How to grow climbing plants on a balcony or patio

How to grow climbing plants on a balcony or patio

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

Guide written by:

John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

83 guides

Climbing plants, be they perennial or annual, can be used to create a spot of privacy and brighten up a balcony, deck, gazebo, pergola or exterior wall. Wind them around trellises, fences or even grow your own hedge! Read on for our top tips on picking out the perfect climbing plants for your space.  

Important features

  • Perennial or annual
  • Flowering
  • Sun exposure
  • Varieties
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Climbing plants can be used to add vertical interest to any balcony or deck. They are ideal for masking old plasterwork, covering a gazebo or pergola, or hiding a fence. Climbing plants are also great for providing a bit of privacy whether you are looking to grow a flowering hedge or just to conceal an unsightly railing!

Some climbing plants wind around supporting surfaces using tiny roots (ivy, trumpet vine, climbing hydrangea, etc.) while others feature branched tendrils (Virginia creeper). Plants such as leather flowers use their stems to wind around structures. On the other hand, plants like climbing roses need to be attached to a trellis.

There are several types of structures available, each designed to give your plants the best chance at growing. You can choose from options such as classic trellises, circular mesh, fan trellises or even teepees. If grown in containers, climbing plants should be placed at least 40 cm deep in planters containing the right type of potting soil.

Perennials can last for several years but depending on the variety you choose, you may need to place your plants in a sheltered spot over the winter or to bring them indoors right after pruning. Here's just a small selection of the perennial climbing plants on offer.

1. Star or false jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Usually planted on a trellis, this plant produces a beautiful scent from April right through to mid-summer.

While jasmine is cold-sensitive, its foliage will remain as long as the weather is mild enough.

2. Mandevilla or dipladenia (Mandevilla sanderi)

Requires light, warmth and humidity. These plants must be brought indoors for winter, unless you live in a particularly warm climate. That said, Mandevilla laxa is very resistant to cold; even if the plant does freeze, the stems will grow back in the spring.

3. Cape leadwort or cape plumbago

This plant will need to be pruned before the frost arrives and then kept in a sheltered spot

The intensely blue flowers of this plant grow in clusters over a bed of green leaves.

4. Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)

This plant may also need to be protected in wintertime (using a wintering cover for example). 

It features red, bell-shaped flowers.

5. Bougainvillea

Bring this plant indoors to an unheated room over the winter (it should be kept at a temperature of around 10 °C). This plant is voluminous and very floriferous.

6. Clematis and passion flower

These perennials are a classic in many gardens and should be grown on a trellis.

7. Common Jasmine (Jasminum officinalis)

Jasmine produces famously fragrant white flowers that are loved by many.

8. Climbing roses

The stems of climbing roses should be arched for more flowers and optimal floral decoration.

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These plants will need to be planted each year, which allows you to vary your garden decoration from year to year. Annual climbing plants grow fast enough to adorn any structure in your garden throughout the summer and autumn. Annual climbers are able to cling to a supporting structure or surrounding vegetation without stifling it since their stems are very flexible. These climbing plants can also be started in a pot equipped with a trellis or in hanging baskets which will allow them to cascade freely.

While they feature a generous bloom, these plants are easy to maintain; in fact, beyond regular watering, they require almost no care. What's more, unlike perennials, they can be left outside all winter.

Annual climbing plants are best sown on a warm April day or in May, as soon as there is a minimal risk of frost.

1. Morning glory or Ipomoea (Ipomoea)

The 'Heavenly Blue" variety features beautiful azure-blue flowers with a white centre.

2. Black-eyed susan vine (Thunbergia alata)

This annual climbing plant will enchant you with its bright flowers with striking black centres.

3. Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus)

Ideal for hanging baskets, sweet pea flowers fall in elegant, scented garlands.

4. Cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens)

This is a very fast-growing climbing plant which can grow up to 5 metres in height to form a plant wall.

5. Mina lobata

While technically a perennial, this plant is so fast-growing that it is often treated as an annual. Cascading flowers make this plant unique.

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Hanging baskets

1. Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris)

Even north-facing plants will produce beautiful white flowers in spring. These plants are very hardy and will happily withstand temperatures down to -20 °C.

2. Common ivy (Hedera helix)

Some varieties will feature variegated foliage. Irish ivy (Hedera hibernica) can quickly form a hedge-like foliage of bright green leaves.

3. Honeysuckle

These understory plants thrive in dim light. Tellmann's honeysuckle is particularly ideal for brightening up a balcony thanks to its yellow-orange flowers.

4. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus and Ampelopsis)

This is a beautiful plant that features a bright red foliage in the autumn. The Lowii variety, which measures less than 3 metres, is perfect for planters and small spaces.

5. Chocolate vine (Akebia quinata)

The semi-evergreen foliage of this plant takes on a purple tone in winter. Enjoy beautifully scented purple flowers in the summer.

6. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

  • The vines of this plant do not twine and must therefore be supported. Its bright yellow flowers appear only in winter.
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    Guide written by:

    John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge, 83 guides

    John, Passionate gardener, Cambridge

    When I was young, I was already working in the family garden. Perhaps that is where my interest in plants and gardening came from. So, it was logical for me to study both plant biology and agronomy.   At the request of various publishers I have, over twenty-five years, written many books on the subject of plants and mushrooms (a subject that is close to my heart).They were mostly identification guides at first, but shortly after they were about gardening, thus renewing the first passion of my childhood.   I have also regularly collaborated with several magazines specializing in the field of gardening or more generally in nature. There is no gardener without a garden, I have cultivated mine in a small corner of Cambridge for the last thirty years and this is where I put into practice the methods of cultivation that will I advise you in as well.

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