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Best Climbing Plants for Trellis


“What climbing plants for trellis” would seem to be the obvious question to ask when setting about a little bit of vertical gardening by way of a few trellis plants or so? There are however, many things to consider in this seemingly easy task, not least the decision – if it’s not too late – as to what type of trellis to use.

That subject matter obviously has to be another article quite soon -for the choice of trellis for climbing plants arguably matters as much as the type of plant to use! Image shows a well supported wall trellis which is ideal for most climbers.

Here painted white, which could be a future problem as far as maintenance is concerned, but it makes a nice feature on which to grow flowering climbing plants.

Climbing red flowers on white trellsFor brevity in this article, we will simply place trellis in two very basic categories; lightweight and sturdy. This again will be determined – as will the choice of climber – by whether or not the trellis will be a screen-type free standing panel, or one that is to be affixed to a wall or fence.

Many plants for trellis are not automatically suited to growing on pergolas, though some would suit either. Trellis is mostly used as screening or dividers of space – verticals, whereas pergolas are akin to archways or overhead screens – horizontals.

 Plantings such as this can cool a sunny wall and noticeably make the room indoors more comfortable.

Climbing Plants for Light Trellis

Light trellis for the sake of this article is that type of trellis normally fastened to a wall; not being rigid enough to be free standing – such as a fence panel type. As a general rule, climbers that cling to their supports by way of twining stems are not best suites to light trellis, simply because if they have to be removed or unraveled there is a risk of damaging the trellis battens. This is particularly so with climbing vines such as honeysuckle, which often outgrow their temporary home on a trellis.

It is far better to use plants which – though they are classed as climbers – need to be tied in to the support to remain upright. Those that climb by way of tendrils or curled leaf stems are less problematic.

  • Clematis - Large Flowered hybrids that are normally cut near to ground level each spring.
  • Eccremocarpus scaber – The Chilean Glory Flower – It can be a short-lived herbaceous perennial in milder areas, but often reseeding itself or branching from the base each year.
  • Passiflora caerulea – The Passion Flower – if it is cut back each year to restrain the otherwise vigorous growth.
  • Climbing Roses – (Miniature) - Cutting out older stems each year to keep restrained normally suffices with lightweight trellis – the popular classic climbing roses are better with robust trellis. There is an increasing range of miniature climbing roses available which will be suitable for light trellis for they are generally pruned in the winter months – as per the normal climbing roses.
  • Jasminum nudiflorum – the Winter Jasmine – can be trained up a wall supported trellis.
    Jasminum officinale – The Summer Jasmine – though will need good support and trimming back of old vines from time to time.
  • Ipomoea tricolor (and others) – Morning Glory – A popular tender perennial climber best grown as an annual, so the dead plant will have to be removed each autumn or at least cut back to ground level.
    Ipomoea lobata – Mina lobata – as above.
  • Sweet Pea – Lathyrus grandiflorus the Everlasting Pea – is good for light trellis, being a herbaceous perennial plant that will have to be cut back from the trellis each year. The showy Garden Sweet Pea - Lathyrus odoratus - makes for a good trellis plant, but dies off each year.
  • Rhodochiton atrosanguineus – is a very unusual deciduous perennial climber; but only for the mildest of frost-free areas.
  • Tropaeolum – Climbing Nasturtiums – Tropaeolum peregrinum is the Canary Creeper with yellow gold flowers; annual from seed, whilst Tropaeolum speciosum is the scarlet flowered Flame Creeper (reasonably hardy perennial).
  • Runner Beans – Duo purpose annual climber that is showy in flower and tasty when young beans are picked. Very showy vegetable which can be grown on trellis.

Climbing Plants for Sturdy Trellis

Kiwi Fruit Blossom Variegated Ivy Schisandra flower Purple grape climber Blue wisteria flowers

Kiwi Fruit flower; Variegated Ivy; Schisandra; Purple foliage Grape; Wisteria:

‘Sturdy trellis’ being that type which will require support only on the outer framework - often used for stand-alone units, screening, or enhancing boundary fences.

The majority of climbing plants are suited to growing on sturdy trellis – some being self supporting with others needing training and possible tying-in to the trellis framework.

Be aware of the growth statistics of all climbers and avoid such climbing plants for trellis such as Russian Vine, which will outgrow the trellis in the space of a single year. Where it wanders off to after that is dependent upon what is nearby to swamp with growth!

  • Fan Trained Fruit bushes make admirable ‘climbers’ for trellis with the double edge of flowers followed by fruit. The annual pruning regime will allow you to keep such bushes in check. Always buy those on a rootstock meant for dwarfing the plant. Included in the fruit group, such plants such as the soft fruit blackberries, loganberries and other types are available.
  • Kiwi Fruit – Actinidia – Twining stems
  • Akebia – Chocolate Vine – Twining stems
  • Aristolchia – Dutchman’s Pipe – Twining stems
  • Hedera – Ivy – has larger leaves when grown on trellis
  • Humulus – The Golden Hops vine – Dies back each year
  • Ipomoea – Morning Glory
  • Jasminum officinalis – Summer Jasmine and also the Winter jasmine with yellow winter flowers, which will have to be trained and tied.
  • Lathyrus – The everlasting sweet pea – also the annual garden types.
  • Lapageria – the Chilean Bellflower – Twining stems. Be aware that it spreads by way of suckers.
  • Lonicera – Many types to chose from
  • Passiflora – Passionflower
  • Pyracantha - the Firethorn is not a climber but well suited to training on a strong trells.
  • Climbing Roses - Most varieties are suited to strong trellis structure.
  • Schisandra rubriflora
  • Solanum jasminoides and J. crispum
  • Trachelospermum – the Star Jasmine – Twining stems – scented for near-patio situation.
  • Vitis assorted - all of which deciduous and need tying. Vitis vinifera Purpurea a good choice for foliage and grapes.
  • Wisteria – only for the most robust trellis with room to expand afterwards; can then be trained along fence top.


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