Climbing plants are worth their weight in gold in the garden. Covering walls, fences and buildings, they can mask unsightly features and provide additional interest and wildlife value. They also take up very little soil space, enabling you to squeeze more plants into your plot.
There’s a wide variety of climbers to choose from, ranging from ‘true climbers’ that naturally have a climbing habit, to shrubs which can be trained to grow against a wall, given the correct pruning and support. Some are annual and will quickly cover a feature in a season, perhaps while you wait for a perennial climber or wall shrub to fill the space. Many climbers are self-clinging, meaning you don’t have to provide a structure for them, while others will need tying in.
Browse our pick of the best fast-growing climbers to grow, including annuals and perennials, self-clingers and wall shrubs.
Perennial sweet pea
The perennial cousin of the sweet pea, Lathyrus latifolius will cover a fence or wall in a season, before completely dying down in winter. Provide support and tie stems into the framework initially. Flowers are usually pink but other cultivars have white flowers. Unlike sweet peas, its blooms are not fragrant.
H x S: 2m x 2m.
Known for its gorgeous autumn colour, Virginia creeper is a great climber for training up a house or large wall or other structure. Its vigorous habit makes it unsuitable for small gardens, and it requires a lot of maintenance to keep its growth in check. Provide support for the first couple of years and prune annually. Discover how to grow Virginia creeper.
H x S: 15m x 5m.
This annual climber is easy to grow and has a naturally trailing habit, which you can take advantage of to train up a trellis or pergola. It’s blooms are popular with bumblebees, while its leaves are eaten by caterpillars of the large and small white butterflies. Both the leaves and flowers are edible, while the whole plant can be used as a companion plant to deter whitefly from other crops.
H x S: 30cm x 45cm.
Another annual climber, sweet peas will quickly cover an obelisk or trellis and provide you with masses of fragrant blooms all summer long. Its blooms are particularly popular with leafcutter bees. Some varieties are self-clinging while others need tying into their support. Browse our collection of sweet pea plant profiles.
H x S: 2m x 30m.
Related to Japanese knotweed, Fallopia baldschuanica is an extremely vigorous climber that should be grown only with extreme caution. While deciduous, it can quickly smother an entire garden and if you don’t keep it under control you could upset your neighbours.
H x S: 12m x 4m.
Golden clematis is a late-flowering variety, bearing yellow nodding blooms followed by decorative, fluffy seedheads. Its blooms are loved by bumblebees, while its seedheads make fantastic nesting material for birds. It can become huge if not managed, so cut it back hard in spring to keep its growth in check. Cultivars to grow include ‘Golden Tiara’.
H x S: 7m x 6m.
Rambling roses are extremely vigorous climbers and will quickly cover a wall or fence if provided with support. Some, such as ‘Rambling Rector’ are suitable for growing in partial shade. Over time, rambling roses provide dense shelter in which birds may nest. Those with single, open flowers provide pollen and nectar for bees, while hips provide winter food for birds and small mammals. Tie shoots into a trellis or wires initially, and make sure you provide plenty of growing space.
H x S: 6m x 2m.
For a fast-growing, edible climber, look no further than the kiwi, Actinidia deliciosa. Its ornamental white flowers are followed by egg-shaped fruit. Grow the vigorous vine in a sunny, sheltered spot, up a trellis or pergola. Varieties to try include ‘Jenny’, which is self-fertile and doesn’t require a pollination partner.
H x S: 6m x 4m.