Every garden needs a few climbing plants or wall shrubs. They add height and privacy, and can be trained to grow on a fence, trellis or wall, as well as through other plants.
Discover 10 climbers to grow.
When you plant a climber, don’t just assume it will look after itself; only those with adhesive pads or adventitious roots will do this. Most need to be tied in to a support to begin with, or at the very least guided towards the support to help it get a grip.
Good climbers for fences include clematis, passion flowers and smaller climbing roses, such as ‘Blush Noisette’ and ‘Buff Beauty’, which bloom low down where you can enjoy them. For large walls and long fences, try vines and creepers.
Read our advice on how to train wall climbers and shrubs, below.
Support with wires
Give climbers support by fixing horizontal wires, 45cm apart, to your fence or wall. Space the vine eyes 1.8m apart horizontally, then run wire through them. Secure the ends by looping through the eye and wrapping around the shank. You can tighten the wire using a pair of pliers to turn the end of the vine eye. If the climber can’t grip by itself, tie its stems into the wires, keeping the twine loose to allow for growth.
Turning a vine-eye with pliers to tighten a wire support for a climber
Get the plant off to a good start
Before planting, stand the climber in water to soak the rootball thoroughly. Then dig a large planting hole at least 45cm from the base of your wall or fence. Add plenty of garden compost to retain moisture in the soil, as this location is often very dry. When planting, point the climber in the direction you want it to grow by tilting the rootball at a 45 degree angle.
Firming in a newly planted climber
Grow climbers up other plants
Growing climbers up other plants is a great way to add an extra season of interest to trees, spring-flowering shrubs and evergreens. Climbers always head towards the sun, so the trick when training them is always to plant them on the shady, north side of your living support. Suitable climbers include Clematis ‘Minuet’, which will scramble through low-growing to medium shrubs, and Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’, a rambler rose that will clamber into trees.
Planting a climber on the shady side of a shrub that it can grow up
Training wall shrubs
To clad a wall with a shrub such as ceanothus, set up series of horizontal wires, as above. Tie in the main shoot vertically, then fan out the side branches and tie in too. After flowering, remove any branches growing out from the wall, and tie in other shoots to fill any gaps. After the first two years, trim all flowered shoots to 10-15cm.
Blue caenothus flowers
Show off berries
If you don’t prune a wall-trained pyracantha, its vibrant berries will be hidden under new foliage by the time they ripen. First cut back any excess growth in spring to keep its shape against the wall, then in late summer snip the new growth back to just beyond the berries so they stand out against a leafy background.
Vibrant red pyracantha berries