Annual climbers bring a stunning burst of colour to your garden in summer. They will quickly cover a trellis, obelisk or wigwam and flower for several months, only running out of steam when the first frosts arrive.
Annual climbers can be bought as plugs or full-grown plants but are easy to grow from seed, too. Find out how to sow annual climbers from seed.
As well as growing up a support, annual climbers will also scramble through shrubs and can be grown alongside perennial climbers, providing additional interest. They are especially useful in new gardens or borders, as they will quickly cover a wall or fence while perennial plants become established. They also grow brilliantly in pots.
Annual climbers hail from sunnier and warmer climes than the UK, so as a rule, grow in well-drained soil in full sun.
Here are nine annual climbers to grow.
Cobaea scandens, cathedral bells, has lush foliage and large, pretty bell-shaped flowers. It hails from tropical America, where it grows as a strong woody perennial. In a very mild winter the plant may survive and remain virtually evergreen, but it is usually grown as an annual up a wall, fence or pergola. It can also be grown in a large pot.
Chilean glory flower
The Chilean glory flower, Eccremocarpus scaber, is an exotic-looking climber with bright red, orange or yellow tubular flowers. It looks especially good scrambling over a dark green conifer or over a yew hedge. It’s grown as an annual in the UK but is actually a tender perennial – after a mild winter, it may come back the following year.
Sweet peas, Lathyrus odoratus, have deliciously fragrant flowers in a range of colours, from white to dark purple. They make excellent cut flowers. They need a cool moist root run, and regular watering in dry weather. Sow sweet pea seeds from October to March.
Spanish flag, Ipomoea lobata (formerly called Mina lobata), hass cascades of flowers that are red at the tip, fading to cream. It’s a half-hardy annual – sow from March to May and plant out after the last frosts. It looks great planted with other plants in ‘hot’ colours and grows very well in pots.
Black-eyed Susan, Thunbergia alata, is a half-hardy annual with flowers that have a distinctive black centre. There are several varieties to choose from, in shades of orange, yellow, pinky-red and even white. It is a native of east Africa, so enjoys warm, slightly humid weather with shelter from cold winds. Grow it in a sheltered spot in the garden; it looks great paired with Ipomoea lobata, as shown here.
Morning glory or Ipomoea tricolor, is a beautiful annual climber with violet-purple, trumpet-shaped blooms. It is easy to raise from seed and grows quickly. As its name suggests, the flowers open wide in the early morning sun before fading.
A beautiful annual climber from Mexico, the purple bell vine, Rhodochiton atrosanguineus, bears long dangling flowers from midsummer to autumn. The plants are useful for covering trellis or arches, or adding interest to the bare base of other climbers. It is easy to grow from seed.
Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus, are easy to grow, vigorous hardy annuals with bright orange or yellow flowers and disc-shaped leaves. They’re a magnet for bees and can be used as an ornamental climber, or companion plant on the veg patch, luring white butterflies away from brassicas and aphids away from beans. The flowers and leaves are edible and the immature seeds can be pickled and used like capers.
When runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) were introduced from America in the 17th century, they were grown as ornamentals. Their red or white or bi-coloured flowers are very pretty and look good in a border or potager – try growing them them up a wigwam with sweet peas. Discover more ways to mix edible and ornamental plants.