflora caerulea AGM – the blue passion flower has incredible exotic flowers with purple filaments over white petals, from July to September. It also produces orange egg-shaped fruit and has dark-green leaves that are deciduous or evergreen, depending on the climate.
Being a twining climber, it needs something to cling to, such as trellis.
Grow in moist, well-drained soil in sun.
Height: 30ft (9m). USDA 7 to 9 (UK H4).
What is the easiest climbing plant to grow
The easiest climbing plant to grow – and the one that is the most rewarding – is wisteria. It takes a few years to flower for the first time and needs pruning and tying in a couple of times a year to stay neat, but it will reward you with plenty of foliage from spring until early winter, making it a wonderful choice if you are looking for garden privacy ideas, and wonderful blooms – in spring, and then often again in high summer.
What is the fastest growing climbing plant
Clematis montana is a really fast-growing climbing plant, sending out shoots from spring. This makes it perfect for long stretches of trellis and pergolas and arches; however, it will twine around and choke other plants if it's kept unchecked. Trimmed neatly, though, it is a wonderful evergreen that has showy, scented blooms in early spring.
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