Climbing plants are worth their weight in gold, clothing walls and fences, and hiding unsightly views. They also add ornamental interest with pretty foliage and flowers, many of which are scented. Plus, large vertical surfaces allow climbing plants the space they need to spread out, for full dramatic effect.
Discover 10 climbers to grow.
A bare fence isn’t much use to wildlife – birds can’t nest in it, butterflies can’t hibernate in it, and bees, caught in a sudden downpour, can’t fly use it for shelter. Cover it in climbers, and it’s a different story – even a single plant can support a range of wildlife species.
Here are seven climbers that not only look good but are great for wildlife, too.
Passiflora caerulea has dark, evergreen leaves and exotic-looking flowers. It provides general shelter for insects and birds, and nectar for some pollinators.
Scented honeysuckles come in a range of colours, from dark red to yellow. They provide shelter for nesting birds, nectar for pollinators (including moths), leaves for caterpillars and berries for birds. Our native Lonicera periclymenum is ideal.
Humulus lupulus provides shelter for insects and leaves for caterpillars, including the comma butterfly.
Ivy (Hedera helix) provides long-lasting, evergreen cover. It provides shelter for nesting birds and hibernating insects, nectar for pollinators, berries for birds and leaves for caterpillars (including the holly blue butterfly).
Trachelospermum jasminoides is a woody evergreen climber with dark leaves and white, fragrant flowers. It provides general shelter for birds and insects, and flowers for pollinators.
Wisteria is a stunning woody climber with clusters of lightly fragrant, lilac flowers in spring. It provides shelter for nesting birds and insects, nectar and pollen for bees.
Clematis tangutica ‘Bill MacKenzie’
Clematis tangutica ‘Bill MacKenzie’ has nodding yellow flowers in summer and wispy seedheads in autumn. It provides shelter for insects and birds and nectar and pollen for bees.
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Avoid the ‘rain shadow’ when planting
It’s important to avoid the ‘rain shadow’ – the area immediately beneath a wall or fence where the rain doesn’t fall and where conditions are too dry for most plants to grow successfully. Plant climbers 45cm away, at an angle, to avoid it.
Other plants to try
Field rose (Rosa arvensis) – glossy leaves on arching stems, plus white flowers
Dog rose (Rosa canina) – a climbing rose with lots of pink flowers and a yellow centre
Clematis vitalba (Old man’s beard’) – our native clematis, with pretty white flowers and fluffy seedheads