Climbers - Clematis - Źródło Dobrych Pnączy


Growing climbers

Apart from clematis, there exists a large group of climbing vines worth popularising. Climbers take up little space in the garden all the while giving a spectacular display owing to the mass of greenery they produce: Silvervine Fleeceflower (Fallopia), Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia), Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus), Trumpet Creeper (Campsis), Vitis, Parthenocissus, Monks Hood Vine (Ampelopsis), Actinidia, beautiful flowers: Wisteria, Trumpet Creeper (Campsis), Honeysuckle (Lonicera) and ornamental fruit: Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus), Nightshade (Solanum), Ampelopsis, as well as edible fruit: Actinidia, Magnolia Vine (Schisandra) and Akebia. The majority of climbers climb by twining spirally round the support, while others, owing to the presence aerial rootlets e.g. Ivies (Hedera), Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), Trumpet Vine (Campsis), Japanese Hydrangea Vine (Schizophragma hydrangeoides) and Wintercreeper Euonymus (Euonymus fortunei), or adhesive tendril tips, e.g. Japanese Creeper (Parthenocissus), are self-clinging and can scale a flat wall, without added support.

Climbers are particularly useful for covering outer walls of buildings. Apart from their decorative aspect, they also act as insulation during winter, and retain a pleasant coolness inside the house during hot summer days. They also help keep the walls dry by shielding them from the rain, and draining excess water away from the foundations. Creepers are best suited to this end, but you can equally well use ivies or Trumpet Vine, or any other climber on condition that a suitable support is provided.

Climbers can cover unsightly buildings, sheds, warehouses, rubbish sheds, etc. hiding them quickly from view. If you want to have the effect in just one year, you should try Silvervine Fleeceflower (Fallopia aubertii), Hop (Humulus), on clematis belonging to the Tangutica Group e.g. 'Bill MacKenzie' or ‘Lambton Park’ or alternatively, Clematis'Paul Farges' of the Vitalba Group. If you can wait 2-3 years, you can use any climbing vine described in this section.

Climbers can grow up various kinds of fences (np. siatki) (e.g. wire meshes). They will not only provide decoration, but will also screen us from nosy people's eyes and protect us against winter and dust. The following plants are excellent for this purpose: Common Ivy (Hedera helix), Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera acuminata), clematis of the Atragene Group (especially 'Pamela Jackman'), the Tangutica Group (especially 'Lambton Park'), the Viticella Group (especially 'Etoile Violette' and 'Polish Spirit') and the Vitalba Group (especially 'Paul Farges'), Monks Hood Vine (Ampelopsis aconitifolia), Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).

The majority of climbers don’t require any special soil conditions, but since they produce a large mass of greenery, they don’t like very dry and poor soils. Heat-loving species, such as actinidias (Actinidia), wisterias (Wisteria) and trumpet creepers (Campsis), prefer warm, sheltered and sunny sites, while Common Ivy (Hedera), Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia), Schizophragma (Schizophragma), Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei), Akebia (Akebia), Hop (Humulus) and some honeysuckles (Lonicera) will feel better in a cooler, shaded and moist site.

When planting climbers dig a hole of 50x50x50 cm and fill it with fertile soil. Depending on the species, put the plant 0-10 cm deeper than it used to grow in a pot, at least 30-50 cm away from the wall and 50-100 cm away from the trees. Well chosen and correctly planted climbers can grow for many years, decorating your garden all year round and providing excellent shelter for birds.

Ground covers

Ground covers can successfully substitute lawn, create borders or provide greenery beneath taller plants. They hinder the weed growth and prevent the soil from being blown or washed away, or getting too dry.

They also reduce costly and time-consuming maintenance while adding aesthetic value to the garden. Carefully selected plants according to the location, aspect, the size of the area to cover and the vigorousness of the neighbouring plants will produce the best results.

Both climbers, which are vigorous in habit and grow just as well on the ground if not given a support, and slower growing dwarf shrubs make excellent ground cover. They are resistant and undemanding and will adorn your garden with masses of foliage and/or flowers. There exist ground covers for any possible location: for semi-shade or even shade (e.g. ivy, Euonymus Fortunei, Climbing Hydrangea, Schizophragma or Vinca minor), a dwarf shrub that isn't a climber), and shady areas are often a landscaping challenge. You'll also find ground covers that will do well in a sunny, slightly drying location (e.g. Clematis from the Tangutica group).

  • species and cultivars
  • planting
  • culture
  • frost hardiness zones
  • overall table

ph roslina clematis integrifolia
Clematis from Integrifolia Group create a colourful ground cover (fot. Sz. Marczyński)
ph roslina clematis arabella 6tyg
Clematis Integrifolia Group 'Arabella' six weeks after planting (fot. Sz. Marczyński)
ph roslina clematis arabella okrywa
Clematis Integrifolia Group 'Arabella' creates a ground cover (fot. Sz. Marczyński)

Clematis 'Praecox' from the Heracleifolia Groupis the best ground cover clematis. It's a cross between (Clematis vitalba) and (Clematis tubulosa) (which is very similar to (Clematis heracleifolia). The stems spread over the ground growing up to 3-4m long annually and in just a few weeks engulf the area with a thick carpet of foliage that smothers the weeds and prevents the soil from drying and overheating. Three-lobed, toothed, dark green leaves. Bunches of small (3-4 cm in diameter) beige-violet flowers cover the plant in July and August. Sufficiently hardy for a cool climate, like the Polish one. Depending on the area it's supposed to cover, you should either prune it hard or light. When the space you cover is quite small, it's better to use less vigorous 'Mrs Robert Brydon', which grows up to 2 m annually, has pale violet flowers and dark green glossy leaves that are bigger than those of 'Praecox'.

If the area to cover is relatively small, you can also use other herbaceous clematis, especially from the Integrifolia Group (e.g. Clematis'Arabella' (1994), 'Alionushka', 'Sizaia Ptitsa' or 'Pamiat Serdtsa') and they will cover it with a colourful carpet of flowers.

If the area is a bit bigger, other clematis, such as the Artagene Group, the Vitalba Group, the Viticella Group or the Tangutica Group (the latter are especially recommendable for a sunny site), will do very well.

  • Clematis - Atragene group.
    Cultivars derived from mountain species blooming between April and June on old wood (e.g. C. alpina or C. macropetala). The stems grow up to 2-3m and when left without support they spread over the ground and climb up the surrounding shrubs and trees. At the end of April and the beginning of May they turn into a colourful carpet of flowers: blue - 'Pamela Jackman', 'Lagoon', 'Frankie', 'Maidwall Hall'; violet - 'Jan Lindmark', 'Cecile', 'Blue Bird', 'Frances Rivis'; pink - 'Willy', 'Markham's Pink', 'Jacqueline du Pré', 'Constance', 'Ruby'; or white - sibirica, 'White Swan', 'Riga', 'Albina Plena'. The flowers turn into fluffy seed heads later in the season. All the plants are undemanding and resistant, but they don't like dry and acid soil. They can be used either in semi-shade or sun. Prune only when needed, after the flowering period has ended.
  • Clematis - the Vitalba group.
    'Paul Farges' (SUMMER SNOW) is one of the most valuable cultivars from the group. It's vigorous, undemanding, healthy and very hardy. It will tolerate various types of soil and site. Prune in spring either hard (20-40cm from the base), or moderately (100-150cm from the base) depending on the need and the area available.
  • Clematis - the Viticella group.
    This group comprises summer-flowering clematis that bloom very profusely and over a long period. They are generally healthy and resistant, and do well in mediocre soil. When left without support, they sprawl over the ground forming colourful carpets. The following cultivars are particularly valuable: blue - 'Emilia Plater' and 'Prince Charles'; violet 'Etoile Violette' and 'Polish Spirit', red 'Mme Julia Correvon' i 'Kermesina' and lilac-pink 'Solina'. Prune hard every spring, 20-40cm from the base.
  • Clematis - the Tangutica group.
    Yellow-flowered clematis derived from C. tangutica and C. orientalis, free-flowering from June to October. Grow them without support to produce carpets of ground cover. 'Lambton Park', 'Bill MacKenzie' and 'Aureolin' are particularly valuable. They thrive in a sunny site. Hardy and undemanding, they will tolerate drying, poor soil, but don't like compact, waterlogged soil, so good draining is essential. Best pruned hard in March - April, 10-40 cm from the base.

Many plants grown as climbers can also be used as ground cover, e.g. Euonymus fortunei ('Coloratus' is its most appropriate cultivar for covering large areas - it's vigorous, resistant and undemanding), Ivy, Climbing Hydrangea, Japanese Hydrangea Vine and Virginia Creeper (especially for large areas). In a milder climate, for instance a sheltered spot in western, southern or central Poland, you can use Lonicera japonica 'Aureoreticulata' (yellow-green leaves) and 'Halliana' (free-flowering over a long period, fragrant) or Five-Leaf Akebia.

ph okrywowe Euonymus fortunei coloratus jablonka
Euonymus fotunei 'Coloratus'

Euonymus fotunei - low, evergreen or semi-evergreen conifers.

  • 'Coloratus' - the most vigorous of all Euonymus cultivars. Large (6cm across), lustrous, evergreen leaves turn dark purple in autumn to become green once again in spring. This change of colours provides year round interest and enlivens the garden. A perfect ground cover plant for a sunny, semi- shady or even shady spot, especially for large areas. When planted next to a fence it will reach even up to 2m in height, covering it completely. When grown with the density of 5 plants per square meter, it will cover the area in 1-2 years. Pest and disease resistant, and relatively hardy.
  • 'Emerald Gaiety' - small (3 cm across), dark green leaves with irregular white margins. Stems creep along the ground, creating an effect of a green-white wave. Plant between 7 and 10 plants per square meter. It can freeze during harsh winters.
  • 'Emerald'n Gold' - Small (3 cm across), green leaves with bright yellow margins. The variegation disappears when grown in deep shade. Erect to semi-erect stems will grow even up to 2 m high when planted near a support (a fence or a tree). If trimmed, they will spread forming a dense mat. It may be grown next to Clematis to protect the base of the plant from the sun. Plant between 7 and 10 plants per square meter. It can freeze during harsh winters.
  • 'Interbolwi' - Small (3 cm across), deep green leaves with a bright yellow center. The form is spreading in habit and doesn't need pruning. Well suited for covering large areas, filling up space beneath taller shrubs, or edging. It grows well both in sun and light shade, forming an attractive green-yellow carpet. Plant between 5 to 8 plants per square meter. One of the frost hardiest forms of Euonymus.
  • 'Silver Queen' - A charming plant with attractive foliage. Relatively large (5cm across) leaves are creamy-yellow in spring and over time turn green with a wide creamy-yellow margin, which becomes white in summer. It tolerates pruning well and quickly forms a dense tangled mat. If left untrimmed, it will climb, attaining in a few years 2-3 m in height, and will bear rather inconspicuous flowers followed by fruit. Plant between 5 and 8 plants per square meter. It can freeze in harsh winters. Plant in a sheltered spot as ground cover, to fill up space beneath taller shrubs or as edging.
  • 'Sunspot' - Small (4 cm across), elliptic, boldly corrugated, deep green leaves with a bright yellow center. They turn slightly red in winter. Young shoots are yellow and spread over the ground, forming an attractive yellow-green carpet. No pruning required. It's suitable for covering large areas, both in sun and shade, filling up space beneath taller shrubs or edging. One of the frost-hardiest forms of Euonymus. Plant 5-8 plants per square meter.

Common Ivy  Hedera helix

  • 'Thorndale'. The best Ivy cultivar. Large (10 cm across), evergreen leaves are dark green with a brighter shade along the veins. Vigorous in habit, it quickly covers the ground with a dense carpet, especially in shade or semi-shade. It scales walls, climbs up trees or other supports attaining even up to 30 meters in height. It doesn't like dry and acid soil. One of the hardiest Ivy cultivars. Plant 3-5 plants per square meter.


Climbing Hydrangea - Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris.
Large (10 cm across) green leaves turn yellow in autumn and fall in winter. A good ground cover for shade or semi-shade. It climbs up porous supports by means of adventitious roots and may attain a height of even 20 meters (0,5-1m annually). It doesn't like dry and alkaline soil. Fully frost-hardy. Plant 2-4 plants per square meter.

Japanese Hydrangea Vine - Schizophragma hydrangeoides.
A good ground cover plant for shade or semi-shade. Green leaves. White flowers appear in July. It can climb up porous supports by means of adventitious roots and achieve a height of 10 meters (0,5m annually). It'doesn't like dry and alkaline soil. Plant in a sheltered spot, with the density of 2-4 plants per square meter. Its cultivar 'Moonlight' has silvery grey shading on the upper surface of the leaves. 'Roseum' has pale pink flowers and dark green leaves with a reddish tinge.

ph roslina parthenocissus quinquefolia okrywowa
Parthenocissus quinquefolia as a ground cover (fot. Sz. Marczyński)
ph roslina aristolochia durior okrywowa
Aristolochia durior as a ground cover; Wrocław Botanical Garden (fot. Sz. Marczyński)

Virginia Creeper - Parthenocissus quinquefolia.
A vigorous climber that grows up to 1-2 meters annually. It can be used as ground cover, especially for large areas in sun or semi-shade. Leaves are green in summer and turn crimson in autumn. Undemanding, healthy and fully hardy. Plant 1-2 plants per square meter.

Thicket Creeper - Parthenocissus inserta.
A fully hardy, healthy and vigorous climber (1-2 m of annual growth). It can be used as ground cover, especially for large areas in sun or semi-shade. Leaves are green in summer and turn crimson in autumn. Plant 1-2 plants per square meter.

Japanese Honeysuckle - Lonicera japonica.
Healthy and undemanding evergreen climber that makes good ground cover. Plant 1 plant per square meter. It may freeze during harsh winters. Its cultivar, 'Halliana' produces fragrant flowers in grand profusion and over a long period. Due to its vigorous growth (1-2 m annually) it is recommended for covering large areas. 'Aureoreticulata' has yellow-green leaves and is moderately vigorous in habit (1m annually). Plant in a sheltered spot.

Five-Leaf Akebia - Akebia quinata.
It grows up to 5-6 meters tall (1-3 m annually) by twining round a support. When left without support, the stems will creep over the ground, take roots and spread. It will do well in any moderate soil. It's quite expansive and as such it's particularly useful in big gardens and for covering large areas. Plant in semi-shade, 1-2 plants per square meter.

Vinca minor.
Dwarf shrubs, especially Vinca minor, also make good ground cover. An evergreen dwarf shrub with small, 3 cm across, deep green leaves. Stems grow between 30 and 80 cm annually, spread over the ground and take roots forming a dense mat. It bears attractive flowers that vary in colour: blue in the species and blue, purple and white in the cultivars. It's best grown in partial shade or shade and in moderately moist soil. Plant 10 plants per square meter. Sufficiently frost-hardy.

  • 'Alba' - white flowers.
  • 'Atropurpurea' - violet-purple flowers.
  • 'Gertrude Jekyll' - shining white flowers, the most valuable white-flowered cultivar.
  • 'La Grave' - blue flowers, attractive glossy leaves. Vigorous and easy to propagate.
  • 'Plena' - double blue flowers.
  • 'Ralph Shugert' - blue flowers, white-margined leaves. An excellent cultivar for both sun and shade.



Proper site preparation is essential. Remove all weeds, rubble and anything else that may obstruct the growth of the plants. Spread evenly the organic matter, such as manure or compost, on the soil and incorporate it. The plant density depends on the growth habit of the selected plants. Finally, it's good to spread pine bark over the ground between the plants.


You must consider watering system. Drip or trickle irrigation system that uses a special tube laid just beneath the ground is best to this end. Encourage the growth of the plants by fertilizing every spring (in April). All the stems that grow up too high or spread excessively should be cut back.