Climbing plants offer fast coverage to create privacy or provide screening for an unsightly fence, boring wall or garden shed.
The vigorous growth of climbing plants can make them challenging to manage, so selecting the right plant for your needs is important. This guide should help ensure a great result.
Understanding the different mechanisms plants have for climbing is important as it determines the support your climber needs to perform at its best.
Tendril climbers send out tendrils, often seen as little spring-like coils, that will grip around anything they reach. Generally, these tendrils shoot from the top of the leaf axils, which is the point where the leaf stem joins the main stem. These tendrils can easily grip around wire and mesh. Examples include passionfruit and grapes (Vitis species).
A sub-group of tendril climbers have small, sticky discs on the end of the tendrils. They use these to bind to whatever they come into contact with so are more suited to hard surfaces than wire. Colourful, deciduous Boston or Japanese ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) are widely known.
Twining plants will wind their stems around just about anything they can, from wire to pergola posts. Twiners are some of the most vigorous climbing plants. The native Pandoreas and Hardenbergias are great examples of this twining group. Twiners are genetically programmed to twist either clockwise or anti-clockwise, and you cannot change this with training.
Root climbers develop aerial roots from their stems to adhere to surfaces. They hold best on porous or textured surfaces, so they don’t have much success on a tin fence or shed and may come away in a sheet if they do get a hold. The most well-known are the true ivies (Hedera species) and climbing fig (Ficus pumila).
Scrambling climbers happily grow in a tumbling mound if they cannot find anything to climb. Some will twine given the opportunity while others drape over any structure or plant they can find. The native golden guinea flower (Hibbertia scandens) is a twining example. Many use backward pointing thorns as their climbing mechanism. The best examples are the Bougainvilleas and climbing roses.
It is important to be aware of the potential damage that some climbing plants can cause.
Twining climbers, such as wisteria, can do great damage to other plants or structural posts as they mature. Their once-pliable stem becomes thickened and woody, crushing whatever it is wrapped around, including pergola posts.
Climbers with sticky feet, whether they be sticky tendrils or aerial roots, can cause surface damage to paintwork or render if removed. Climbers with sticky tendrils leave their little discs behind if pulled off and these can be very difficult to remove, especially from brickwork.
Any of the sticky-footed climbers can develop into a very thick mat on a wall. This mat can then peel off in one huge slab potentially pulling off render (or even bricks).
Don’t underestimate the weight of any climber. Any support you provide needs to consider their bulk and weight once they reach a good size and have a full canopy.
Your main aim will be maximum foliage cover in the areas you need it. The training required will vary. Here are some tips for training climbers:
It’s popular to grow a climber up and over an existing structure such as a pergola, or over a frame to create an arbour. Here are some more ways you can use climbing plants at your place:
Need help selecting a climbing plant to create privacy or screening? Join in the discussion and the Bunnings Workshop community will be happy to assist.
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