Climbing Plant Maintenance


Climbers should be kept moist and fed regularly to maintain healthy growth, and should be deadheaded regularly to prolong flowering. Climbers grown in containers additionally need top-dressing or re-potting regularly.


Container-grown climbers may need to be watered once or twice a day in dry weather, whilst planted climbers may only need to be watered weekly. The plants should be soaked thoroughly around their base, and a 5-7 cm (2-3 in) mulch may be applied over the whole root area to prevent the soil drying out.


Climbers should be fed in spring during their first two seasons with a dressing of a balanced fertilizer. Subsequently, a slow-release fertilizer should be applied every year.


Try to dead head climbing plants as soon as the flowers fade, to enable the plant to concentrate its energies on producing further flowers, rather than seedheads or fruits. However, if you'd like to have some seedheads or fruits for ornamental purposes, dead-head about a third of the plant stems, to keep up a flowering display.

Renewing Top Dressing

Climbers grown in a container will use up most of the nutrients in the potting medium throughout the course of a season, and so the top layer of the compost and mulch (the top-dressing) should be renewed annually. In the spring or early summer, scrape away and discard the top 2.5-5 cm (1-2 in) of compost in the container, making sure that the surface roots of the climber are not disturbed. Replace the discarded compost with a layer of fresh compost mixed with a little slow-release fertilizer, firming in gently to eliminate any air pockets. A light, decorative mulch such as bark drippings or cocoa shells can be used to cover the compost to aid moisture retention.

Re-potting Container Climbers

Most climbers will need to be moved into a larger container every three to four years, renewing their compost at the same time. Spring-flowering plants should be repotted in autumn, whilst other climbers should be repotted in autumn or spring.

Protecting Tender Plants

Move any container climbers indoors when frost is likely, or plunge them in a sheltered part of the garden. Wrap up the top-growth and base of tender climbers grown outside in protective covering.

Tying In and Cutting Back

As new shoots develop, tie them in whilst they are still flexible. Cut back over-grown plants with secateurs as needed. Trim the stems irregularly for a natural effect.