13 climbing plants for fences, pergolas and more

13 climbing plants for fences, pergolas and more

While pergolas, fences and trellises all make great additions to the landscape, they look best when accented with climbing plants and flowering vines. Not only do vines add beauty to your landscape, they can add extra privacy when needed, and even work well as a ground cover, says Edward Lyon, director of Ryman Gardens.

But choosing the right variety is key, since not all plants that grow vertically across every structure will work — some are too sturdy and will dismantle your fence, while others are too heavy to mount a freestanding trellis.

Gardening experts share their favorite climbing and flowering vines, plus tips on planting and caring for them.

  • Edward Lyon, director of the Ryman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, is the author of this book Growing a Midwest Garden. Leon has been hooked on gardening since he first grew nasturtiums at age 13 and has incorporated a variety of vining plants into his beautiful Midwestern landscape.
  • Justin Hancock, horticulturist at Costa Farms.
  • Shannon McInerney is a gardening and landscape expert with Midwest Groundcovers and the Perennial Plant Society.

Black-eyed Susan Fine

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Fast growing annually Start Thunberg Perennial in zones 10 to 11, but does well farther north. “You can buy these annual vines for a very reasonable price, and within a month, they're already in flower,” Lyon says. “And because it's tropical, it grows very quickly.” He likes it in hanging pots, where it reaches all the way to the ground, creating wonderful curtains for the balcony. What adds to its appeal is that it comes in a range of colors, including white, yellow, orange, and pink.

  • Regions: 10 to 11 (grown annually elsewhere)
  • measuring: 3 to 8 feet x 3 to 6 feet
  • Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade; Rich, well-drained soil
  • Growth site: Hanging pots, arbors, trellises

Boston Ivy “Fenway Park”

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It is named after the famous baseball stadium in the city where it was discovered, Boston Ivy “Fenway Park” (parthenocysus tricuspid) It grows on the outfield walls of its namesake stadium, as well as Chicago's Wrigley Field and brick buildings throughout Ivy League colleges. Because it has adhesive grips, “Fenway Park” will stick to brick without getting into the grout. Although it will need trimming to stay within bounds, it is much easier to manage than English ivy, Lyon says. In the fall, it turns gorgeous shades of red, orange and gold, especially if exposed to regular sunlight.

  • Regions: 4 to 9 (plant on the east or north walls in zones 8 and 9)
  • measuring: 30 to 50 feet x 5 to 10 feet
  • Growing conditions: Full sun to partial shade, but will tolerate full shade; It prefers moist, clay soil but grows in a wide range of soils
  • Growth site: Train this woody vine up a brick wall, across a fence, over a pergola, or onto a sturdy trellis.


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Hardy bougainvillea produces colorful bracts (flower-like leafy structures) in red, pink, purple and yellow. “This evergreen vine practically explodes into bloom with colorful, paper-like bracts of hot, cheerful hues,” says Justin Hancock, horticulturist at Costa Farms. “It also tolerates heat and drought wonderfully.”

  • Regions: 9 to 11
  • measuring: 15 to 40 feet x 15 to 40 feet
  • Growing conditions: bright sun; Well-drained, acidic soil
  • Growth site: A pergola in a sunny location will give this beauty the light it loves all day long

Carion flower

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Native non-woody vine, Smilax is an herb It is not for everyone as it produces very smelly flowers. But if you have a wooded landscape away from the house and want to support pollinators and birds, give it another look. “Songbirds love fruit,” Lyon says, and the beautiful blue and black berries are a good food source for grouse and turkeys (plant both male and female vines to facilitate fruit production). Its flowers also support bees, butterflies, and carrion flies, which are beneficial insects.

  • Regions: 4 to 8
  • measuring: 3 to 10 feet; The leaves are 2 to 3 inches wide
  • Growing conditions: Full sun for shade. Almost any moist soil
  • Growth site: Plant along a fence or allow it to grow on logs in a wooded area


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There is probably a clematis who will love where you live. “As long as their tops are sunny and you can keep the roots moist, they will grow almost anywhere in the country,” Lyon says. Also good to know: By combining different varieties of this flowering vine (they are classified into three sections, depending on their flowering times and characteristics), you can get flowers all season long.

  • Regions: 3 to 9
  • measuring: It ranges from 3 to 20 feet tall, depending on the species
  • Growing conditions: bright sun; Well-drained loamy soil
  • Growth site: Works well on any structure, including arbors, trellises, fences and pergolas

Common grape

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Favorite twining in English gardens Wine vine “Purpurea” It has beautiful, deeply lobed leaves that are green in spring and develop to deep burgundy in summer and crimson in fall. Its delicious fruits are a deep purplish-blue color, “which pairs beautifully with the purple foliage,” says Leon. While people assume that grape vines need care to produce fruit, “These grapes don't need pruning at all. You can just let them grow and grow.” Consider planting one along your porch to create an edible curtain.

  • Regions: 4 to 8
  • measuring: 15 to 20 feet x 6 to 10 feet
  • Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade with good air circulation; Any well-drained soil
  • Growth site: Plant along a split fence or any sturdy arbor, pergola or trellis

English (David Austin) Rose “Carding Mill”

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Carding Mill is an English bush rose, an English bush rose that won't grow tall enough to climb a tree, but will stretch beautifully along a fence, says Shannon McEnerney of Midwest Groundcovers, a strong performer with spicy, myrrh-scented flowers. The double peach-orange flowers mature to soft apricot pink and begin in late May or early June, blooming again in late summer and remaining there until fall, even in cool areas.

  • Regions: 5 to 11
  • measuring: 4 feet long x 3 1/2 feet wide
  • Growing conditions: bright sun; All types of soil
  • Growth site: Plant along a fence or as a visual anchor along the back of the garden

Honeysuckle 'Kintzley's Ghost'

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Native to North America, Lonicera reticulata It looks like it fell from another planet, with dollar-sized silver blocks in a gorgeous silvery blue. Leon trained one of them on a young, no longer living tree in his yard with amazing results. “We're always very quick to cut back on things like this, but you can still use them in a different way,” he says. Unlike some honeysuckle, Kintzley's Ghost doesn't send out shoots underground, so it doesn't get out of hand and is easy to prune.

  • Regions: 4 to 8
  • measuring: 8 to 12 feet x 3 to 5 feet
  • Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade; Rich, well-drained soil
  • Growth site: Plant this woody vine near a sturdy arbor, pergola or trellis


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This flowering vine blooms non-stop from late spring to fall, producing large trumpet-shaped flowers in pink, white and red. “Flowers are attractive to pollinators, like bees and hummingbirds, so you're providing habitat as well as beauty,” Hancock says. It is a tropical plant, and cannot survive the winter in areas that experience frost, making it a good choice for growers and plots that do not have room for a large perennial vine.

  • Regions: 5 to 11
  • measuring: 3 to 8 feet tall x up to 20 feet wide
  • Growing conditions: sun; Rich, sandy and well-drained soil
  • Growth site: Works well on a trellis

Passion flower

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strange Passiflora spp. It is easy to care for and grows quickly, making it popular as an annual plant in northern climates. “There are a lot of options, so you can get flowers in almost every color, and many of them are fragrant,” Hancock says. “As a bonus, some varieties produce edible fruit.”

  • Regions: 6 to 10
  • measuring: 10 to 30 feet x 3 to 6 feet
  • Growing conditions: Sun (with afternoon shade in very hot areas); Rich, well-drained soil
  • Growth site: It can be grown on a trellis or fence with protection from strong winds

Variegated kiwi vine

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A medium sized vine with beautiful green, pink and white colours. Actinidia columicta Works well on a variety of structures. True to its common name, it is a kiwi fruit that will produce edible fruit if you have both a female and a male plant. “The fruit is smaller and rounder than the tropical kiwis we normally eat, and perhaps more floral in taste, but still quite delicious,” Lyons says. If you don't want fruit, look for a male plant, which will have more of the variety that gives this plant its showy appearance, he says. Both male and female vines are also pollinators.

  • Regions: 4 to 8
  • measuring: 15 to 20 feet x 6 to 10 feet
  • Growing conditions: Full sun to part shade; Rich, well-drained soil
  • Growth site: They can be grown on any reasonably sturdy tree, pergola or trellis

Virginia Creeper “Star Sparkler”

Native to the eastern United States, easy to care for Parthenocysus five-leafed Adapts to sun or shade. Its flowers are not showy, but the beautiful variegated foliage makes up for that. “Everyone will notice it in your garden,” says Leon, who grows a plant that “gets all kinds of comments” on a tree above a gate in his landscape. Adhesive grips also allow the “Star Sparkler” to stick to bricks without getting into the mortar.

  • Regions: 4 to 8
  • measuring: 15 to 20 feet x 15 to 20 feet
  • Growing conditions: Full sun to partial shade; Moist, well-drained soil
  • Place of growth: String this wood vine over a wall, along a brick house, or across a tree or sturdy pergola.

Wisteria, Summer Waterfall “Betty Matthews”

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Cold hardy Large wisteria 'Betty Matthews' blooms profusely on long, drooping racemes covered in dark lavender flowers that fade to beautiful pale lavender. This flowering vine takes a season or two to get started, but then grows quickly and vigorously, McInerney says.

  • Regions: 4 to 8
  • measuring: 15 to 20 feet x 15 to 20 feet
  • Growing conditions: Full sun to partial shade; Moist, well-drained soil
  • Place of growth: Plant this massive woody vine along an arbor, pergola or other sturdy structure

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