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.


Akebia sp. is native to Far East (China, Japan, Korea). There are two species of Akebia in cultivation: five-leaf akebia (Akebia quinata) and three-leaf akebia (Akebia trifoliata).



Five-leaf Akebia (Akebia quinata) belongs to the family Lardizabalaceae and is native to Far East (China, Japan, Korea). It is a climbing shrub with twining stems and palmate deep green leaves composed of 5 leaflets (similar to Schefflera leaves). It is semi-evergreen and only sheds leaves after a big freeze. It grows up to 5-10 m high (1-3 m per year). It produces both female and male flowers on one plant. 

Male flowers
Female flowers

Small clusters consisting of bigger (2-3 cm across) chocolate-purple female flowers and smaller (0,5-1 cm) pink male flowers appear at the turn of April and May. The flowers give off a slightly spicy scent which may be an additional highlight when akebia grows next to the window, a gate or climbs up an arbour. The plant also bears very intriguing fruit. Grouped in sets of 2-3 (sometimes a lot more) oblong sausage-like pods, 10-13 cm long, ripen in October. Violet outside, they crack on ripening revealing white pulpy core with dark seeds. Only the pulp is edible: sweet in taste with a slightly melon aftertaste.




Akebiasets fruit most profusely in case of cross pollination, so it’s best to plant different cultivars or species at close proximity. If you want to increase crop, you may try pollinating the flowers on your own, by brushing male flowers of one cultivar against the female flowers of another.

Akebia quinata 
Akebia quinata 'Variegata'
Akebia quinata 'Silver Bells'
Akebia quinata 'Alba'


Apart from the species, several different cultivars are in cultivation:

  • 'Alba' – white male and female flowers, white-green fruit.
  • 'Silver Bells' – white bell-shaped male flowers with pink-purple stamens. Pale pink female flowers have a chocolate pistil. White-green fruit, lighter in colour than that of the species.
  • 'Variegata' – green and white variegated leaves, pale pink flowers. Leaf variegation is more pronounced in full sun. Fruit is smaller than that of the species and is also mottled with white. It’s less rampant than the species. All green leafed shoots should be cut out.


Akebia trifoliata

Three-leaf akebia (Akebia trifoliata) - an attractive climber with twining stems. Deciduous palmate leaves are divided into three wavy edged leaflets. Stems are violet when young and brown at maturity. Small deep purple flowers (both male and female) are borne in clusters in May and have a delicate cinnamon scent. Very interesting fruits, resembling a sausage in shape, are bigger than those of Akebia quinata (up to 13 cm long). Best planted in a sheltered position. It can be trained up various kinds of garden supports, or alternatively, allowed to climb up a tree. More sensitive to frost than Akebia quinata.




Akebia can grow in almost any position and in any ordinary soil but it doesn’t like shade or direct midday sunlight. It is sufficiently frost hardy to grow in a cool climate such as the Polish one, and although it may freeze in severe winters, in spring new shoots will appear at the base.


Owing to its vigorous growth and attractive thick and healthy foliage, it can quickly create a cover or a shady spot. Ideal for creating screens, covering arbours, pergolas, gates and fences, it can also climb up trees (but be careful that it doesn’t choke them) and grow over supports against walls. Akebia is suitable as a ground cover plant to cover large areas. Whatever the use, it will give an exotic touch to your garden.