How To Train A Climbing Plant

How-To's · Written by Roger

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There are several different ways climbing plants “climb”.

  • Scramblers – These plants don’t have a built in mechanism for climbing, but push out long shoots and sort of ramble over anything and everything. They’ll need training and help to keep them climbing.
  • Clinging Climbers – These plants naturally climb with adhesive rootlets and pads.  They’ll climb and stick to wood, masonry and tree trunks too.
  • Twining Climbers – These plants have stems and tendrils that wrap themselves around supports, wire fencing, lattice & trellises.

In many cases you’ll need to help each of these along in the beginning.

A Method Of Training A Climber

In these pictures I am starting a new honeysuckle vine at the base of a rail fence. Honeysuckle would be a “twining climber”.  It came from the nursery in a pot with 3 bamboo stakes to help support it.

After planting the honeysuckle close to the fence, I carefully removed the bamboo stakes and let the vines lay down on the ground.

I then begin to select & arrange the individual stems by holding them up to the wood rails to see how they look. It’s also important to be conscious of how fragile these stems are – don’t make them bend where they don’t want to go!

Once I find an appropriate position for the vine, I install an eyehook near the spot where I want the stem to be. The perfect tool for this is an awl. Its tappered point lets you make a small hole for the eyehook. Once you get the eyehook started in the wood, you can use the awl as leverage to tighten it (see pic at left).

Using a twist-tie (or string) loop the eyehook with the stem leaving a space for the vine to grow and move.

In many cases the vine will naturally start to twine and attach itself to your fence, trellis or other structure. From time to time check to see if the ties are constricting the vine stems. If the vine eventually begins to support itself you can remove the ties.

Aftercare and maintenance is another issue and, of course, depends on the particular type of vine and application.

Make no mistake, a climbing plant needs attention in one form or another. If you appreciate and are willing to do the maintenance, it is well worth the effort. There’s simply no substitute for “that look”.

If you’re a landscape designer or contractor climbers are a great feature to create interesting vertical and overhead  effects.  They also can be the solution to challenges of limited space.

Just make sure you have provisions for care and maintenance in place.

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