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How to grow annual climbers from seed

You will need

  • Annual climber seed
  • Glass bowls for soaking seed
  • Seed labels
  • 10cm pots
  • Larger pots for potting on
  • Seed-sowing compost
  • Heated propagator
  • Twigs for support
Do it: spring
Takes just: 30 minutes


There are a range of easy-to-grow, climbing annuals that will flower non-stop from June until the frosts, producing striking blooms and sculptural leaves. Because they grow 1.8m to 3m or more in a season, half the joy is amassing so much plant from one small, inexpensive seed.

Sweet peas aside, annual climbers are rarely seen in borders, but they're easy to grow from seed with a heated propagator in a greenhouse (or a frost-free porch or indoor window sill). Species to try include Spanish flag (Ipomoea lobata), Canary creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum) and black-eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata).

Annual climbers are often grown as fast cover-ups for sunny fences and trellises, but they make excellent pot plants for large containers.

How to do it


To encourage germination, soak the seeds overnight in cold water to soften their coating. Keep the different varieties separate and clearly labelled.


Use 10cm pots and fill with a seed-sowing compost. Scatter the seeds on the surface, then cover with another thin layer of compost.


Keep pots covered in a propagator at approximately 21-24°C (average room temperature). Water regularly to prevent the compost drying out but don't let the pots become waterlogged.


Seedlings should appear within two to three weeks. Once the first true leaves appear, transfer each seedling to its own pot, holding it by the leaf not the stem. Keep watered and in a frost-free place.


Once climbers start to grow, give the pots some more room and push twiggy supports into the compost to prevent plants tangling with each other. From April, gradually harden off plants in readiness for moving outdoors.

Our tip

If you don't want to sow seeds in February, you could wait until the weather warms up in April and sow pots in a coldframe for slightly later-flowering plants

Discuss this project

Talkback: How to grow annual climbers from seed
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lkendall 24/11/2011 at 15:29

This is such a fabulous idea. I love it!

When looking for a plant and not knowing it's exact name, being able to sort by 'Most Popular' or 'Early Flowering' or other similar catergories would be really useful, like when I do my shopping, I can choose 'Price Ascending' or various other ways. This may be already in the pipeline..?

The Prowler 24/05/2012 at 21:55

It would have been helpful if you could have named a few annual climbers for us to look out for.

Botticelliwoman 25/05/2012 at 07:48

I'm growing Black-eyed Susan for the first time this year but there's also climbing nasturtium, Morning Glory and Canary Creeper, amongst others.  It's probably a bit late in the day to start growing all of them from seed now as some take a while to get going but many of the plant catalogues sell annual climbers as plants.

Alina W 25/05/2012 at 10:15

Morning Glory can still be planted now, and will flower well this year.

Asmodius 25/03/2013 at 06:42

Might I recommend a couple of other 'annual' climbers. Many years ago I grew 'Cobea scandans'and was amazed by the growth it made in one year. It was certainly a 'talking point'.Calling it 'lush' would be polite.
I also had a go at 'Eccremocarpus scaber'.
My gardening has always been a bit 'irregular'so I don't see anyone having any problems bringing these on from seed. It might be a bit late now .. but next year!(Always 'next year').
I also found Black-Eyed Susan easy from seed and many Garden Centres only seem to stock this as larger plants with what seems to me a hefty price tag.
Off subject just a little, the mention of Sweet Peas reminded me that I also grew the perennial sweet pea from seed with no difficulty. Now, I'm not sure of the value of the plant.

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