Climbers provide us gardeners with precious growing space as we can utilize vertical spaces and soften harsh walls at the same time. Annual climbers will bloom all season and perennial climbers return each year. Invite hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden this year by selecting pollinator friendly plants.
What is a Climber?
A climber refers to any plant, annual or perennial, whose true nature it is to grow upwards and climb. At Pesche’s we sell a variety of both annual and perennial climbing plants.
Why Grow Climbers?
- Allows gardeners to create visual barriers for privacy or hide unsightly walls.
- They delight with beautiful, huge flower displays.
- Makes use of vertical growing area for small gardens.
- Fragrant choices like Honeysuckle, Wisteria or Clematis ‘Montana’ add sweet aromas to the garden.
- Wildlife friendly choices like Virgin’s Bower, Honeysuckle or Dutchman’s Pipe support pollinators.
- Vines with berries like Virginia Creeper and Wild Grape attract and sustain birds.
- Wild Passionflower Vine even has edible fruits!
Perennial climbers are divided into two groups: Self Climbing and Twining.
- Also known as self-clinging or self-adhesive.
- Grab hold fully by use of aerial roots or adhesive pads.
- Capable of growing up walls.
- Do not require additional trellis or support.
- Be aware that aerial roots can damage walls and fences.
- Includes English Ivy, Trumpet Vine, Boston Ivy, Virginia Creeper & Climbing Hydrangea.
- Use tendrils to wrap or twine around structures.
- Require additional support; i.e. trellis, frame, pole, wiring.
- Do not damage structures in any way.
- Includes Honeysuckle, Perennial Sweet Pea, Wisteria, Hops & Dutchman’s Pipe.
How to Care for Climbers
It is difficult to generalize care for all perennial climbing plants as each plant has its own unique requirements. Be certain to select the right plant for the conditions present; i.e. light levels, soil type, available space and the type of structure present. Many flowering vines enjoy a lot of sunshine and a lack of direct sun can lead to a reduction in flowers. As a general rule the foliage or ‘green’ vines need less sun than their blooming counterparts, and can still provide some seasonal interest; i.e. Virginia Creeper turns a vibrant red accompanied by blue berries in autumn. Clematis are known sun-lovers and require approximately 6+ hours of sunshine to achieve optimal blooming, however they benefit from having their base in a little shade to keep their roots cool. This is commonly referred to as wanting ‘their heads in the sun and their feet in the shade’ and can be achieved by planting around their base or mulching. Climbers planted in the ground do not require supplemental watering once they are established, although to ensure maximum blooms during drought conditions periodic deep watering will benefit plants. Top-dressing plants with compost or organic fertilizer, in addition to providing a good quality soil, will ensure overall plant health and enjoyable floral displays. For Clematis be sure to time fertilizer applications in spring or autumn and avoid their bloom period, as fertilizer applications can decrease or even cease flowering of plants.
How to Prune Climbers
As a rule of thumb, early flowering plants are pruned immediately after flowering, thereby allowing plants sufficient time to develop next years flower buds. Plants that bloom between mid-summer and autumn are pruned early in spring, before or as growth commences. Keep in mind that not all climbers need to be pruned every year, and in fact that some should not be pruned regularly as this will interfere with flowering. Species that bloom on old wood will not bloom if pruned regularly, whilst plants that bloom on new wood benefit from hard prunes.
There is a lot of confusion regarding the pruning of Clematis. Read this brief factsheet detailing Clematis groupings and their pruning requirements.
Perennial Climbers for the Chicagoland Area
- American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens)
- Boston Ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
- Clematis (Clematis sp.)
- Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala var. petiolaris)
- Dutchman’s Pipe Vine (Aristolochia macrophylla)
- English Ivy (Hedera helix)
- Hardy Kiwi (Actinidia sp.)
- Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
- Hops (Humulus lupulus)
- Perennial Sweet Pea (Lathyrus latifolius)
- Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans
- Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)
Illinois Native Perennial Climbers
- American Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens)
- Catbriers or Greenbriers (Smilax sp.)
- Climbing Wild Rose (Rosa setigera)
- Grape Honeysuckle (Lonicera reticulata)
- Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
- Virgin’s Bower (Clematis virginiana)
- Wild Grape (Vitis sp.)
- Wild Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
- Yellow Passionflower (Passiflora lutea)
Clematis Pruning Groups
Pesche's Clematis Selection 2020