Climbing plants are so dreamy, I’m tempted to start this article with ‘Once upon a time…’
Where you find the likes of wisteria, grapevines, and banksia roses, romance is sure to follow. These plants are the touchy-feely sort. Give them a wall, trellis, or post to lean on and they’ll be all over the place.
They come in the most stunning forms, such as cascading curtains, privacy shades, and flowing canopies. Flowering and fruit-bearing climbers, in particular, transform the dreariest gardens and bring them to life.
This is the kind of clingy that’ll give you a happily ever after.
Types of climbers
Twiners have flexible stems that twist around posts, poles, and other thick structures. They can also wind themselves around trees. Take care that your support structure is thick enough to hold them. Wisteria and other large twiners can overwhelm smaller trees and crush them.
Tendrils are climbers with small coil-like structures near their leaves. These are perfect as ornamental plants because of their decorative springs. Famous examples of tendrils include grapevines, plants from the gourd family, sweet pea, and passion flowers.
Without proper support, scramblers can be messy to deal with. But give them a wall, trellis, or pergola, and you’ll have a beautiful draping curtain of foliage and flowers. Climbing roses and bougainvillea are some examples of scrambling plants.
Much like how a tentacle works, sticky feet plants have suction-like parts or dense roots that stick to surfaces. They have a tendency to damage painted walls and timber surfaces over time, and can burrow into crevices. Don’t write them off just yet, though. Climbers like the creeping fig are perfect for giving coverage to a dilapidated or unattractive wall.
Australian native climbers
While some climbing plants originate from South America and other parts of the world, there are climbers and creepers that are native to Australia. Most Australian native climbers, like the false sarsaparilla and Bower vine, enjoy warmth and sunlight. They are easy to grow on local soil types and adapt well to our weather conditions.
Here are the best climbing plants in Australia:
- Banksia rose (Rosa banksiae)
- Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
- Baby bougainvillea
- Bridal wreath (Stephanotis)
- Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata)
- Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)
- Crimson glory vine (Vitis coignetiae)
- False sarsaparilla (Hardenbergia violacea)
- Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)
- Orange trumpet creeper (Pyrostegia venusta)
- Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)
- Rocktrumpet (Mandevilla)
- Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
- Wisteria (Wisteria chinensis)
- Bower vine (Vine pandorea)
1. Banksia rose (Rosa banksiae)
The banksia rose’s history makes for a good romantic story. Named after the wife of botanist Sir Joseph Banks, its other famous names are The Lady Banks Rose or Banks’ Rose. These climbers have small fern-like leaves and white or yellow flowers that come in clusters. Banksia roses grow quickly and can cover a wall in no time.
They’re breathtaking when mounted on a trellis, pergola, archways or tall white picket fences. Homeowners also love that these flowering plants are thornless. This makes them easy to prune and safe to keep when you have children and pets running around your garden. No pricking your finger any time here.
Don’t let the canopy of delicate-looking flowers fool you. These plants are hardy and can tolerate full sun. They’re resistant to a lot of diseases and grow well in most soil types. Their ultimate love, however, is being cultivated in well-drained soil enriched with organic matter. Prune after flowering at the end of spring or during early summer so you can still enjoy their abundant blooms.
2. Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata)
While the other plants on this list will send you swooning, the Boston ivy is a well-loved icon among academics. It is the namesake of ‘Ivy League’ and is famous for growing on the walls of prestigious universities.
This deciduous climber has leaves turn from lush green in summer to reddish brown during fall. You can grow them under partial shade or full sun. These vines are ideally grown on walls, as ground cover, and over trellises or pergolas. Take care not to train them near trees, however. Boston ivy can be overwhelming and outcompete trees for photosynthesis.
3. Baby bougainvillea
Now here is a fast growing climbing plant that’s not scared to go big despite its small size. Not necessarily a climber, the baby bougainvillea species is hardy and gives a burst of vibrant colour.
Also called bambino, dwarf bougainvillea, and paper flowers (if you’re from tropical South and Central America), this head-turner does not shy away from full sun and loves Australian weather. In fact, that’s when it shines its brightest.
While some bougainvillea species can climb as vines, the bambino can flower well in a pot, reaching its peak height of 1.5m – 2m. Gardening experts also train bougainvillea to grow as bonsai. Regular pruning after flowering season ensures that your vines or shrubs will have lush blooms. Whatever the species, these plants can make any house and street look stunning.
All eyes are drawn to this plant with fierce purplish red foliage, sharp thorns, and a bold personality. There are also varieties that produce tangerine, white, lilac, and red colours. Whatever colour you choose for your bougainvillea plant, you can be sure it’s going to give your home maximum impact.
4. Bridal wreath (Stephanotis)
The bridal wreath is a fast growing climber that produces fragrant white flowers in summer. These vines can grow up to 6 metres and are best supported by a trellis. Stephanotis plants thrive well in high humidity and warm weather.
5. Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata)
Also called akebia and chocolate creeper, this deciduous climber produces a purplish pink flower that smells like vanilla. The vines of the akebia are best suited for gardens with trellis and pergolas. Akebia flowers are also great when trained to grow over fences.
To care for your akebia, give it partial shade and allow it to grow in well-drained loamy soil. Regular pruning is important to prevent it from overpowering other plants in your garden.
6. Creeping fig (Ficus pumila)
The creeping fig is an evergreen climber that grows best on sturdy support. Examples of these surfaces are walls, fences, and rocks. As a sticky feet climber, creepy figs are recommended to grow on unpainted surfaces.
These climbing plants grow best in free draining soil and love full sun. Regular pruning keeps the creeping fig under control and ensures that the foliage looks tidy.
7. Crimson glory vine (Vitis coignetiae)
The crimson glory vine is a grape species that produces gorgeous big leaves in striking autumn colours. This deciduous plant does not bear fruit, but functions well as an ornamental vine. They can hide any unattractive areas of your garden quickly.
No boring look for your home here if you own a crimson glory vine. Their stunning orange and red foliage gives striking contrast to mostly green gardens.
8. False sarsaparilla (Hardenbergia violacea)
The false sarsaparilla is a native Australian climbing plant that has purplish pink flowers that bloom during winter. It’s also commonly called the happy wanderer, native lilac, purple coral pea, and waraburra.
This evergreen climber has dark green foliage that enjoys partial and full sun. It can also be grown in greenhouses or indoors near a big window under full daylight.
9. Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning aptly captures my awe of the grapevine. ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…’ Wine-drinking in the vineyards of South Australia while eating dolmades comes to mind when thinking about the timeless vitis vinifera.
The grapevine is one of the best climbing plants around. These tendril climbers have beautifully-shaped foliage that changes colour during autumn. If you’ve chosen a fruit-bearing variety, you’ll be lucky enough to harvest grapes during the summer months.
You can train to grow them in pergolas or wired fences to provide beautiful summer shade and a canopy from the winter sun. They make good ornamental plants to adorn entrances with.
Grapevines grow well when in a sunny position and love well-drained soil types. Pruning is best done during winter to prepare the wood for fruit-bearing.
10. Orange trumpet creeper (Pyrostegia venusta)
Also called the flame vine, the orange trumpet creeper is an evergreen flowering vine that’s too striking to ignore. It has stunning orange blooms that stand out against dark green foliage.
This tendril climber thrives well under full sun and blooms stunning red orange flowers during mid- to late winter. Orange trumpet creepers can be trained to grow on sheds and wire-mesh fences.
11. Passionfruit (Passiflora edulis)
The passionfruit plant is a fruit-bearing climber that produces white and purple flowers. The green edible fruit has a wonderful sweet and tart flavour that’s distinct among tropical fruits.
Passionfruit loves moist, well-drained soil and prefers full sun or light shade. These climbing plants have tendrils and grow fast on lattices and pergolas.
12. Rocktrumpet (Mandevilla)
Mandevilla is an evergreen vine originating from South America. This climber can tolerate full sun in colder climates and thrives best under bright indirect sunlight in warmer areas. Use moist well-drained soil enriched with humus to grow this climber.
These plants are fairly easy to maintain if you’re living in Australia. In warm weather, it is best to allow your plant time to soak filtered sunlight for at least 6 hours. You can provide shade in the afternoon when the weather is hotter.
When properly cared for, this flowering plant will give you brightly-coloured pink blooms. Mandevillas can be placed on hanging baskets or tall archways that are hard to reach, as these plants are toxic to plants and animals.
13. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
This twining evergreen climber is an easy plant to keep and is completely at home in Australian weather. It does well under partial shade to full sun, and grows best in free-draining soil. When properly cared for, the plant produces small white flowers that fill the air with a sweet floral fragrance.
If you’re looking for a versatile climber that you can use on pergolas, fences, arbours, or lattices, the star jasmine is the right plant for your garden. You can even use it as groundcover to fill in bald spots in your garden.
14. Wisteria (Wisteria chinensis)
You won’t get impatient waiting for your wisteria to grow on your fence or pergola. This twining climber can quickly reach up to 3.5 metres in one growing season. Hard to miss because of their massive floral clusters, they thrive best under full sun.
One of the most prolific plants around, wisteria can grow out of hand if over-fertilised. They’re perfect when positioned over pergolas in your garden to provide summer shade and winter sun.
15. Bower vine (Vine pandorea)
The Bower vine is a beautiful plant native to Australia. It has distinct pink and white flowers and is known by its other names: bower climber, bower of beauty, and Pandorea.
These vines do not form a thick dense cluster, but instead spread gracefully. They’re easy to grow and ideal to place on pergolas and home entrances as their flowers are very fragrant. They can also be used as attractive screens in your garden.
Bower vines thrive best under partial shade to full sun and grow well in enriched slightly alkaline soil.
Maintaining fast growing climbing plants in your garden
Fast growing plants are notorious for their larger-than-life presence and over-the-top appearance. There may be times when you feel overwhelmed when caring for your beloved climbing plant. This can happen especially when your plant grows faster and bigger than you could have anticipated.
Don’t let the challenges of maintenance stop you from enjoying your climbers! Hiring professional gardeners gives your vines the maintenance they need while giving you utmost convenience. Your local gardening service can also take care of your plants’ regular pruning and fertilising so you don’t have to.