Best climbing plants to add height and colour

Use these beautiful plants to solve your design dilemmas

Climbing Plants

by Piper Huxley |

Climbers are the great transformers of vertical surfaces. Whether clinger, twiner or clamberer, they have the innate ability to clothe, screen or divide. All the while, they deliver a floral spectacle or scent the air without encroaching on valuable space. Their aerial lifestyles make them ideal for clothing and softening the boundaries of small gardens, particularly stark city courtyards encircled by masonry. We’ve put together some of our favourites into this list of the best climbing plants.

Garden Answers expert Ian Hodgson says: "The method that climbers use to adhere or attach themselves profoundly determines their suitability for particular purposes and the methods used to attach them, so really get to know how they grow before buying. Combine this knowledge with an appreciation of the growing conditions they like, and you won’t go far wrong."

We've got some advice from Ian to help you out:

The best climbing plants for your garden - UK

Climbers provide rapid height wherever needed.


Clematis are among the most versatile both in size and situation.

Firstly, spring flowering types such as deciduous Clematis montana or evergreen C. armandii will achieve 6-9m (20-30 feet) and are good in sun or shade and don’t need annual pruning.

On the other hand, large-flowered summer varieties prefer moist soil in sun. Many will reach 1.8 - 4m (6-13ft) and will need cutting back in spring.

Another type to consider is small spring-flowering types such as Clematis alpina, which enjoy sun or shade up low walls or fences. Fluffy seed heads in autumn are a welcome bonus.

All clematis need a framework of horizontal wires or trellis on which to climb.


Climbers have their fragrant stars, equal to any daphne or viburnum.

Drape spring and early-summer flowering honeysuckles such as varieties of L. periclymenum or L. japonica around a sheltered sitting area or arbour and let their sweet aroma permeate the air.


Climbing roses are quintessential elements of a cottage or English country garden.

Coming in an astonishing range of colours and with many delightfully fragrant they are ideal for a sunny spot such as an archway, arbour or wall.

Try single soft-yellow ‘Mermaid’, pale pink ‘New Dawn’ or white ‘Snow Goose’.

Self-Clinging Climbers

Climbers that self-cling onto surfaces are extremely useful.

Apart from the vast range of ivies available, for autumn effect try Parthenocissus tricuspidaria which turns scarlet or dark-leaved P. henryana which looks good all year.

The blue-speckled berries of Ampelopsis brevipedunculata are an autumnal treat, while compact variety ‘Elegans’ has pink splashed foliage and is ideal for smaller spaces.


Which climbers can I plant in tricky places?

North-Facing Fence – Shady fences are no problem for climbing Hydrangea petiolaris. Other good choices include ivy and pyracantha. For larger spaces try Parthenocissus cultivars.

Garden Eyesore – A vigorous climber such as Clematis montana is ideal for hiding an ugly garage or disguising a rabbit hutch. Its pretty pink spring flowers are a picturesque bonus.

Summer Hotspot – In a sun-drenched, south-facing garden it’s nice to have some relief from the summer heat. Grow a climbing rose over a gazebo to create a fragrant focal point or dining area.

South-Facing Fence - Exploit a frost-free hot spot by planting a tender climber such as Passiflora caerulea (passionflower). Or, train a vine against a sun-warmed wall to help the fruits ripen.

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