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Selecting and Growing Vining Plants

A decorative trellis enhances a vining plant

Growing climbing plants on trellises or arbors adds height and interest to your garden. A vertical garden also offers an alternative to kneeling in the garden. 

About Vertical Gardening

There are many vining and climbing plants. Vines can be grown as ornamentals or to provide food. When properly supported, vines grow up instead of out, saving space. Vertical gardeners can expect:

  • Convenience - the plants are right in front of you, making it easier to prune, look for pests, pick fruit and enjoy the beauty or fragrance.
  • Cleaner vegetables and fruits - less contact with the ground means less moisture and rot.
  • A plentiful garden - you can expect more crop yield per square foot of garden space used.
  • Fewer insects, disease, mildew and fungus due to the additional sunshine and air circulation.

Types of Vining and Climbing Plants

clematis vine

If you stake your tomatoes, you are already a vertical gardener. Other good fruit and vegetable candidates for vertical gardening are small melons, cucumbers, peas, pole beans and grapes.

Select annual or perennial ornamental vines and climbers for color, fragrance or foliage. Some of the proven best include:

  • Perennial - Clematis, bougainvillea, climbing roses, wisteria, trumpet vine, climbing hydrangea, ivy, jasmine and passion flower.
  • Annual - Morning glory, sweet pea, nasturtium, moonflower and gourds.

Vines climb by several means, make sure you provide the proper structure or support for their growing method. The four vining methods are:

  • Tendrils — Finger-like appendages grab onto support structures. Smaller supports like iron trellises work well with these plants.
  • Twining — These plants have a corkscrew-like growth pattern that coil around and encircle their host. This type of vine will need support with wire or string until it gets established.
  • Climbing — Roses and tomatoes are good examples. These plants will climb if supported, and ramble if left on the ground. If you choose to make vertical plants out of these, they will always need support.
  • Clinging — Their root-like appendages will attach to any rough surface. Their method of climbing has a tendency to damage paint, wood and mortar.

Vining and Climbing Plant Choices

mandevilla vine

Here are some vining plants to consider for your vertical garden. Perennial vines are indicated with (P); annual vines with (A).


  • Akebia (P)
  • Asian star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum) (P)
  • Black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) (A) 
  • Clematis (P)
  • Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomola) (P) 
  • Mandevilla vine (A)
  • Kiwi (Actinidia sp.) (P)
  • Morning glory (Ipomoea sp.) (A)


  • Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) (P) 
  • Cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens) (A)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix) (P)
  • Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) (A)
  • Trumpet vine (Campsis sp.) (P)
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) (P)
Don't forget vegetables in your vertical garden. Peas, cucumbers and pole beans are attractive and productive when grown on a trellis or arbor.

Vining Plants Tips and Care

Some plants naturally entwine, others need to be tied. When support is needed, trellises, pergolas, arbors, poles, lattice, stakes, tee pees, cages, or fences are all useful. If tying is needed, use garden twine to prevent bruising or cutting into the stems.

Securely anchor your support structures before planting, especially for perennial vines. Determine the mature size of the plant and provide adequate structure.

Vertical plants produce shade, so make sure nearby plants get enough light.

Watering and fertilizing are frequently required. Even so, water and food can be applied in a smaller area. A drip irrigation system efficiently delivers water right where it's needed.

Some annual vining plants grow rapidly and are best started in the ground from seed. Some examples include nasturtium, morning glory and moonflower. Other vining plants like sweet potato make great plants for a window box or hanging basket.

Perennial climbers, like hydrangea vine, are often slow starters, but once they get started can grow quickly.