Don’t be put off by shady walls and fences. There are more climbing plants and wall shrubs that enjoy partial or complete shade than there are those which like full sun.

sweet orange-colored climbing plant

Many climbers like honeysuckle are woodland plants which love having cool, moist but not waterlogged roots. In their natural homes they scramble up trees to find the sun, making them ideal for north and east facing aspects.

Vertical gardening takes up very little sideways space. In very small gardens where trees and shrubs cannot be grown, climbing plants are invaluable for adding the dimension of height when used to cover walls and fences. Bare, vertical surfaces look much better when dressed with flowers and foliage.

Provide Climbing Plants with a Little Support

Climbers concentrate their energies into producing long, fast-growing shoots as opposed to stout, self-supporting stems. Support and training are vital to the successful use of climbers in the garden.

Put up a network of galvanized wires or trellis, making sure there is a gap between the support and the wall—this improves air circulation, thereby reducing the likelihood of powdery mildew attack.

Even the self-clinging ones such as Ivy and ornamental vines will get hold more readily if you give them a little support for a year or two after planting.

ornamental sweet potato vines
Ornamental sweet potato vines.)

Some of the Best Climbing Plants for Shady Places

Variegated Ivies

Variegated ivies are ideal in shade. Larger-leaved species may not be quite as vivid as they would be in full sun, but they do brighten up drab corners.

The Persian ivy, Hedera colchica ‘Dentata Variegata’ has broad leathery leaves with irregular creamy-white margins. Planted together with Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart’ which has huge heart-shaped, mid-green leaves, suffused with creamy-yellow the effect is spectacular.

Parthenocissus Henryana

Parthenocissus henryana

Parthenocissus henryana is an ornamental vine that clings by its tendrils which have adhesive tips. It can be encouraged to attach itself by initially sticking the young stems to a wall with a dollop of Blu Tack. The leaves which color richly in autumn are divided into five. They are particularly noteworthy, because of their attractive silver veins.


Scent can be added to a shady corner with a honeysuckle. Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’, the Japanese honeysuckle, is evergreen or semi-evergreen producing clusters of smallish-white, fragrant flowers which turn deep yellow as they age from summer into autumn.

An excellent cultivar of Lonicera periclymenum (the common honeysuckle) ‘GrahamThomas’ carries heavy crops of sweetly scented creamy-yellow flowers in early summer. Bright red berries follow.

Clematis Montana ‘Grandiflora’

clematis montana 'grandiflora'

Clematis montana ‘Grandiflora’ is very vigorous. Its foliage which is bronze-purple in its infancy will be smothered in large white flowers every spring. The early flowering Clematis alpina ‘Francis Rivis’ will produce a blanket of single mid-blue blooms on a north-west facing fence.

Humulus Lupulus ‘Aureus’

Also happy with a north or north-west aspect is the golden hop, Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’. It will rampantly twine its hairy and boldly lobed, yellow-green leaves over a trellis support.

Hydrangea Anomala Petiolaris

Hydrangea anomala petiolaris (climbing hydrangea) is a robust shrub which grabs hold of its support by means of aerial roots. Probably its most attractive feature is the rich brown peeling bark when the plant is without leaves in winter.

This becomes more spectacular as the plant ages. It does however provide the most attractive floral display, when its white lace-cap flower heads measuring approximately 10 inches across open in summer.

Reach for the Sky with Colorful Climbers

very tidy climbing plants

Cover up naked surfaces with suitable climbing plants to brighten even the dullest part of the garden. Going vertical increases the range and number of plants you can grow. Shelter, food and nesting sites for birds are a welcome bonus!