The Ultimate Guide to Climbing plants by Lucy @Mindful.gardener
The lovely Lucy @mindful.gardener has kindly written up this blog post with lots of tips and tricks for how to grow and look after climbing plants. We hope this is helpful- I know it sure has been for me. Over to Lucy...
Climbing plants are a must have in any garden. They are loved by so many gardeners and with good reason. Climbing plants are a great way of adding interest to bare walls or fences, they can be grown up support structures such as pergolas, obelisks or trellis to create a stunning focal point. They are good for hiding unsightly features and they are great for adding height. They take up less space as they grow up not out so are perfect for smaller gardens where space is limited and they can also provide food and shelter for wildlife. With so many different varieties there are climbers to suit all locations:
CLIEMATIS - perennial climber that flowers through most seasons in a variety of colours depending on the type. Perfect for adding height and colour to the garden.
The best time to plant Clematis is in Spring (March/April) or Autumn (September/October) when the soil is warm. Clematis grow best with their roots in shade so their roots can be kept cool and moist and their top growth in full sun. Most Clematis will grow well in full sun or partial shade but if the planting position is too shady they will not flower as well. Make sure you allow enough space for the plant to grow in to, some varieties of Clematis are vigorous and may quickly take over in a small space.
For the best results, grow in deep, fertile, moist but well drained soil (although Clematis are tolerant of a variety of soil types).
Some varieties of Clematis are suitable for growing in pots. Ensure you choose a more compact variety and make sure you choose an adequate sized pot a minimum of 45cm depth and width). Top dressing with pebbles or low growing plants will help to keep the roots cool.
Feed later winter to early spring with a pottasium-rich fertiliser such as tomato feed which will encourage a healthy crop of flowers. Feed container grown plants every month from spring through to summer.
Clematis are thirsty plants so water regularly during dry periods. Container grown plants will need watering most days during the growing season as soil in containers tends to dry out more quickly.
Climbing Clematis are divided into 3 main groups according to when they flower:
- Winter/Spring Flowering
- Early Summer Flowering
- Late Summer/Autumn Flowering
This also determines the best time for them to be pruned.
Winter/Spring Flowering Clematis - Pruning Group 1
When? - No regular pruning is required but if necessary prune immediately after flowering in mid-late spring but once the risk of frost has passed.
How? - Remove dead, damaged or diseased shoots. Trim any overly long branches back to a healthy pair of buds. Plants can be thinned out if they become congested. Older plants that require renovation pruning can be cut back hard (almost to the base). Vigorous varieties such as Clematis Montana can be sheared after flowering to keep them neat.
Early Summer Flowering - Pruning Group 2
When? - Prune late winter (around February time) and again after the first flush of flowers in early summer.
How? - Remove dead, diseased and damaged shoots and any spindly growth by cutting back to a pair of healthy buds. Prune again after flowering to encourage a second flush of flowers later in the season. Overgrown plants can slowly be reduced over a few seasons by pruning hard after the first flush of flowers.
Late Summer/Autumn Flowering - Pruning Group 3
When? - Late winter to early spring when buds are starting to form.
How? - In February/March cut back all the old stems to the lowest pair of healthy buds around 15-30cm from the base. Remove dead, diseased and damaged branches. If left unpruned this group will continue growing from where growth ended the previous season, resulting in plants flowering above eye level with a bare base.
Newly planted Clematis (in all pruning groups) will benefit from being pruned hard . Cut back to a healthy pair of buds around 30cm from the base. This will encourage strong, healthy growth and multiple stems.
Clematis may benefit from tying in. This process helps to guide stems so they spread evenly which prevents foliage from becoming tangled and can even help improve flowering.
HONEYSUCKLE - Deciduous or evergreen climber, highly scented, flowering from summer to autumn they come in a wide range of colours from palest lemon yellow to scarlet.
Climbing Honeysuckles can be planted all year round but for the best results plant deciduous varieties in winter and evergreens in spring or autumn.
Grow in moist, well-drained soil. Honeysuckles like Clematis grow best with their roots in the shade and their stems in the sum so dappled shade works best.
Honeysuckles need plenty of space to grow, ensure they have a sturdy structure to climb up such as trellis or a wire frame.
Feed in spring with a general purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone. Mulch annually with organic matter such as well-rotted manure. this will help improve the soil and retain moisture.
Water regularly during the first season after planting to help the plant establish. Once plants have established they should only need watering during dry spells.
Prune after flowering. Cut back to a healthy side shoot to maintain a tidy shape. Overgrown plants can be renovation pruned in winter by cutting back hard.
WISTERIA - Vigorous climber that produces cascades of fragrant mauve flowers that bloom in spring and occasionally summer.
Wisteria is best planted in autumn or spring in full sun - a south or west facing wall is ideal. They can also be grown in large containers of at least 45cm.
Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Container-grown plants are best in a loam-based compost.
Wisterias are vigorous climbers so will need decent support. Trellis, wire frames, pergolas and arches all work well. They can also be grown as standards.
Feed in spring with a general purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone. Plants can also be fed with rose or flowering shrub fertiliser. Container-grown plants can be fed with a potassium-rich liquid feed such as Tomorite or Phostrogen.
Keep plants well watered, especially during dry spells or if they are newly planted.
Prune twice a year. Once in winter (around February) and once in summer (around July). Regular pruning will stimulate new growth and encourage flowering.
Cut back straggly growth to about 30cm or 5/6 leaves in summer. In winter shorten again to about 10cm or 2/3 buds. This will keep the plant tidy.
CLIMBING/RAMBLING ROSES - Traditional climbers that put on a spectacular display in summer. They come in a wide range of colours and there are many different varieties to choose from.
Climbing or rambling roses are perfect for adding height and structure to your garden. They can be easily trained to grow up walls, over fences or up structures such as pergolas, obelisks or trellis. They are also perfect for covering unsightly features. Choice is vast - single, double flowers, scented, non-scented, thornless, the list is endless.
Climbing vs Rambling - What's the Difference?
Both have a climbing habit but essentially rambling roses are more vigorous. They have smaller flowers (although they tend to cluster and are usually in abundance) and apart from a few species are not repeat flowerers. Climbing roses by contrast often repeat flower and have larger but fewer flowers.
Grow climbing or rambling roses in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Tie in loose stems to keep plants neat and to encourage flowering. Ensure plants have plenty of space to grow. Dig a hole at least twice the depth and width of the rootball. Plant at the same depth as it was in the pot, or up to the graft union if it is a bareroot rose.
Roses can be bought as container-grown plants or as bareroots. Container-grown plants can be bought and planted at any time of the year. Bareroot roses can be bought and planted from November to March. Bareroot roses tend to be cheaper.
Feed in spring with a balanced fertiliser or slow release rose food. Mulch in autumn with well rotted manure or leafmould.
Water regularly, particularly during dry spells. Water at the base of the plant. Avoid overhead watering as this can encourage problems such as black spot or roseballing.
There is no need to prune climbing or rambling roses in the first few years. Simply tie stems in to create a strong, well spaced framework that will encourage flowering. Once established, prune after flowering by simply pruning side shoots to 4 healthy buds, leaving the main framework in tact. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased stems at the base.
Deadhead climbing roses regularly to encourage a second flush of flowers. Most rambling roses only flower once and don't require deadheading unless you have chosen a variety that is repeat flowering.
JASMINE - Beautiful summer flowering climber with clusters of delicate pure white flowers that are very fragrant. There is also a winter flowering variety which has clusters of yellow flowers opening on to bare stems from January to March.
Grow in fertile, well drained soil ideally in a sunny, sheltered spot. Plants will tolerate partial shade but do best in full sun. Jasmines are perfect for training up walls or fences and need a sturdy support such as a trellis or a galvanised wire frame.
Whilst both Jasminum officinale (or common jasmine) and Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine) are both hardy many other varieties are not so will need to be grown in a sheltered, frost-free spot. Jasmines can also be grown in containers enabling them to be moved indoors during colder weather.
Plant Summer Jasmine in spring or autumn and Winter Jasmine in autumn or winter.
Feed Jasmines planted in the ground with a balanced fertiliser in spring, then feed with a high potassium feed such as seaweed or tomato feed or sulphate of potash during the summer to encourage flowering.
Feed container grown plants monthly during the growing season with a high potassium liquid feed such as seaweed or tomato feed. Mulch with well rotted organic matter in autumn.
Water newly established plants regularly during the first year until well rooted. Once established, plants should only need watering during dry spells. Container grown plants need regular watering during the growing season as they dry out more easily.
Cut back annually after flowering to a strong side shoot. Remove any dead, damaged or diseased stems or any that are overcrowded. This will help to keep plants healthy and vigorous and helps to promote flowering. This method of pruning applies to both summer and winter varieties.
PASSIONFLOWER - Evergreen climbers with exotic-looking flowers usually with either purple or white flowers that may be followed by egg-shaped fruits. They flower from July to October.
Grow in moderately fertile, well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. There are several varieties to choose from with Passiflora caerulea (common passionflower) being the most hardy. Other varieties are only suitable for growing in a greenhouse or conservatory. If growing outdoors, grow in a warm sheltered spot to protect from cool, drying winds.
Passionflowers tend to flower well if their roots are restricted so are ideal for containers. If growing in a container use a good quality pest-free compost or John Innes No. 3. Most varieties will need some sort of winter protection.
You can train passionflowers up garden structures such as obelisks, pergolas or arches. They are also perfect for training along galvanised wires against a wall.
Regular feeding is not necessary as this may encourage more green growth and less flowers however, if growth is weak plants can be top dressed with a general purpose fertiliser such as blood, fish and bone in spring.
Water plants freely during the growing season, particularly if they are container grown. Water sparingly during winter.
Cut back after flowering to a healthy bud to maintain a nice, neat shape. Removed any dead, damaged or diseased stems. Overgrown or frost damaged plants can be cut back 30-60cm from ground level during spring and re-trained.
CLIMBERS FOR WINTER INTEREST
There are several climbing plants that come into their own during the winter months. Perfect for adding colour and interest to the garden when not much else is flowering.
Jasminum nudiflorum (winter flowering jasmine)
Clusters of yellow flowers opening on to bare stems during winter. Whilst not strictly a climber, they are often grown as one and are perfect for growing against walls.
Hedera helix (ivy)
Vigorous self-clinging climber with glossy, evergreen leaves, some varieties have reddish/bronze colour in autumn. Mature plants produce small nectar-rich pale yellow flowers in autumn followed by black berries in winter.
Lonicera fragrantissima (winter flowering honeysuckle)
Very fragrant creamy white flowers on almost bare stems, sometimes followed by red berries. Flowers in winter. Although they are not strictly climbers they are perfect for growing up a wall or trellis.
Clematis ‘Jingle Bells’
Evergreen climber with creamy-white nodding flowers in winter and early spring, followed by silky seed heads.
Vigorous evergreen climber, pale yellow flowers that are speckled with maroon on the inside of the petals, followed by silky seed heads. Flowers winter to early spring.
Clematis ‘Winter Beauty’
Evergreen climber, delicate bell-shaped white flowers in winter.
Tropaeolum tricolorum (perennial nasturtium)
Summer dormant perennial climber with stunning lantern-shaped flowers with purple edges, red-orange calyx and short yellow petals. Flowers late winter to early spring.
CLIMBERS FOR SHADE
North or east facing boundaries often don’t get much direct sunlight and many people find it a challenge to find plants to fill the space. However, there are many climbing plants that can cope with cold and shady conditions and even thrive in shade.
Hedera helix (ivy)
Versatile plant that can cope well in the deepest shade. Variegated varieties will help to lighten up dark corners.
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)
Rampant climber often used to cover large house walls. Fresh green leaves in the summer, followed by small black berries. This plant really comes into its own in the autumn when it’s leaves turn vibrant shades of red and orange.
Akebia quintata (chocolate vine)
Deep maroon flowers in spring which have a slightly spicy vanilla fragrance. Fast growing for quick coverage of larger spaces such as walls or pergolas.
Hydrangea anomala ssp. petiolaris (climbing hydrangea)
Vigorous once established, large showy lace-cap style white flowers late spring to early summer. Easy to grow.