pruning a climbing plant

The planting of walls, pergolas, arches and trellis work with suitable plants is an important part of gardening, and deserves special consideration.

1) Planting

If you are planting at the base of a wall, the soil may well be of poor quality and contain subsoil or broken bricks, and if this is so, good soil in the form of loam should be substituted. It is also important to remember that the soil at the foot of a wall will tend to be much drier than other parts of the garden, and you should not forget to water.

The old fashioned method of attaching climbing plants to walls with nails looks ugly, and may well damage the bricks. The best thing is to fix a wooden trellis to the wall, but tightly stretched wires are just as good.

2) Aftercare

Wall plants often need extra care during their first season. A good mulch of garden compost or well-rotted manure should be given to conserve moisture, and some protection against frost may be needed.

3) Pruning and Training Climbing Plants

Unless pruning and training are correctly carried out, the whole effect of your wall trellis or pergola may be spoilt. The object of training is to cover a bare surface, but not completely, and of course it is important to keep windows free.

Shrub-like plants, such as wisteria, should be trained out to give cover where required, and have all shoots cut back annually to within two or three buds. Wisteria is best pruned just after leaf fall, but berrying shrubs should have unwanted shoots cut out in the early autumn in order to expose the fruits.

For clematis, correct pruning and training is very important. The early flowering ones should be carefully spaced out to give a basic framework; this will probably take at least two years. After the first year they should be cut back to within 60cm or 24 inch of the ground; this should be done in August.

The later flowering varieties are pruned in February just as growth commences by cutting back young shoots to two or three buds. In the training of wall plants, care must be taken to ensure that no woody stems are allowed to grow between the wall and any down pipes, as this will eventually cause trouble.

Rambler roses are not suited to wall training, but are very valuable for arches, pergolas or trellises. Each year when flowering is finished they should be taken down from their supports, and the old flowered growths should be cut out completely.

The young wood should then be evenly tied in over the space available. Both ramblers and climbers when newly planted should be cut back fairly hard in March.

4) List of Climbing Plants


Actinidia kolpmikta

Is a deciduous climber growing to 6m/20ft, with greenish white flowers about 1cm/ or ½ inch across, and oblong leaves about 15cm/6 inch long. Flowers in early summer, followed by yellow berries. Best on a south or west facing wall.

Campsis (Trumpet creeper) C. grandiflora

Is a deciduous climber growing to 9m/30ft, with funnel shaped orange flowers in August and September. C. x tagliabuana is a deciduous climber, very vigorous, reaching 10-5m/25ft, with 10cm/4 inch long scarlet flowers in August and September. Does best in hot climates.

Celastrus orbiculatus

Is a very vigorous deciduous climber growing to 12m/40ft. Small yellow flower June to August, slightly toothed leaves about 13cm/5 inch long. Very spectacular fruits in the autumn and winter.


These are generally considered to do best when their roots are in shade and their heads in sun. C. armandii is an evergreen climber to 6m/20ft, large clusters of white star shaped flowers in spring. C. heracleifolia has blue flowers in summer.

C. montana

Is a very vigorous deciduous climber reaching 9m/30ft, with white star shaped flowers in spring. Some of the large flowered hybrid clematis are: pink, Comtesse de Bouchaud, Nelly Moser; white, Henryi; blue, Jackmanii, Lasurstern; red, Ville de Lyon.

Clianthus puniceus (Parrpt’s Bill)

Is an evergreen climbing shrub reaching 3.5m/12ft. Large red flowers in clusters in summer, not very hardy.

Cobaea scandens

Not hardy, and therefore generally grown outdoors as an annual. Violet bell-shaped flowers 8cm/3 inch long from June to September.


Is a very vigorous climber, with white or pink flowers from April to June. Usually grown as a cool greenhouse plant, but will succeed against south facing walls in warmer parts of the US or UK.

Lonicera (Honeysuckle) L. x americana

Has creamy white flowers with a pink tinge, June to August. L. x brownii has orange-scarlet flowers in summer. L. periclymenum (woodbine) has large clusters of creamy white flowers in summer.

Passiflora caerulea (Passion Flower)

Is a vigorous evergreen climber, tender in cold districts. It has star shaped flowers up to 7cm/2 ½ inch wide, greenish white with blue stamens in the center.


See this article for a list of suggested climbing varieties.

Vitis (Vine) V. coignetiae

Is a very vigorous climber which can be grown over old trees or hedges, and can reach 18m/60ft. It is grown for its brilliant crimson and scarlet foliage in autumn, with leaves up to 25cm/10 inch long by 20cm/8 inch wide.

Wisteria W. floribunda

Has blue, purple or lilac flowers in early summer. W. sinensis is a deciduous woody climber with mauve flowers in late spring.