Other plants

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.

Hedera helix - common ivy

Ivy is one of the most popular garden climbing plants, cultivated already in the ancient Greece and Rome, greatly valued for its attractive evergreen foliage. It belongs to the Araliaceae family, also known as the Aralia family.


It is an evergreen climbing plant growing up to 30 m high and producing 0.5-1 m of new growth a year. It’s very long-lived, the oldest specimen are over 200 years old. The main attraction are its handsome evergreen, deep green leaves.

It climbs by means of aerial rootlets, which cling to the support. Ivy passes through two stages of development: a juvenile (growing) stage and an adult (flowering and fruiting) stage, which differ substantially in plant’s appearance and its growing habit. The plant in the juvenile stage (the most popular one) has flexible stems with aerial rootlets. The mature form has rigid stems, sometimes rising upwards, with very few or no aerial rootlets present. The leaves on juvenile creeping stems are large ovate, three- to five-lobed, with a heart-shaped base. The leaves on adult flowering stems are oval or rhomboidal and have no lobes. Inconspicuous, small, greenish-white flowers are produced from September to November, gathered in round umbels. The fruit are black-violet berries ripening in late winter. The cultivars 'Thorndale' and 'Woerner' are excellent for widespread use, while 'Profesor Seneta' is better for smaller areas and for a mild climate.

  • 'Profesor Seneta' - the best variegated cultivar. Deep green leaves are splashed with golden-yellow at the centre. It grows up to 4 m high (0,5 m of new growth a year).
  • 'Thorndale' - the best groundcover of all Common ivy cultivars. Large glossy deep green leathery leaves with pale veins. A very vigorous and spreading plant. Recommended for half-shade or shade, it’s an excellent plant for a public green space. The most commonly cultivated ivy in the USA. Relatively frost-hardy.
  • 'Woerner' - deep green leaves with prominent white veins. Recommended for half-shade or shade, it’s a vigorous plant, suitable for both climbing walls, as groundcover, or a screening plant. Ideal for a public green space, relatively frost hardy.


It grows best in shade or partial shade. In a sunny position it is more likely to freeze during severe winters. It doesn’t like dry acid soils, but will tolerate well most average soils.

It makes an excellent groundcover plant, replacing lawn in shades areas, e.g. at the base of the trees. Ideal for growing up trees, pergolas, walls, fences and anywhere where an evergreen cover or screen is needed.