Climber plants are valued in India since the ancient ages. The Sanskrit literature as well as for epics of Kalidasa have a lot of references to the climber plants adorning the gardens of kings as well as saints, hermits.
On a lighter note, they can be used to cover a wearing wall or an ugly design by your builder.
They are also used to enhance the beauty of well-designed houses. The beautiful cascade of color spreads cheers and is a treat to the eyes.
What are Climbers Plants?
Climber plants, as the name suggest, climb.
I am sure you have seen many walls or balconies where the plant started climbing and slowly started covering a large part of it.
The function of the stem of the plant is basically to help in transport of water and mineral substances. It’s the most important role, however, is to enable the leaves to be exposed to sunlight so that plant can make its food.
One of the products of the evolutionary process is weak-stemmed plants. These plants, in spite of their obvious handicap, manage to survive because of the adaptations they have developed.
They have taken to a climbing habit by means of special structure or by modifications of existing ones.
Types of Climbers Plants
While the distinct feature of climber plants is that they climb, there are different types of climbers as well.
They are called as climber’s proper when the plant has special structures, which when coming into contact with an object, attach themselves to it. This way they provide necessary support for the plant to climb.
These special structures may be hooked-like thorns, tendrils, rootlets or modified leaf stalks.
For example, Bougainvillea is a climber plant that has thorny structures on the wooden stem.
Climbing plants are called twiners when the plants don’t have any special organs for support but they twine spirally around another plant or object for support (Honeysuckle is an example of this type of climber plant).
Creepers are also a type of climbing plants which are too weak to rise vertically above the ground on their own. Trailers are a lot like creepers. The only difference is creepers produce roots at the nodes and get fixed. Example- Morning glory.
There are three other terms used in gardening. The term rambler and straggler are used for those plants which do not succeed in climbing upwards but they manage to spread around, supporting themselves on stems and branches of other plants. One example of this would be the Rangoon creeper.
The term scrambler is used for those plants which manage to raise themselves up after repeated falls (Dog Roses would be an example of this type of climber plant).
In the US, all sorts of climbing plants are called vines.
Varieties of Climbers
You would be surprised to learn about the different variety of climber plants (at least I was).
- Free flowery showy climbers: These display a blaze of colors at certain times in a year.
- Climbers for foliage: they are grown only because of their beautiful leaves. Example- pothos
- Climbers with scented flowers: they are grown for beautiful flowers and also to fill the house with lovely scent. Example- star jasmine, honeysuckle
- Climbers for complete shade: they are grown in areas which are continuously in shade. Example – star jasmine
- Climbers for partial shade: they are grown in areas where there is partial shade. Example- skyblue clustervine
- Heavy climbers: they are those plants which attain gigantic proportions. Example- flaming trumpet
- Light climbers: they are small growing climbers. They grow a few feet and look ornamental. Example- Nasturtium
- Annual climbers: they are those which grow and flower and complete their life cycle within a year. Some of them can persist even beyond a year. But they appear to wear themselves out during the first year itself. Better results are obtained by growing from fresh seeds each year. Example- Ipomoea.
How to Grow Climber Plants?
While there are many things that most climbers need in common, such as plenty of sunshine, good well-drained soil, adequate water etc still each climber has its own share of likes and dislikes.
A very important thing to remember is that successful growing of climbers is not just growing the plants well, and giving them conditions under which a lot of flowering will occur, but equally important is the position of climbers. An attempt should be made to harmonize the climber with the wall, building or other plants.
At times, two climbers can be allowed to intertwine to create contrasting colors.
Occasional trimming and removal of dead and diseased branches and fashioning the climber via pruning gives good results.
One can allow the climber to grow up a tree. Another way is growing it up a wall on the building or on arches, pergolas, trellises, arbours, wire mesh or latticework fixed to the wall to assist them in climbing and preventing them from falling down due to bad weather. The best way is to be inventive in designing support for climbers. The material for the building of support can be iron, concrete, bamboo, wood etc.
11 Best Climber Plants
Let us begin with the 11 best climber plants
Bougainvillaea is a hardy plant and can be grown in any condition in India.
It requires full sun and flowering will not occur in shady areas. It can tolerate hot and dry conditions. Moderate watering works just fine.
It can be grown up a trellis, trained up the arches and pergolas, on the roof or side of the wall, balconies etc. The flowering continues to be produced throughout the year although more during dry spells.
It requires well-drained soil. Regular pruning helps in new growth and keeps it maintained as bougainvillaea grow quite fast, and unless pruned, become a tangled mass of new and old growth.
There are many varieties and colors of bougainvillaea to choose from in India.
Money plant is also known as golden pothos, devil’s ivy etc.
It is an excellent climber which can be used to adorn both indoors and outdoors. It has the ability to grow quite well and gives spectacular foliage.
It requires bright filtered light. They love humidity and like well-drained soil. It is known to clean the air from toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, and toluene.
It also produces a calming effect on touch. It can be grown up a trellis, on the rail, mesh or lattice network, arches, balconies, pergolas etc. It is toxic to pets.
Star jasmine is also called as confederates jasmine, Chinese star jasmine, Chinese ivy etc.
It is an evergreen climber which produces scented flowers. It gives out shiny green leaves with white flowers on wooden stems. It is not a true jasmine.
It flowers in spring and summer. It can be used to cover a wall or trained up arches, balconies, terrace etc. It grows up to a height of 3 meters. It requires full sun to partial sun conditions.
It can be grown indoors where the sunlight requirements are met. Give it medium watering and well-drained soil.
Its scientific name is jacquemontia violacea. It is easy to grow and gives a beautiful appearance. It is a light climber. Flowering occurs from June to September.
It requires full sun to partial shade. It grows best in well-drained soil. This ornamental plant can be trained up arches, balconies, fences. Take adequate care to provide support as its stems are delicate and can break easily.
It can be grown in baskets when treated as annuals. It can grow up to 6 meters and attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Belonging to the same family of morning glory, its flowers open in the day and close by evening.
The botanical name of Japanese honeysuckle is Lonicera Japonica. It is also called as madhumati in Manipuri, and commonly known as honeysuckle.
It flowers throughout the year. The flowers are very attractive and fragrant. The climber is extremely invasive. It is a good source of nectar for bees, butterflies.
It can grow on a trellis, wall, fence or as can be grown without support as a bush. It grows well in sunlight and partial shade areas. It can grow large up to a height of 8-12 meters.
It has the ability to develop a large seed bank after becoming established and seeds germinate after soil disturbance. It has a rapid growth rate and sends out runners that root and grow anywhere. Grow it against a wall, archway, balcony, trellises etc.
The botanical name of morning glory is Ipomea. They are annual climbers with slender stems. They produce heart-shaped leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers.
They require full sun. They are drought tolerant and bloom from mid-summer to first winters. They only open under direct sunlight. Hence the name ‘morning glory’.
They are low maintenance climbers. They require support to climb. Once they get the support they self train themselves to grow up to it. If they don’t get any support, they will tangle around themselves or on the ground.
Grow them over trellises, pergolas, and arches. Their big, attractive and colorful flowers are known to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
They climb quickly up to 15 feet in one season.
They also self-seed easily. If you do not want the radicals to reseed fast-growing off old flowers before they turn to seed pods. One thing to be careful of is to trumpet-shaped from pets and children as they are poisonous.
The botanical name of trumpet vine is campus radicals. It is a fast-growing perennial climber that clings using aerial roots. It gives out red and yellow trumpet-shaped flowers.
It is best suited for gardens, fences etc. It thrives in areas of sun and partial shade. Do not plant it close to the home as the vines creeping roots can damage the wall and foundation.
A trellis, fence or large pole works well as a support structure. Do not allow trumpet vines to grow on trees as this can lead to strangulation. Following flowering, they produce attractive seed pods which can be deadheading the seedpods as they appear will prevent the plant from reseeding.
It requires very little maintenance. Control the growth through pruning as they can grow quite rapidly.
Its scientific name is mandevilla. Mandevillas develop some amazing fragrant flowers in warm climates. It is a genus of tropical flowering climbers belonging to dogbane family.
The vining stems produce glossy dark green oval leaves. Provide a trellis to support its vigorous twining stems. These stems are weak and need to be tied at intervals to hold it in place.
Tie it loosely so that growth is not restricted. It may need to be re-tied once it grows big. It can be grown both indoors or outdoors provided there is a sunny window indoors.
It blooms under sunshine and needs well-drained soil. It cannot withstand temperature below 13-degree Celsius so it needs to be brought indoors in winter.
Unless a huge growth is wanted, pruning it is necessary as it grows quite large if left unpruned. Pinching the stems encourage new growth. Protect from strong winds.
Its scientific name is Ipomoea alba. It is from the same family as that of morning glory. The difference is that these spectacular flowers unfurl from cone-shaped buds when the sun goes down unlike morning glory which blooms in sunlight and its color is white.
It also remains unfurled on some cloudy days however it closes when sunlight touches it. It blooms all summer. These plants have huge robust vines which need the support of trellis to grow. Since it grows huge up to 10 feet it needs a huge trellis.
One can also grow on roofs. It requires little care or attention and can grow in any type of well-drained soil. A little compost from time to time gives good results.
It requires water only when the soil is dry. It is a good self-seeder, dropping many seeds around the base of the support it grows on. In tropicals, it is perennial whereas in other areas it is annual.
It gives out a powerful fragrance throughout the night. The plant is poisonous especially the seeds so keep it away from pets and small children.
Its scientific name is pyrostegia ignea or venusta. It is from the same family of trumpet vine. It is called as Sankranti vel in India.
It grows very fast under full /partial sun. It uses tendrils to climb. It will climb over anything that offers support. It is great for fences, balconies, trellis, archways.
It is better to avoid growing near trees as it can strangulate trees. It flowers most at the top of the structure it is growing on. This woody vine attracts hummingbirds and butterflies with beautiful long tubular orange flowers and is drought resistant.
It needs to be pruned to control and avoid smothering of other plants. It is easy to grow and can reach up to a height of 5-8 meters. It needs a moderate temperature and well-drained soil.
Pinch off the growing tips at the end of the vine to encourage bushier growth.
It is known as madhumalti in India. It is a tropical vine popular for its color changing blooms. It grows in bunches of pink, red and white blooms which give lovely fragrance. At the onset the flowers are white, later turning to pink and finally to red at maturity.
It takes the support of anything around it and climbs up to form a towering creeper. It needs the support of something to grow and spread. It requires full sun and very little care.
They are perfect to cover rooftops, balconies, fences, gate posts, and pergolas. After a while, it learns to use the support of its older stems to send shoots up to grow.
It enjoys growing free and wild. Well-Drained soil with fertilizer added every six months is enough for this plant. It attracts scales and caterpillars.
Keep an eye for parasitic plants like dodder which love to feed on Rangoon creepers for their nutrition.
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