Climbing plants and wall shrubs cover walls, fences, unsightly features, arches, obelisks and pergolas. True climbers take up little ground space, and are excellent choices for smaller gardens, whereas wall shrubs require more ground space. Popular plants are: clematis, roses, wisteria and honeysuckle
Climbers have a natural tendency to climb and some will even self-cling, without requiring tying-in to supports. Wall shrubs, by contrast, do not naturally climb. If left alone, they bush outwards and grow like shrubs. With specific pruning and training techniques, they can be trained to grow against walls.
Choosing a climber or wall shrub
When choosing a climber or wall shrub it is important to consider several factors:
- Aspect: Sun-loving plants won’t thrive against a shady wall.
- Size: Match the vigour of the plant to the allotted space.
- Hardiness: Do not plant tender plants in an exposed situation.
- Climbing habit: Some climbers (such as Campsis) are self-clinging, but other climbers and all wall shrubs require supports and tying in.
Planting climbers and wall shrubs
See our advice on trees and shrubs: planting for information on planting technique. Some climbers, such as certain species of Clematis, have particular requirements. Delay the planting of tender plants until the spring.
Trees and shrubs: planting
Water well during periods of dry weather in the first few years after planting. Remember that plants against walls or under eaves may not receive much rainfall.
In spring, apply a high potassium fertiliser (such as Vitax Q4) at the dose recommended on the packet, and mulch with organic matter (garden compost or well rotted manure, for example). Leave a 10cm (4in) collar free of mulch around the woody stems, to avoid risk of rotting the bark.
See our advice on container maintenance for further information on looking after climbers and wall shrubs in pots.
Climber and wall shrubs can be propagated by cuttings and layering; species plants can be propagated from seed, but named cultivars are unlikely to come true by this method.
For a sunny south or west-facing wall:
For a shady north or east-facing wall:
- Parthenocissus: Also known as Boston ivy and Virginia creeper, this deciduous self-clinging climber has fantastic autumn colour but can damage the mortar between bricks.
- Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris AGM: This self-clinging deciduous climbing hydrangea has attractive purplish bark, heart-shaped leaves and heads of white lace-cap type flowers in summer. See our hydrangea profile for advice on growing this plant.
- Akebia quinata: This semi-evergreen climber, also known as the chocolate vine, has five-lobed leaves and scented brownish-purple flowers in early spring, sometimes followed by fleshy purple fruits.
- Garrya elliptica ‘James Roof’: Click here to see our advice this evergreen winter-flowering wall shrub.
- Rosa ‘Albéric Barbier’ AGM: This deciduous rambling rose has a spectacular flush of scented cream blooms in June, followed by a few flowers later in the season.
Climbers and wall shrubs can suffer from various pest and disease problems including powdery mildew, aphids and scale insects. Popular climbers, such as roses, clematis and wisteria also suffer from specific pests and diseases. See these individual plant profiles for further information.
Group Climbers and shrubs or trees that can be wall-trained
Flowering time Various
Height and spread Various
Planting time Spring or autumn; tender plants in spring
Aspect Any, depending on the plant
Hardiness From tender to fully hardy
Difficulty From easy to moderate